Norberto Santana, Jr.

A pioneering leader in the nation’s rising nonprofit news movement and an award-winning journalist. Santana has established Voice of OC as Orange County’s civic news leader, uncovered the truths across Southern California governments for more than two decades and reported on Congress and Latin America.

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The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim get until 2020 to figure out their name and home.

Yet from the tone of Tuesday night’s Anaheim city council vote – reinstating the Angels lease with a second amendment that extends an out clause until 2020 – it is unlikely that the City of Anaheim will ever get its name back on the team.

Only two council members – Jose Moreno, one of two Democrats on the dais, and Denise Barnes, a Republican – voted for an amendment that would have conditioned reinstatement of the lease with the Angels keeping the name Anaheim prominent in team marketing.

“We’re cowering here,” said Barnes from the dais toward the end of a debate she’d ultimately lose on whether to require that the name Anaheim be defended.

“I’d love to see the Anaheim name back but I’m not sure this is the time to do that,” said councilman and fellow Republican Steve Faessel, who as part of the council majority led by Republican Mayor Harry Sidhu generally opposed any conditions being placed on the lease amendment adopted by council members Tuesday night on a 5-2 vote.

Democrat Jordan Brandman joined Republicans Sidhu, Lucille Kring and Trevor O’Neill in fighting back any conditions.

Meanwhile, Moreno – who was seconded on every motion by Barnes – offered two other proposals for conditioning approval.

Moreno proposed that the Angels pay market-based rent during the new lease period. That was rejected on a similar 5-2 margin with Moreno and Barnes dissenting.

Moreno almost won a proposed amendment that would have required the Angels to agree to an exclusive negotiation in exchange for a new lease approval, winning over the support of Republican Faessel, but ultimately failing on a 4-3 vote.

Ironically, both Brandman and Kring publicly lamented their previous vote in 2013 that extended the outclause to 2018.

Other than a short statement about his private meeting with Angels team owner Arte Moreno and belief that the new lease would give negotiators time to craft a deal, Mayor Sidhu said very little to defend the new lease.

Angels owner Moreno opted out of his stadium lease last year just before the November elections.

Thus, by October, Anaheim taxpayers could have owned the stadium and the 150-acres of parking lots around it without any lease restrictions

Outside the meeting, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Ament said he was “just happy the two sides are getting together.”

Ament said the existing lease with the Angels is problematic and unclear in areas, arguing that a new agreement would allow the city to have a better long-term ability to retain the team.

Yet long-term seems like a relative term to sports teams.

Keep in mind that the original lease was supposed to keep the team in Anaheim until 2038.

Last year, it seemed Moreno accepted that fact.

The out clauses were supposed to be small windows – so small that they couldn’t be used – so taxpayers would get to the portion of the lease that benefits them.

Yet that point never seems to show up.

Sports stadium leases are the only kind of municipal arrangements I’ve ever seen that when the tenant gets to the half-way point of the lease, they get to drive a renegotiation that involves not only buying the asset but even getting surrounding development rights.

All this after the team pulls out of the lease.

And offered with no change in rent.

Just listening to Barnes try to get an answer from City Stadium Manager Tom Morton about how the Angels pay their rent was a bizarre affair with the stadium manager dancing around the basic fact that under the current lease terms, the stadium is a wash for taxpayers.

In fact, it was stunning how little information council members were offered to make this major concession.

They weren’t shown any kind of economic impact studies, or information on market-based rents for other stadiums, nor even a discussion of the maintenance needs at the stadium or the value of naming rights for cities.

Ultimately, council members have charged City Manager Chris Zapata with putting together a negotiation team and reaching out to the Angels.

Zapata – who has experience with stadium deals from his days in Glendale, Arizona with the NFL Cardinals as well as his stint in National City over discussions with the NFL Chargers – was measured when asked his opinion on the extension but said he could use the time to put together a strategy and team as well as analyze potential complex deal points.

“For me, more time is better,” Zapata said.

He expects to get a stadium appraisal, the first step in a new negotiation, ordered by next month.

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