Anaheim, in its bid to renegotiate the Angel Stadium lease, will be appraising the land around the Major League Baseball venue, but the evaluation will likely not be public for some time.
Mayor Tom Tait requested the appraisal because he believes the public should know the value of what it’s potentially giving to a partnership involving Arte Moreno, owner of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Under the proposed framework for a new lease, the city would give Moreno and his partners 155 acres of land around the stadium at a price of $1 annually for 66 years. The partnership could then use revenue from developing this land to finance up to $150 million in improvements for the stadium. It should be noted that Moreno is already required to maintain the stadium under the current lease.
The proposal also leaves open the possibility that the city would grant Moreno and his partners generous tax subsidies for developing the land. And finally, it allows Moreno to drop “Anaheim” from the team name.
In exchange for handing over the 155 acres, giving up rights to the team name and millions in potential tax subsidies, the city would no longer have to make an annual $600,000 payment for stadium upkeep and improvements.
Previous estimates of the land surrounding the stadium have ranged between $30 million and $380 million. Tait says he believes that value of the land could be much higher, and he has asked for an appraisal by a “certified, licensed appraiser” who will stake his reputation on the evaluation and therefore come up with something credible.
A true appraisal of the land would go a long way toward knowing whether the public is getting a good deal on the lease. Currently, substantial information, such as how much tax revenue Moreno’s development could yield the city, simply isn’t available.
However, city staff at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting said an appraisal would be difficult. For one thing, there haven’t been comparable sales of commercial property in the area that can be used as benchmarks. Also, Moreno has rights to the parking, making it difficult for a developer to purchase the land and build something profitable.
“An appraisal … I don’t really see a whole lot of value in that right now,” said Community Development Director John Woodhead.
Woodhead recommended something “akin to an opinion of value.” But that’s based on assumptions Woodhead said are merely guesses at this point, such as the size of the site and what could be developed there, among other things.
“You’re going to see a very wide range of values,” he said. “And frankly, you actually see that in appraisals.”
However, after Tait argued that appraisals based on different scenarios could be done, thus giving the city a solid foundation from which to negotiate, City Manager Marcie Edwards agreed to the appraisal. Edwards said she doesn’t like the message given to the public when the process is too limited.
It’s unclear when the appraisal would be made public. Tait argued that it should be public upon completion.
“The public, I think, has a right to know what that property is worth,” Tait said.
Edwards and City Attorney Michael Houston argued that under state law, an appraisal is confidential because to release it too soon could undercut the city’s negotiating position.
Tait said that would be true under normal circumstances, but he pointed to the preliminary framework as evidence that the deal is abnormal and one-sided. “There’s nothing common about this transaction,” he said.
Houston said that the council could waive the confidentiality of the appraisal and publicly release it after a closed session review.
“At some point in the negotiations it will be” released, Edwards said. “Certainly before the final determination by this council.”