The city council in Anaheim, California, will probe bureaucrats on the sale of Angel Stadium following accusations that the transaction violated state law.
The council is expected to ask staff questions on July 20 regarding the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD) April 28 letter to the city, alleging a Surplus Land Act (SLA) violation in the Angel Stadium deal.
“In my opinion, there were lost opportunities in the approved deal that would have benefited our city’s financial interest,” Councilman Avelino Valencia said during a July 13 meeting.
“Now, to add insult to injury, our residents—the taxpayers—may have to possibly pay a fine of tens of millions of dollars due to poor decision-making and this handling.”
The land was originally valued at $320 million, but sold for only $150 million, since 466 affordable housing units and a seven-acre flagship park were promised to be built on the acreage with no city funding or subsidies involved.
The alleged violation was due to Anaheim not prioritizing the stadium and surrounding property for low- and moderate-income housing, unless the city provides documentation proving it’s exempt.
“None of the documents that the city has provided to the HCD indicate that the city has declared the property surplus or exempt surplus, sent notices of availability to the required entities, or submitted the required information regarding the proposed disposition to HCD for review,” HCD said in an April 28 letter.
The city responded in a June 14 written statement, saying that the SLA doesn’t apply to the stadium purchase since the law went into effect after the city had already engaged in an “exclusive negotiating agreement” with the buyer.
Valencia, as one of two newly elected members on the council, said the previous council’s decision could cost taxpaying residents as much as $96 million.
“Throughout the original negotiation process in 2019, many concerns were raised by Anaheim taxpayers and stakeholders,” Valencia said.
“Some of these concerns pertain to the fact that the negotiations took place behind closed doors and lack transparency, with little to no public input.”
Valencia said some members of the council haven’t been formally briefed regarding HCD’s preliminary conclusions and new developments in the allegations.
“Once again throughout this process, the public has been kept in the dark by our city’s leadership about these developments,” Valencia said. “The lack of communication and transparency since the inception of the Angels deal seems to have become more and more of a pattern at City Hall.”
The 153-acre property was sold to SRB Management in October 2020. No violation has yet been determined.