Anaheim residents still don’t know what the publicly-owned Angel Stadium is currently worth after the City Council refused to release the appraisal, which is nearly finalized, for the second time.
“So this evening in closed session, this city council received, not the full appraisal, but the numbers … of what the value is of our largest asset is in the city of Anaheim,” Councilman Jose Moreno said at the Tuesday meeting. “It was wonderful to see the appraisal, the final numbers as reported to us.”
Moreno reminded his colleagues that the City Council voted in November 2018 to conduct a stadium appraisal and release it to the public. At the time, the language of the motion ordering the appraisal clearly indicates that the public, which is mentioned first in the motion, and the city council would get access to the appraisal at the same time,
According the motion made at the Nov. 20, 2018 meeting, “Mayor Tait moved to direct staff to prepare an appraisal of the Angel Stadium, as is, at current market value and make available to both the public and Council, seconded by Council Member Barnes.”
Under state law, public property appraisals are normally allowed to remain confidential during negotiations involving a public agency – unless a different standard, as the one adopted by the Anaheim city council in November 2018, is created.
Yet there are open questions about whether that commitment is binding in the same way an ordinance or contract would be.
“The previous council’s assurance in no way binds their successor. It’s not like a contractual pledge or anything. It’s a political pledge, but it’s not something the new council is committed to, other than politically,” said Terry Francke, general counsel for the statewide First Amendment nonprofit, CalAware and an open records consultant for Voice of OC.
Former Mayor Tom Tait said the current Council and the public should know the stadium’s value.
“I think the City Council and the public need to know what the property is worth as we start negotiations,” Tait said at the Nov. 20 meeting.
The council voted 5-2 to conduct an appraisal at market rate, since the Angels just opted out of the lease at that time, and to release the findings to the public. Former Councilwoman Kris Murray and Councilwoman Lucille Kring dissented.
A 2014 appraisal valued the stadium land between $225 and $325 million.
During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Councilman Moreno called on his Council colleagues to back his request to schedule the release of the appraisal at the Oct. 22 meeting during his time to try to schedule agenda items at the end of the Sept. 24 meeting. Only Councilwoman Denise Barnes supported the release, despite Moreno reminding the Council of the November vote.
He needed two other Council members to join him Tuesday in order to put Angel Stadium appraisal on the Oct. 22 meeting agenda, due to a series of changes to City Council procedures spearheaded by Mayor Harry Sidhu from December to February. Councilmembers were able to schedule agenda items without a second and third before the changes.
Moreno previously tried to get the appraisal scheduled for release on a future agenda during the July 30 meeting, but failed after only Barnes supported his motion.
And despite calls from roughly a dozen residents for the city to be more transparent in the stadium negotiations, the City Council also refused to make public any potential deal or proposal for 30 days from the Angels after Moreno and Barnes backed the idea Tuesday.
The city expects the Angels to make a proposal in October for the 155-acre land the stadium sits on, giving them until Dec. 31 to finalize a deal.
The Council voted in March to remove City Manager Chris Zapata’s monthly stadium update during its meetings, backed by Sidhu, Barnes, Kring, Councilmen Trevor O’Neil and Stephen Faessel.
“We are embarking down a road of a very sensitive negotiation and this is not something that I believe should be played out in the public eye. And I trust our City Manager (Zapata) to report to us when there’s relevant information that warrants discussion and I stand by my motion,” said O’Neil, who proposed the move during the March 19 meeting.
Sidhu, reacting to O’Neil, said, “I actually support you.”
Instead of a monthly update, the Council directed Zapata to only publicly report to the Council when there’s “relevant information.”
Moreno and Councilman Jordan Brandman voted no on the move.
Sidhu also managed to get the City Council, through a 5-2 vote, to appoint him to the stadium negotiating team, which includes Zapata and City Attorney Rob Fabela. Barnes and Moreno voted against Sidhu’s appointment at the July 16 meeting.
Moreno pressed Sidhu to answer why it’s important to have the mayor on the negotiating team.
“What do you mean why? I’m the mayor. I would like to represent the City Council,” Sidhu responded.
Moreno kept pressing Sidhu for answers.
