Judge refuses to block $320M sale of Angel Stadium

Prelim ruling on lawsuit accusing city of cutting stadium deal behind closed doors

Arte Moreno in front of the redeveloped Angels stadium (City of Anaheim, Getty Images, iStock/Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
Arte Moreno in front of the redeveloped Angels stadium (City of Anaheim, Getty Images, iStock/Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

The City of Anaheim has hit a home run in its legal battle over the sale of Angel Stadium, with a judge deciding not to block the $320-million deal.

In a preliminary ruling, Orange County Superior Court Judge David A. Hoffer shot down a lawsuit pressed by residents who accuse city leaders of breaking state meetings laws by negotiating the sale behind closed doors and shutting out the public, the Orange County Register reported.

Hoffer said the way the city handled the sale “substantially complied” with state laws for what can be discussed in closed city council meetings, and that discussions and decisions about the sale “were anything but secret and were fully vetted with the public.”

The Peoples Homeless Task Force Orange County, which filed the suit, and the city have 10 days to object to the decision before it becomes final. .

The Anaheim City Council approved a deal in December 2019 to sell the 150-acre stadium property to SRB Management, a company controlled by Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner Arte Moreno, whose pro baseball team plays there. The city voted to trade its stadium for $150 million in cash and $170 million in community benefits, including homes for low-income residents and a 7-acre park as part of a larger mixed-use development around the ballpark.

Anaheim leaders said the deal kept the hometown baseball team while creating a new entertainment district, providing housing and ending expensive stadium maintenance for the city.

SRB plans to develop the stadium parking lots over the next few decades with apartments, hotels, offices, restaurants and shops, while committing the Angels to play in Anaheim through 2050.

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“This initial decision is the right decision,” Mayor Harry Sidhu said in an emailed statement. “This validates that the stadium sale was an extensive public process with community input and debate.”

The Peoples Homeless Task Force OC alleged in its lawsuit that city officials decided in secret, months before the public knew, to sell the stadium rather than craft a new lease with Moreno and his Angels Baseball. Its court filings included supporting declarations from former city manager Chris Zapata and Councilman Jose Moreno. It asked the court to scuttle the stadium deal.

Attorney Kelly Aviles, who represents the task force, said it’s considering whether to appeal the judge’s decision.

The stadium deal, which hasn’t closed escrow, awaits another challenge from the state.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development accused Anaheim in December of breaking a state law requiring agencies to offer public land for affordable housing before selling it for another use. It could impose a fine up to $96 million that the city would be required to spend on affordable housing. Anaheim says it’s exempt from the state housing law

[Orange County Register] – Dana Bartholomew

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