For nearly a year, Anaheim leaders have been negotiating a new stadium lease with Angels baseball team owner Arte Moreno under the premise that the ballpark requires up to $150 million in repairs. To finance the expense, officials are considering transferring a large swath of public land, virtually cost-free, to Moreno.
Yet the report detailing the scale of needed renovations has been kept secret for more than a year, and it isn’t even complete, officials say.
A request for the report made by Voice of OC under the California Public Records Act was recently denied because the document is still considered a draft, according to the city’s official response.
Terry Francke, general counsel to CalAware and Voice of OC’s open government expert, questioned the city’s legal arguments, saying that a document that has been in draft for a year and distributed to City Council – Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait confirmed he received a copy – should no longer be deemed a draft and must be made public.
Tait, meanwhile, said regardless of what the report states, the Angels are obligated under the current lease to make the necessary fixes to the 47 year-old stadium.
Nonetheless, Tait argues that if the report is being used as the basis for negotiations, it should be completed.
“It should be final numbers, and that report should be available to the public,” Tait said.
Members of the council majority – Lucille Kring, Kris Murray, Jordan Brandman and Gail Eastman – did not return phone calls for comment.
Negotiations have been controversial since the City Council majority in a 4-1 vote, with Tait dissenting, approved the preliminary deal framework last year. Critics argue the provision allowing Moreno to lease 155 acres around the stadium at $1 a year for 66 years is a massive giveaway of public land to a billionaire sports team owner.
The land is worth up to $325 million to a developer, a city commissioned appraisal found.
Members of the council majority have said the lease framework is just the starting point for negotiations and not set in stone and have said lately that they won’t agree to a deal that isn’t fair to the taxpayers.
Still, Murray, considered the council majority leader, has said the aging stadium is in dire need of renovations.
The Orange County Register first published an article mentioning the report on July 2 last year. And the report was in draft form then, according to the newspaper.
City Attorney Michael Houston said it is not uncommon for evaluations of large structures to take years to complete.
“A document like this, for a large public or frankly private project, takes a long time to put together, and there’s a lot of analysis that goes into it,” Houston said. “And we’re still working on that analysis.”
When asked how city officials could be negotiating a new lease when the basis for the deal – the cost of the renovations – hasn’t been fully studied, Houston said he couldn’t comment, citing the confidentiality of real estate negotiations and his role as an attorney.
“That’s a question I can’t answer because it gets to the negotiations,” Houston said.