Anaheim Planning Commission Could Move $150 Million Angel Stadium Sale to City Council

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium Sept. 28, 2019.

The Anaheim Planning Commission is slated to vote Wednesday on Angel Stadium development plans that would bring the city one step closer to selling the land for $150 million, less than half of the price tag revealed last year.

The special meeting will mark the first time the commission will discuss the stadium deal.

At a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday, city staff said the City Council could finalize the deal by the end of the month or early October. 

If the council doesn’t ultimately approve the development plans and finalize the deal, the Angels would be stuck in their current lease until 2029, City Attorney Rob Fabela said at the town hall meeting. 

Anaheim taxpayers could end up subsidizing nearly $170 million from the $320 million price tag — $123 million for at least 466 affordable housing units and $46 million to build a seven-acre park. If approved, that would bring the final sale price of the taxpayers-owned stadium to roughly $150 million. 

City officials call the subsidy a community benefits “credit.”

“The proposed agreement for the final cash payment for the stadium and land calls for a $170 million credit for affordable housing and the flagship park,” reads a rundown of the deal on the city’s website.

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu said affordable housing and a park would have to be paid for somehow.

“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 a Facebook video posted last Friday.

Councilwoman Denise Barnes said the negotiations, which ultimately reduced the price by $170 million, lacked transparency and City Council input. 

“It makes me want to spit nails. It’s just so shameful,” Barnes said in a Tuesday phone interview. 

Sidhu is on the city’s negotiating team, along with the city manager and city attorney. Sidhu got himself appointed to it last year, despite objections from the council minority, including Barnes.  

“It’s not his property,” Barnes said. 

She said the decision to sell the stadium land should have been left to voters. 

“It’s sad that this didn’t go to the taxpayers,” Barnes said. 

She also criticized the $150 million final price tag.

“So right now it’s one acre for $1 million — that’s it. How does that pan out? In Orange County, the biggest piece of land ever, bordering three freeways?” Barnes said. “A lot of people that follow the stadium and follow the Angels said if I had $150 million, I would buy it too.” 

The Angels are ranked ninth in value at an estimated nearly $2 billion in Forbes’ 2020 rankings of the 30 Major League Baseball teams.

Anaheim is looking to sell the land to SRB Management, a freshly-minted development company headed up by Angels owner Arte Moreno. 

Moreno plans to build restaurants, shops, hotels, housing and office space on the 150-acre stadium land, but it’s unclear whether he will renovate the stadium or build a new one. Not much more has been revealed beyond those development plans. 

At a Tuesday virtual town hall for residents, city spokesman Mike Lyster said there will be no tax subsidies. 

“There are no plans, incentives or tax breaks or subsidies of any kind for the two hotels that were described nor will there be any property tax breaks,” Lyster said.  

At the town hall, one resident asked if Moreno could begin selling land for residential development. 

“They (SRB Management), in many respects, will serve as a master developer and it is a very common strategy to bring in somebody with the expertise,” Lyster said. “That is generally correct.” 

At a separate Tuesday event, former Mayor Tom Tait, speaking on a Facebook live video for a Barnes City Council re-election campaign fundraiser, criticized the deal — especially the nearly $170 million to subsidize the housing and the park. 

“That’s hundreds of millions of dollars that belong to the people of Anaheim,” Tait said. “That’s a huge number. That can go to community services, or it could go to the pocket of a current baseball owner.” 

Right before Labor Day weekend in 2013, the city released a proposed lease with the Angels that would have leased the land for $1 a year. 

Tait was the only person on the council then to speak against the offer and spearheaded the community outrage that followed the proposal, which ultimately shot it down. 

“We need to spread the word on that issue alone. Let the people understand what a terrible terrible deal it is for the city of Anaheim and it will affect services for years to come,” he said.

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