Former Anaheim Councilwoman Lorri Galloway and a group of activists Thursday morning criticized a pending agreement to lease Angels baseball team owner Arte Moreno 155 acres of land for $1 a year, calling the negotiations lopsided in favor of Moreno and a potential giveaway that will affect residents for generations to come.
The Anaheim City Council earlier this month approved a preliminary framework outlining the terms of a lease that could keep the Angels in Anaheim but also grant Moreno land surrounding the stadium. Moreno could develop the area and use the revenue to finance up to $150 million in stadium renovations. He could also keep a yet-to-be-determined amount of tax revenue from the development.
Negotiations started because of a clause in the current lease that allows the Angels to terminate the lease during a four-month window beginning in late 2016. If the lease is not terminated, the Angels would be obligated to stay until 2029.
The 4-1 council vote this month, Mayor Tom Tait dissenting, extended the clause until 2019, which gives Moreno nearly three more years to negotiate a move to another city.
City officials, such as Assistant City Manager Paul Emery, argued that the Angels provide an economic engine that would leave with them.
Critics say extending the clause gave away city leverage in negotiations over the long-term deal by allowing Moreno more time to organize a credible threat of finding a new location for the team. A city consultant argued that this threat already existed, and the extension was necessary to relieve pressure on Moreno that could lead him to make "irrational" decisions.
Activists say maneuvers that benefit Moreno show that nobody at the city is negotiating on behalf of the public.
“Who is representing the people's interest? Who is representing us?” Galloway said. “Why give [the land] away for nothing? It makes no sense.”
The coalition of activists, known as Take Back Anaheim, formed in response to a controversial $158-million tax subsidy for a hotel developer. They said that the preliminary deal points in the stadium lease are another outrageous giveaway by a four-member council majority controlled by elite business interests.
Blogger Cynthia Ward announced the incorporation of the entity that will raise funds to take action against the council majority's corporate subsidies.
Wally Courtney, a real estate broker with Paul Kott Realtors, said he ran into City Manager Marcie Edwards and asked her what would have happened had the council postponed for three weeks the vote to extend the trigger clause as Tait had requested.
Edwards replied, “probably nothing,” according to Courtney.
“So the question is, what's the rush?” Courtney said.