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Anaheim, California reach agreement on Angel Stadium site sale

The City of Anaheim has claimed the contentious sale and development of the Angel Stadium of Anaheim site will move forward and bring with it the largest affordable housing investment in Anaheim history as part of an agreement by the city and the state of California.

The announcement yesterday (Tuesday) is the latest development stemming from when SRB Management, the company of Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno, in December 2019 originally signed a $325m (£259.2m/€306.9m) deal to buy the publicly owned Angel Stadium and allow the Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise to remain in Anaheim through to 2050.

The latest agreement, between Anaheim and the California Department of Housing and Community Development, is claimed to resolve all issues with the stadium site sale and the state’s Surplus Land Act. Anaheim’s City Council approved the agreement at a public meeting held yesterday.

“Today Anaheim moves forward,” Mayor Harry Sidhu said in a statement. “This agreement clears the way for us to keep baseball in Anaheim and to turn acres of empty land into new uses to fund public safety and community services.

“At the same time, Anaheim and our state partners are meeting a shared goal of bringing more affordable housing to our community in what will be the largest investment in our city’s history.

“We have heard loud and clear that our residents want baseball to stay in Anaheim. We also know we need more housing in reach of working families and renewed investment in our neighbourhoods. We will see all of this as we move forward with our stadium plan.”

With the agreement and a pending update to a purchase and sale agreement, cash payment in the $319.8m stadium site sale will go from $150m to $246m. The agreement sets aside $95.9m – in new cash paid by buyer SRB Management – for affordable housing across Anaheim to get underway within five years.

Anaheim will continue to receive roughly $150m in cash from the sale. The $170m balance will come as affordable housing, a city park and assumed maintenance obligations in the stadium area. The agreement also calls for a minimum of $27.7m in affordable housing on the stadium site.

In all, the stadium site sale provides $123.7 million in affordable housing across the city and on the stadium site in what would be the largest single investment in affordable housing in Anaheim’s history.

The agreement creates an Anaheim affordable housing trust fund with $95.9m in new cash proceeds from stadium site sale. However, the exact phrasing of this part of the deal has been debated.

In December, the sale of the Angel Stadium site was declared illegal by California officials. The agreement was vetoed by California’s state housing agency, which issued a notice of violation that contended the city had violated the Surplus Land Act. Under the terms of that legislation, public land made available for sale should first be offered to affordable housing developers.

Sidhu and the Council majority have insisted they did nothing illegal or improper, and that the $95.9m sum under yesterday’s agreement should not be considered a fine. “This is a mutual agreement by Anaheim and the state of California,” Sidhu said, according to the Voice of OC website.

“There is no wrongdoing and no fault and no conceding of any violation by Anaheim. There is no fine being paid by Anaheim, just the opposite. Our city is receiving $96m in new cash from buyer SRB. We will use this money to build an estimated 1,000 new affordable homes across our city.”

However, state housing department deputy director Megan Kirkeby contended: “This is not a settlement, this is not a compromise – this is the full weight of the penalty, plus we leveraged additional laws… to get more than what the penalties would bring.

“We are not rescinding our notice of violation, this will fulfil our enforcement of the notice of violation should all the conditions be met.”

The agreement next goes before an Orange County Superior Court judge for approval, and is effective upon this green light. The City of Anaheim believes yesterday’s agreement resolves all disputes related to the stadium site sale and the Surplus Land Act.

Anaheim contends the stadium site, which is covered by a lease through 2038, is not surplus land and falls under a separate section of state law allowing for a sale as economic development, among other points.

After being first approved in December 2019, an updated sale agreement as well as a development agreement was further approved in September and October of 2020. Anaheim is hoping that the sale could finally close in the second half of 2022.

In September 2020, Anaheim City Council approved a revised deal with Angels owner Moreno. The approval called for the Angels to play in Anaheim through at least 2050 with five five-year extensions, or through 2075. Angel Stadium and 150 acres of surrounding land will be sold to SRB Management for an appraised market value of $320m.

The City of Anaheim in June 2020 unveiled wide-ranging plans to transform the area around Angel Stadium into a mixed-use development under the ‘The Big A: 2050’ banner. The approval follows unsuccessful attempts in 2013-14 and in 2016 to secure baseball’s long-term future in Anaheim as well as development around the stadium.

The Angels have played in Anaheim since 1966. The City of Anaheim built what is today Angel Stadium of Anaheim in 1966, and has owned it since. The sale will end 50-plus years of city stadium ownership and put any future maintenance, renovation or stadium construction costs solely in the hands of SRB Management. The plan also calls for a renovated Angel Stadium, or a new 45,000-seat stadium.

Image: kaleb tapp on Unsplash