“I’m still not hearing why … is it important to have a council representative there?” Moreno asked at the July 16 meeting.
Sidhu answered, “It is very simple. As the mayor, I represent the city, just like all of you. And I’d like to appoint myself as a council representative to the negotiating team,” Sidhu said. “There has to be someone from the council because we have a vision for the city … I think we have done enough discussion.”
The negotiating team met with itself for the first time Sept. 13 to begin discussing what it would like to see in the upcoming lease.
The City Council has only once publicly discussed what it would like to see come out of the upcoming negotiations at its Aug. 27 meeting. Councilmembers seemed to agree that the Angels should pay either market-based rent or market price for the land should the city decide to sell it — meaning the team should pay whatever the city can get if it put the 155-acre stadium land on the real estate market.
A Sept. 17 Facebook post by the City of Anaheim claims the City Council has discussed Angel Stadium 17 times this year, not including Tuesday’s meeting.
Yet a review of agendas since the beginning of the year shows Angels negotiations-related items have only been formally scheduled seven times, with one agenda item listed as closed session, leading up to the Sept. 17 social media post. The City Council met 17 times leading up its Sept. 24 meeting.
“Including a January action, regular city manager updates and September’s discussion of potential negotiation considerations, Anaheim’s Council has touched the topic 17 different times since the start of the year,” the post reads. “Only three City Council meetings so far this year haven’t included a public update or discussion on the topic.”
Shortly after Tuesday’s meeting, Anaheim uploaded an updated timeline of council discussions and updates to its website with dates and summaries of what was discussed or updated.
Since the Council killed the monthly update, Moreno has routinely asked Zapata if there’s any developments on negotiations at the beginning of City Council meetings.
The Council also discussed the negotiations in closed session Sept. 24, for a total of eight scheduled agenda items related to the Angels.
Outside of the Aug. 27 meeting, very little has been said about the negotiations. Two out of the six publicly discussed negotiation-related agenda items have been about the lease reinstatement, which Sidhu brought to the Council at the Jan. 15 meeting.
At the time, Sidhu said “Last week, I had met with the Angels owner Arte Moreno (unrelated to Jose Moreno). From that meeting it was clear that the team’s priority is to stay in Anaheim. We need time to make that happen. Tonight I’m asking Council colleagues to consider a one-year extension to the current Angels lease to the end of 2020.”
Although the 5-2 vote on Jan. 15 nullified the Angels’ October 2018 lease termination, it also extended the team’s lease termination right to Dec. 31 this year and reinstated the original lease, which runs until 2029. Barnes and Moreno voted against it.
At the Aug. 27 meeting, Sidhu and some key city staff, offered contradictory statements on the vote when Moreno and Barnes asked questions about the January vote.
Answering questions from Barnes on if he knew exactly what the vote did, Sidhu replied, “Absolutely … Listen, everything is in the (staff report) report, if you have not read it, it’s not my fault.”
Meanwhile, Anaheim has received $1.6 million in direct revenue from the stadium since 2010, when the city’s maintenance spending and bonds from the 1980’s are factored in. According to Forbes estimates, the Angels make $101 million a year in gate receipts, but the team’s net profit — after factoring in player and employee salaries and operating expenses — is estimated at $19 million a year.
City officials point to the sales tax generated by the Stadium and the surrounding area, known as the Platinum Triangle, for revenue. The area also consists of the Honda Center and businesses like breweries, restaurants and some construction supply stores.
Nearly all sports economists who specialize in the ballpark and stadium deals that Voice of OC has interviewed over the past few months say that increased sales tax numbers around stadiums generally shift local spending from one part of the city to another.
The 820-acre Platinum Triangle generated $5.1 million in sales tax in 2018 and is projected to produce $5.2 million this year. That number is up from the $3.5 million generated in 2010, according to a city document on its website.
In comparison, Downtown Fullerton, which is a fraction of the size of the Platinum Triangle at roughly 65 acres, generates a little over $2.1 million in sales tax annually.
Both cities only get one percent out of the 7.75 percent sales tax. The rest largely goes to the state government.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.
Since you've made it this far,
You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.
Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.