A crowd of Anaheim residents chanted for city leaders to “ditch the deal!”––and they did.
The City Council voted unanimously on May 24 to “immediately void” the $320-million deal to sell Angel Stadium to a business partnership led by Angels owner Arte Moreno, the Orange County Register reported.
The vote, made in the shadow of a stadium corruption scandal involving former Mayor Harry Sidhu, killed the sale of the 153-acre Angel Stadium property in what had been billed the biggest real estate deal in Anaheim history.
The blow followed more than two hours of public comment – none in favor of preserving the deal, with residents wielding signs saying “All crooks resign” and “Audit Anaheim.”
It came after a discussion by council members about the city’s potential legal liability and whether the city could prove the deal was not an “arm’s length” transaction on the buyer’s part.
And it rendered null and void the stadium sale to Moreno’s SRB Management, which was to develop more than 5000 homes, offices, shops, restaurants and hotels, while generating 45,000 jobs plus hundreds of millions in future revenue for the city.
It would also have kept the Angels in town for years to come, while relieving Anaheim of the burden of maintaining a stadium more than a half-century old.
The current stadium lease remains in effect and lasts through 2029; it includes optional extensions through 2038.
Before the vote, Anaheim residents added to a chorus of politicians and organizations calling for cancellation of the Angel Stadium sale.
They also called for investigations into which city officials and employees may have been involved in alleged corruption, and for reforms to city campaign finance rules.
Some have called for a new appraisal of the stadium property. The fair market value of a vacant stadium site was worth as much as $500 million, according to a city-commissioned appraiser.
This week, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu stepped down after a federal agent accused him of providing confidential information about the stadium sale in hopes of receiving $1 million in campaign aid. He has not been charged with wrongdoing.
His resignation followed a demand by the Angels and SRB Management that the city approve the Angel Stadium sale by June 14. They said in a letter the deal “was the result of honest arms-length negotiations with city staff and its advisors, and has been thoroughly analyzed and debated.”
No representative of SRB Management or the Angels spoke at the meeting and they could not be immediately reached for comment to the newspaper.
Cynthia Ward, a longtime resident who worked as an aide to former Councilwoman Denise Barnes, urged the council not to proceed with the stadium sale until any related investigations are complete – or “there will always be the stench of corruption hanging over” the deal.
There may be legal fallout from the council’s decision to void the sale.
The sale agreement allows the buyer, SRB Management, to seek as much as $5 million to cover its costs plus legal fees; but the city will likely try to show grounds for voiding the deal.
City Attorney Rob Fabela, responding to questions from council members, said “it does stretch credulity” to believe, with the allegations that Sidhu discussed plans to solicit $1 million in support for his reelection from Angels officials, that “there wouldn’t be some knowledge on the other side of that.”
[Orange County Register] – Dana Bartholomew