Anaheim Planning Commissioners on Wednesday night advanced Angel Stadium development plans on a 7-1 vote, bringing the city one step closer to selling the 150-acre stadium land for roughly $150 million, half of the starting price of the land when the process was announced back in December.
Planning Commissioner Steve White cast the lone dissenting vote on the seven-member commission.
“There is just too much open to modification for me to make a genuine interpretation that this is an appropriate document,” White said at Wednesday’s special Planning Commission meeting.
Commissioners had to review a nearly 2,800-page staff report before Wednesday’s special meeting. The documents were made public Friday — just before Labor Day.
“This is an expedited process for a project that isn’t anticipated to be done for 30 years. I don’t know why it does need to be expedited,” White said.
White was the only commissioner critical of the missing details, like exactly how much square footage of housing there will be and where all the parking will go. The stadium land is currently required to have at least 12,000 parking spaces.
“We have 150 acres of parking and suddenly there’s very few acres of parking,” White said.
He also said the development proposal “doesn’t tell us much.”
But some of his colleagues said the commission was simply approving development concepts for City Council review, not a concrete plan.
“A lot of people thought this would be etched in stone,” Commissioner John Armstrong said. “A lot of this will be coming back to the planning commission.”
Commissioner Michelle Lieberman said while the commission usually handles essentially finalized plans, the stadium sale and development proposal will be more defined.
“At this point we’re basically nailing down a concept and we’ll get to the brick and mortar stuff later,” Lieberman said.
The stadium’s starting price was $320 million after $5 million was secretly taken off so the city can hold onto two acres for a fire station and water well. The land will be sold to team owner Arte Moreno’s freshly minted development company, SRB Management.
The development plans are asking Anaheim residents to subsidize affordable housing and a 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 for a nearly $170 million discount.
Planning and Building Director Ted White (unrelated to Steve White) couldn’t say how often the Angels would use the $6.5 million-an-acre public park throughout the year.
“The operations of that park will also be done through a parks management agreement. We anticipate that the public will have full access to that park during the vast majority of the year. There will likely be, again through an agreement, a certain number of events throughout the year,” White told commissioners Wednesday.
Mayor Harry Sidhu was certain the Planning Commission would advance the stadium deal as he praised the land sale in a Facebook video last Friday.
“I’m proud of what we have achieved. In the coming weeks our City Council will consider finalizing this plan. I welcome the discussion,” Sidhu said.
Emails were the only way for residents to weigh in on the issue because the Planning Commission, like the City Council, meets through teleconferencing during the coronavirus pandemic and doesn’t allow for people to call in and voice their opinions.
Most of the public comment emails received before the meeting were from special interests, like building trades and other groups, advocating for the stadium sale.
Leading up to the commission’s meeting, Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ament sent emails to members urging them to support the deal.
“For decades, the Angels and Angel Stadium have been integral parts of Anaheim’s community and identity. These agreements are historic opportunities to keep our iconic team in Anaheim until at least 2050, while finally tapping the full economic potential of the stadium site,” Ament wrote in a Wednesday email
The Chamber, which spent nearly $240,000 on Sidhu’s 2018 campaign for mayor, promoted a December “Rally to Keep the Angels in Anaheim” event at a brewery across the road from the stadium. The group also hosted similar events in 2013 and 2014, when it endorsed a proposed lease that would have given the stadium land to the Angels for $1 a year for 66 years.
Chamber representatives also helped Sidhu pay off his 2018 mayor campaign and 2016 state assembly campaign debt by organizing fundraisers for him last year.
Numerous construction union representatives, various business owners and some nonprofits emailed planning commissioners, urging them to vote for the land sale.
Many of the union representatives used boilerplate language.
“This project will provide thousands of high skilled, middle class construction career opportunities for hard working men and women in Anaheim and the region,” read language in at least eight different emails from various union representatives.
Visit Anaheim CEO Jay Burress also urged commissioners to pass the deal.
Shortly after the pandemic kicked off in March, Sidhu led the charge to bail out Visit Anaheim with a $6 million contract using federal COVID relief dollars meant for expenses directly related to the virus.
“This proposal will go a long way to helping us achieve our mission of bringing more visitors to Anaheim, thereby boosting our economy and supporting thousands of jobs. Our ability to do so has, of course, been drastically impacted by COVID-19 but we are still hard at work to prepare for recovery as soon as we are able to welcome folks back to Anaheim,” Burress wrote.
Some residents pushed for the deal, while a few residents criticized the proposal.
“The lack of transparency has been an issue for this very rushed process. The December 2019 rushed public meeting was a joke and the ongoing questionable ‘negotiations’ are appalling if not criminal,” wrote Pat Davis. “Telling lies and half truths to the community does not meet minimum transparency standards I would hope for in government.”
Earl Johnson, president of the Anaheim-based metal manufacturing company Compax, said the city should’ve let Moreno move the Angels.
“I could care less if the Angels ever played another game anywhere. The city gives Moreno a sweetheart deal and businesses and residents get the shaft. Let him move the team. Where is he going to go? Seriously, let me know where he would move and how long that would take?”