Anaheim Council Members Ask Tough Questions About Angel Stadium Deal

Anaheim Council Members Ask Tough Questions About Angel Stadium Deal
Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Chris Karr

The landmark Angel Stadium deal is now one step closer to completion, but opponents to the deal in Anaheim City Council continue to raise major concerns.

Early in the morning of Sept. 30, a 5–2 city council vote approved the terms of Anaheim’s sale of the 150 acres including the stadium to SRB Management.

A major concern that remains is the difference between the current proposal and the appraisal used to put a dollar value on the land.

The proposal includes about 10 times more square footage for office and retail space than the appraisal did, and arguably includes other new factors that could raise the value.

The city council meeting, which ran nearly ten hours, was punctuated by moments of contention because of objections raised by Councilmembers Jose F. Moreno and Denise Barnes—both of whom voted against the terms of the deal.

“This evening, by this first reading, we transferred at least a $650 million land value to a private owner, Arte Moreno [owner of SRB and the Angels baseball team] ... for $150 million in cash,” said Moreno around 2 a.m. “This is a gift, not a sale. It is a transfer of Anaheim wealth.”

The original appraisal valued the land at $325 million. The cash price has since been reduced by $170 million in exchange for community benefits: SRB is to build 466 affordable housing units and a 7-acre park, and the Angels baseball is to remain in Anaheim for the next 30 years.

The price was reduced by an additional $5 million for the city to retain ownership of 2.5 acres that include a water well and space for a future fire station.

“As a part of its commitment to the city, SRB has promised [to] ensure that 15 percent of the housing on the site will always remain as affordable units for working families,” Alex Winsberg, general counsel for SRB Management, said at the meeting.

Affordable Housing, but Not Right Away

But Moreno expressed concern over the fact that the affordable housing units—which will be supplemented by an extra 311 affordable units provided at the developer’s expense—don’t technically have to be built for 25 years.

According to the proposed timeline, at least 128 lower- and very-low-income units have to be built in 15 years; no fewer than 360 within the next two decades. All of these figures are based on closing the deal by the end of next year.

“It is a private benefit under the guise of a community benefit,” Moreno said.

Moreno also provided a graphic that illustrates a disconnect between the square footage in the appraisal and the square footage in the development proposal.

Difference Between the Appraisal and Proposal

The appraisal is predicated upon 210,000 square feet of office space, about 195,000 square feet of retail space, and 3,400 housing units. But SRB Management’s proposed site plan allots 2.7 million square feet of office space, 1.75 million of retail space, and over 5,000 housing units—a fact that Moreno argued should affect the asking price.

“It’s a very different set of assumptions that we’re approving tonight, and I believe it makes the land worth a lot more,” Moreno said. He asked if the economist working on the proposal could address the considerable difference between the appraisal and the proposal.

Mayor Harry Sidhu, a proponent of the deal, attempted to interrupt Moreno during his explanation of the graphic.

“I’m going to ask [if the economist] can answer that later on, that question,” Sidhu said.

Though the question didn’t get addressed later on, Moreno told The Epoch Times that his claim was confirmed by the economist they contracted in a staff briefing ten days prior.

“He stated that the scenario we are looking at now does indeed raise the land value given so much more development,” Moreno said in an email.

“In addition, he stated that ... by re-zoning and providing development agreements (thus freezing today’s standards in time for development) the land value is increased by mere virtue of providing a stable development environment.”

“Unfortunately, that was not addressed last night in any of the responses to my questions.”

Mayor Sidhu and Councilmembers Lucille Kring and Trevor O’Neil disagreed with the objections raised by Moreno and Barnes.

O’Neil decried attempts to “derail a deal that brings a huge positive economic impact to Anaheim for nothing more than political self interest.”

He gave Sidhu credit for restarting negotiations for “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of our city. It will benefit all who live and work in Anaheim for decades to come. I’m proud to support it.”

Before submitting her “yes” vote, Kring said three virtual town halls held in September allowed citizens “to weigh in on the project in any way they wanted.”

“I believe we have been completely transparent,” she said. “And now we need to do our job as policymakers and as council people.”

Other Objections

Barnes’s attempt to table the deal “until there’s a public workshop and the public is able participate through either a video or in-person at the city chamber” failed.

She tried to rally support for adding a clause to the transaction that said if SRB decided to sell the land instead of develop it, the city would have the first opportunity to buy back the property.

Kevin Kelley, the city’s contracted attorney for negotiations, said that if such a clause were added, “I doubt SRB would purchase the property.”

“So we would lose our most precious piece of land because of some oversight that we have?” Barnes said.

Kelley reiterated that SRB intends to develop the property. Moreover, he added, the city is “not in the business of being land speculators or developers.”

“You know what?” Barnes said. “Things could change.”

A second vote on the development and a zoning code change is expected on Oct. 6. The nonprofit People’s Homeless Task Force has brought a lawsuit against the city, claiming lack of transparency in negotiations for the deal, which may stall the development.

Chris Karr is a California-based reporter for the The Epoch Times. He has been writing for 20 years. His articles, features, reviews, interviews, and essays have been published in a variety of online periodicals.
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