Anaheim Mayor Sidhu Could Face Recall Over Mobile Home Rent Control, Angel Stadium Land Sale

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

A protestor holds a sign outside of the Anaheim City Hall on Jun. 18, 2020.

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu might face a recall election after seniors from a mobile home park have started collecting signatures to toss the mayor out for refusing to consider rent control as well as his leadership on the Angel Stadium sale. 

Seniors living at the Rancho La Paz mobile home park showed up to City Council meetings for months last year, lobbying City Council members to enact a mobile home rent control ordinance when they were faced with spiking rents. 

“After going to the council meetings and trying to talk to Sidhu, he just ignored us completely. And then, there was the whole bit about the stadium — just kind of giving it away. People are getting more and more upset with him,” said Rancho La Paz resident Cheryl Moi. 

The recall effort doesn’t just stem from Sidhu’s opposition to previously proposed mobile home rent control ordinances, said Rancho La Paz resident Lupe Ramirez.

It’s also the secret Angel Stadium negotiations that eventually turned into a land sale with a starting price tag of $320 million, which is being sold to a company whose only known member is Arte Moreno, the team’s owner.

After factoring “community benefits credits” — roughly $170 million to subsidize 466 units of affordable housing and a seven-acre park — the sale price is now $150 million. 

“We do know that we’re getting a lot of traffic on our Facebook page — people who are so unhappy about the deal on Angel Stadium,” Ramirez said. 

The city is facing a lawsuit over the stadium deal from the resident advocacy group, the People’s Homeless Task Force, for allegedly holding secret meetings between city officials and Angels representatives. 

The suit seeks to overturn the City Council vote last December and have the entire process redone in public view. 

Sidhu and the rest of the City Council might be forced to answer questions about negotiations and the Angel Stadium deal under oath in the court case. 

The recall is also in response to the treatment Central Anaheim residents received at a March 2019 meeting when the residents showed up to protest 39 condos being built right next to single family homes in an already crowded neighborhood. The condos will have to share a tight alleyway with the existing homeowners. 

The residents who live next to the project were supposed to have 10 minutes to make their case to the Council and everybody else was supposed to have three minutes to speak. Sidhu led the charge to cut speaking times three minutes. 

In contrast, at a City Council meeting earlier this year, residents from the affluent Anaheim Hills were allowed to speak for their full 10 minutes against a proposed housing development. 

The Rancho La Paz seniors are also upset at Sidhu’s move to bailout Visit Anaheim, the advertising branch of the Disneyland-resort area normally funded through a self-imposed bed tax from the various hotels. 

“The money he got for Anaheim, he gave away $6 million of it to Visit Anaheim — the COVID money,” Moi said. 

The $6.5 million contract, which was to rebook conventions and get new ones, originally was funded through a convention center reserve fund, but city officials later indicated they’re going to use $6.5 million of the city’s $33 million in federal coronavirus relief funds. 

The funds were supposed to be used for virus-related expenditures. 

Under the state’s coronavirus guidelines, conventions won’t be able to reopen any time soon. 

“There’s a lot of people in Anaheim who could’ve used that money,” Moi said. 

Former City Manager Chris Zapata raised concerns about the Visit Anaheim contract at the March meeting. 

Zapata was fired in April and no reason was given by the City Council.

Sidhu also successfully brought a $500,000 Chamber of Commerce contract before the council in August. The contract, also funded by federal bailout money, is aimed at getting people to eat and shop locally. 

Moi and Ramirez said another reason for the petition is Sidhu’s unwillingness to work with the minority City Council members, Denise Barnes and Jose Moreno. 

“The other things that we had in the petition was his refusal to meet with the minority members of the City Council for any reason. If anything it seems like he keeps them out of the decisions,” Ramirez said. 

“Plus all the rules he’s made. Before you can put anything on the agenda you need that third vote, and unless you’re in his gang of five, you’re never going to get anything done. He’s the mayor and not the king,” she said. 

Shortly after taking office, Sidhu instituted a series of procedural rule changes. City Council members now need a second and a third in support of an agenda proposal before it gets put on the agenda. 

Sidhu also limited council speaking times about an issue to two rounds of five minutes each. 

“Denise and Jose just get put down — the only thing that goes through is money. The things that Sidhu wants,” Moi said. 

“It’s really growing the amount of people who really want him gone. And on the council it was just so discouraging because he tells four of them what to do and they do it.” 

That kind of dynamic is ultimately what forces a civic action like a recall, said Ramirez, adding 

“He’s the mayor and not the king.” 

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.