Anaheimers: Did you know that $24 million in taxpayer funds built Angel Stadium back in 1966 and if adjusted for inflation, that’d be a sum of $199 million today? Did you know that Angels owner Arte Moreno currently pays no rent for use of the stadium? And that Anaheim spent almost seven million more on stadium upkeep between 2008 and 2017 than the Angels?
Labor unions and nonprofits gave residents the primer at a town hall they organized amid ongoing stadium lease negotiations between Anaheim and Angels Baseball.
“We are the landlords of this stadium and we rent it and lose money,” said Andrew Hausermann, director of organizing for Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD), during his presentation. “The question is what is our council doing about this? They’re basically our real estate agent.”
That’s a good question.
The city voted in January to extend a lease with the Angels for a year after the team opted out in 2018, giving a timetable for talks regarding the future of the stadium and, more importantly, 150 acres of prime real estate surrounding it. In March, mayor Harry Sidhu along with a majority of city council members voted to scrap city manager Chris Zapata’s monthly updates on negotiations between Anaheim and the Major League Baseball team. The move prompted criticism of backroom dealings being done in private with warnings of Brown Act violations.
“The Brown Act isn’t in question here,” says Mike Lyster, Anaheim spokesman, who attended the town hall. “The act covers how items are put on an agenda and how they are discussed but does not direct a council to address a given topic every month. That said, our city manager has been asked for and shared updates at all of our recent council meetings. Given the early stage we are at, there hasn’t been much to update on.”
With updates of its own, OCCORD had filed a public records request to find out any new information on negotiations and provided its reveals to an audience gathered at Katella High School near the stadium. Hausermann claimed email exchanges between Tom Morton, Anaheim Convention Center executive director, and Zapata included a PowerPoint on the stadium deal foiled in 2014 that almost allowed Moreno to develop the city-owned land around the ballpark in exchange for letting Anaheim off the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in needed stadium renovations. Moreno’s proposed rent for all those acres? A buck a year for 66 years.
“One of the stated goals in this PowerPoint was to protect Angels Baseball from community benefits obligations where revenues are insufficient to offset investments,” Hausermann explained. “This was a goal from the city of Anaheim. This wasn’t the Angels. You’d think the city would be trying to maximize community benefits, right?”
That was then. Is it now? The city says no.
“As for a framework, we are taking a fresh start with nothing predetermined except an agreement that is good for our residents and neighborhoods,” Lyster adds. “We are not revisiting the framework of 2013, and any suggestion otherwise is incorrect.”
Hausermann cited the Mission Rock Project for the San Francisco Giants as an example of a deal that included benefits to the community in the form of affordable housing, a nine-acre waterfront park and full private financing of stadium construction. Another alternative came in the form of L.A. Live with its living wage guarantees, local hiring goals and affordable housing. John Woodhead, Anaheim’s director of community and economic development, hoped the stadium deal could be “L.A. Live on steroids” in a recent Los Angeles Times article.
“If they want an L.A. Live on steroids, how about we get a [community benefits agreement] on steroids?” said Hausermann in trying to rouse residents.
Town hall organizers invited all current council members to attend. Only Denise Barnes and Jose F. Moreno showed up. Former Anaheim mayor Tom Tait, who staunchly opposed the 2013 stadium deal, reappeared in recorded comments for the event. “Better decisions will happen with more people involved,” he said, favoring an open and transparent process. “You should be involved. The asset belongs to you as the people of Anaheim.”
Juliana Bravo is both a longtime Anaheim resident and an Angel Stadium dishwasher with Unite Here Local 11, a union that helped put on the town hall and represents 800 of her fellow coworkers. If the team moved away from the city, she’d face an uncertain future with a rent of $2,300 on her apartment. “The Angel Stadium workers and residents deserve to know what’s going on,” Bravo said in Spanish. “We deserve secure jobs and better benefits.” The gathering also highlighted the plight of Rancho La Paz and Casa Grande tenants facing rent hikes in Anaheim, contrasting it with the Angels’ free ride at the Big A.
By the end of the town hall, organizers pointed to a June 18 city council meeting when an appraisal of the Angel Stadium site is expected, the next big step in negotiations that have to reach a deal by December to keep your Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Anaheim.
“We will make our voice heard to the entire city council,” said Shakeel Syed, OCCORD’s executive director. “They will not sign any deal without the input of each one of us. Stay angry and stay damn angry!”
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!