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The parting gift from former City Manager Marcie Edwards to the City of Anaheim was to arrange for a qualified and professional appraisal of the 154-acre lot surrounding Angels Stadium. The development rights to this parcel have been slated to be given to Angels owner Arte Moreno, as part of a package with the new lease on the Stadium itself, for a nominal fee. (The tentative “placeholder” figure was $1/year, but even a price many times that would not necessarily change the fundamentals.) Moreno would then be able to assign (think of it as being like a sublease) this land to developers — he isn’t one himself — for at least 66 years and possibly more like 99 years.
The City, by its own omission, had no idea what the land was worth. The estimate from Charles Black — the “external staffer” who apparently and without fanfare resigned in March after making $100,000 “representing” the City as its Chief Negotiator with the Angels and brokering the now-disgraced CS&L Report on the value of Angels Baseball to Anaheim — had suggested a figure of perhaps as low as $30 million.
Now we have a decent estimate (warning, that links to a PDF): it is worth from $220 million to over $300 million. That’s a public asset — one that Anaheim’s General Fund will desperately need in the future.
The Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, or CATER, was formed shortly after this plan was slammed through with minimal public notice after the 2013 Labor Day weekend. (I’m General Counsel for the group — a fact cited as critical and damning to many of those who voted to remove me from the leadership of the Democratic Party of Orange County this past Monday. I don’t feel particularly damned by it today!)
CATER is (and thus I am) involved in litigation on this issue right now, so I can’t comment on it the way that I would prefer. But I will say this: eight months ago today — just after Cynthia Ward called me and Brian Chuchua about the details of the agenda item, and while we were literally and desperately trying to round up anyone we could, homeless people include, to take part in a “citizens filibuster” of the next evening’s Anaheim City Countil meeting so that we could slow down the process enough to understand what was going on — this was a done deal. We had no expectation that we could stop it, or do more than just slow it down enough to examine carefully. The political insiders were laughing at the political insurgents, whose only ally at the time inside the city government was the city’s Mayor, Tom Tait.
Four weeks later, the four-person Anaheim City Council majority — led in this effort by the sole Democrat on the City Council, Jordan Brandman — tried to strip Mayor Tait of his power to put any item on the agenda without the permission of at least one person in the majority. That was, his now-Mayoral-opponent Lucille Kring admitted, primarily a response to his attempt to roll back the approval of the lease agreements approved on Sept. 3. Tait outfoxed the majority by, prior to the possibility of his power being stripped, scheduling the Angels negotiations as an agenda item for every third meeting until negotiations were completed. That act allowed the City Council to later consider and approve this appraisal.
I can’t adequately express how close Anaheim taxpayers came to not knowing the value of what they were giving away prior to doing so — and how relatively few of us stood in the way. And now it is clear that we were right to urge caution and transparency. It’s a great day both for Anaheim, for transparency, and for government accountability.