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Anaheim is looking to sell Angel Stadium and the roughly 150 acres around it for $150 million — less than half of the starting price tag announced late last year when private talks began.
The reduced price tag is mainly because taxpayers are now subsidizing nearly 500 affordable housing units and a seven-acre park as part of the deal.
Like last year’s secret negotiations for the preliminary land sale agreement, this year’s negotiations also remained shrouded in secrecy.
And like previous stadium deal announcements, this latest deal was unveiled right around the holiday, this time before Labor Day weekend.
Back in 2013, just before Labor Day weekend, city officials announced a $1 a year stadium lease for the Angels. An ensuing community outrage over the deal ultimately shot down that proposal.
A special Planning Commission meeting is scheduled Wednesday to advance the development agreement, along with the taxpayer-subsidized affordable housing and park.
Taxpayers will take $123 million off the purchase price to fund at least 466 affordable housing units.
Another $46 million will be paid for by taxpayers to build a seven-acre park.
That’s nearly a $170 million discount for Moreno’s freshly minted developer group, lowering the purchase price down to $150 million.
Meanwhile, the 7-acre park is estimated to cost taxpayers $6.5 million per acre to build, more than six times the per-acre price that Moreno is buying the 150 acres of stadium land for.
In contrast, when the Ducks negotiated their lease in 2018, they committed to building 20 acres of subsidy-free public park space and took over the transportation hub across the street, ARTIC, and its annual deficit. Although, like Angel Stadium, there were questions whether the 16 acres of land the city sold the Ducks was sold at fair market value.
For months, there have been calls from the Anaheim City Council dais, from minority members like Councilman Jose Moreno and Councilwoman Denise Barnes asking about the status of the community benefits agreement announced this year. Not one member of the council majority, including Mayor Harry Sidhu, has ever asked publicly for an update.
City staff in public has consistently said the negotiating team – including Sidhu, the city manager and the city attorney – were working on the package.
Sidhu got himself appointed to the city negotiating team last year.
In a Friday statement, Sidhu said land sale is a good deal.
“It calls for our city to get out of the stadium business while still seeing all the benefits of having baseball in Anaheim through 2050 and beyond. We would see life-changing affordable housing, a flagship city park and exciting dining, shopping, offices, hotels and entertainment all built around baseball,” Sidhu said.
“The ongoing revenue will benefit our neighborhoods for years to come.”
He also praised the $150 million stadium land sale in a Facebook video on the city’s page.
“Anaheim would have to pay for these valuable community benefits one way or another. So we are making them part of that deal for the benefit of a community,” Sidhu said in the Facebook video.
“I’m proud of what we have achieved.”
Yet, Moreno, who’s been critical of the secrecy behind negotiations, said he doesn’t understand why the city is rushing the land sale. Originally, the sale would’ve closed sometime around 2024.
“I don’t understand the rush yet again. The only reason I can come to is that the mayor and majority do not feel confident enough in what he’s negotiating, so much so that they are once again rushing a major deal in the dark with no ability for the public to comment live or by any other means until it’s seemingly too late,” Moreno said in a Saturday phone interview.
Moreno and Councilwoman Denise Barnes have repeatedly tried to schedule a City Council discussion over the community benefits package, but the Sidhu-led majority has resisted their calls.
The original starting price was $325 million, but it was secretly adjusted to $320 million because the city will keep 2.5 acres for a water well and future fire station, according to a Friday memo from the city manager’s office to the City Council.
During the one public meeting about the land sale last year, City Council members and staff never mentioned Anaheim keeping any of the land for a new fire station and water well.
“So far the response I received from residents is bewilderment. With the question of, we thought we sold the land for $325 million, why is the city saying we’re only getting $150 million in cash?” Moreno said.
Buried roughly 100-pages deep in the Planning Commission’s staff report is a breakdown of the taxpayer subsidized “community benefits.”
The current negotiation began in 2018, just before the council elections, when the Angels tore up their lease. After Harry Sidhu won a narrow victory that Fall, he immediately proceeded during the first meeting of the new city council majority to steer through a lease reinstatement and year-long secret negotiation process aiming to find a new lease for the team.
At some point, lease negotiations shifted gears into a land sale with development entitlements. That shift triggered an ongoing lawsuit by residents challenging the negotiations.
Despite having all year to negotiate, the two negotiating teams didn’t officially sit down until November 2019.
The land sale was officially announced Dec. 5.
In December 2019, five days before Christmas, the city council voted to begin the land sale process at a starting price of $325 million.
It took council members longer to decide naming the second Monday in October Indigenous People’s Day than it did for them to vote to begin the land sale.
Now, the Council is expected to finalize the land sale at the end of the month.
Shortly before last December’s land sale vote, former Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and Assemblyman Tom Daly, also a former mayor, published an opinion article on Voice of OC criticizing the land sale proposal for its lack of details.
“Crucial information about this real estate deal is missing, and what little has been made public appears stunningly one sided against Anaheim taxpayers,” the two former mayors wrote.
They also took issue with the undefined community benefits package.
“‘Community benefits’ are only vaguely defined, and will most assuredly reduce the final sale price by millions of dollars, possibly hundreds of millions. There is no limit on this loophole, and the people of Anaheim will be paying the price,” Daly and Tait wrote.