The Angels Deal was Dead Before They Killed it; Now for the Stake in its Heart!

1. The Battle of the “Surplus Land Act”

At the time I began this draft, the Los Angeles Angels (actually “SRB,” but that’s essentially a creature of Angels Owner Arte Moreno, so I’ll use “Angels” as descriptive enough) were still demanding that the bludgeoned City of Anaheim make good on its offer to sell them the stadium and its grounds for $150 million. Quoting liberally from the Voice of OC story on the topic:

Angels owner Arte Moreno is pushing Anaheim City Council members to finalize a controversial stadium sale by June 14 – regardless of a court-ordered hold on last-minute changes to the deal stemming from a Surplus Land Act violation and what seems like an active FBI probe into stadium negotiations. 

SRB Management, headed up by Moreno, sent a letter to City Manager Jim Vanderpool on Friday – urging the city to approve the deal, despite the headlines of the week and a mayor that hasn’t been seen or heard from all week. 

Vanderpool himself has had his own actions come under scrutiny after admitting to Voice of OC that he went to one of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce retreats, with people the FBI considers a “covert group of individuals that wielded significant influence over the inner workings of Anaheim’s government.”

Despite the explosive corruption allegations made public this week by the FBI, the Angels say city leaders should approve all their dealings and contracts immediately. 

“The agreements are the product of over two years of intensive discussions with numerous City Stakeholders to achieve transformative benefits for the City,” the SRB letter written by their Attorney Allan Abshez.

The full letter appears at the end of this story, whimsically labeled as “Exhibit A”.

The Angels had also given Anaheim a deadline to approve the deal:

In a letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times that was sent on behalf of the Angels and SRB Management, and eventually made public, the development company led by Angels owner Arte Moreno, attorney Allan Abshez told the city that the team and SRB “have acted in good faith” and expect “that the parties will complete the transaction.”

In concluding the letter, Abshez wrote: “SRB has met all its obligations and has every expectation that this transaction should move forward, and looks forward to the Council’s final action no later than June 14, 2022.”

Arte Moreno (artist’s conception of his harried soul) contemplates his next move.

So does this mean that they’ve given up on fighting the Surplus Land Act claim? I don’t think so — and not simply because the order imposing the “swap” deal on the City it is still stayed or even dead. The City says (in what is now Exhibit C below, and I’m not going to rename them) that the “Council action would also start a legal process that will involve filing a motion for declaratory judgment in Orange County Superior Court based on concerns of conflict of interest and that the transaction was not at arm’s length. That’s what I believed happened, and it’s the right move to make — but obviously the Angels are not admitting it. Partly that may be to avoid criminal liability — but they could just disagree with that assessment and walk away in that case — and that’s not quite what they’re doing.

2. SRB “Accepts” the City’s Act:

Is the Battle Thus Over? Or Was It Contract Repudiation?

As Spencer Custodio of the Voice noted on Saturday, the Angels seem to have give up on the deal. Once again, we quote from the VOC and then insert a document down below:

The Los Angeles Angels have announced they won’t be contesting Anaheim’s decision to scrap the Angel Stadium land sale with the City of Anaheim after council members unanimously voted to cancel the deal following revelations the negotiations were caught up in an FBI corruption probe.

“Given that the City Council unanimously voted to cancel the stadium land agreement, we believe it is the best interest of our fans, Angels Baseball, and the community to accept the city’s cancellation. Now we will continue our focus on our fans and the baseball season,” reads a statement put on the city’s website from SRB Management, headed up by team owner Arte Moreno.

“We are disappointed by Anaheim City Council’s action  last night regarding the Stadium Land Sale. Since the beginning we negotiated in good faith which resulted in a fair deal. We are currently exploring all of our options,” SRB Management spokeswoman Marie Garvey said in a Wednesday statement. 

From https://voiceofoc.org/2022/05/la-angels-back-off-on-stadium-deal-after-anaheim-cancels-refocuses-efforts-on-baseball-season/.

The statement linked above is included below as “Exhibit B“; see especially the May 27 entry in the timeline.

But people are misconstruing what that statement actually means!

The Voice of OC story is entitled “LA Angels Back Off on Stadium Deal After Anaheim Cancels, Refocuses Efforts on Baseball Season.”

That may or may not be what’s happening. The Angels may believe that they do have a decent contract case against the city, perhaps allowing them to demand specific performance (going through with the contract) at a later time — and they have four years to file a claim predicated on a written contract. A lot can happen within four years — including all of this blowing over.

What I think that the Angels/SRB are actually saying here is that they are treating the City Council action as a repudiation of a contract, also known as “anticipatory repudiation” (or anticipatory breach), Such an act allows the non-repudiating party to begin to take actions that would otherwise have to wait for the actual breach of the contract.

I’ve looked at several sources and — perhaps sadly, perhaps not — the clearest explanation of this for laypersons of what this is and what it means is on Wikipedia’s discussion of anticipatory repudiation; lawyers often collectively gather to refine legal concepts for public consumption:

Anticipatory repudiation or anticipatory breach is a term in the law of contracts which describes a declaration by the promising party to a contract that he or she does not intend to live up to his or her obligations under the contract.[1] It is an exception to the general rule that a contract may not be considered breached until the time for performance.

A party is considered to have repudiated a contract when they evidence a lack of willingness or an inability to perform their contractual obligations. A repudiation of a contract by one party (the repudiating party) will entitle the other party (the aggrieved party) to elect to terminate the contract. This is based on objective intentions i.e. the repudiating party’s words or conduct.;[2] This unwillingness or inability to perform a condition must deprive the aggrieved party of substantially the whole of the benefit that they would have received if the remaining obligations were performed under the contract.[3] When such an event occurs, the performing party to the contract is excused from having to fulfill his or her obligations. However, the repudiation can be retracted by the promising party so long as there has been no material change in the position of the performing party in the interim. A retraction of the repudiation restores the performer’s obligation to perform on the contract.

Another rationale for the doctrine of repudiation is based on the breach of an implied term not rendering future performance futile: “[O]ne essential promise which is implied in every contract is that neither party will without just cause repudiate his obligations under the contract, whether the time for performance has arrived or not.”[4]

Repudiation of the contract by one party entitles the other party the right to terminate and claim for damages. However, it is possible that the repudiating party does not repudiate the entire contract but only certain obligations. In this case, the aggrieved party will only acquire the right to terminate if the repudiating party repudiates an obligation which, if breached, would grant a right to terminate.[5]

If the promising party’s repudiation makes it impossible to fulfil its promise, then retraction is not possible and no act by the promising party can restore the performing party’s obligations under the contract. For example, if A promises to give B a unique sculpture in exchange for B painting A’s house, but A then sells the sculpture to C before B begins the job, this act by A constitutes an anticipatory repudiation which excuses B from performing. Once the sculpture has left A’s possession, there is no way that A can fulfil the promise to give the sculpture to B.

The question arises as to why any party would want to provide notice of anticipatory breach. The reason is that once the performing party is informed of the anticipatory breach, a duty is then created for the performing party to mitigate damages as a result of the breach. Another situation where anticipatory repudiation can occur is where a party has reason to believe the other party is not going to perform and requests reasonable assurances that the other party will perform (see UCC 2-609(1)). If such reasonable assurances are not given, it will constitute anticipatory repudiation, for which the performing party has various remedies, including termination. However, anticipatory repudiation only applies to a bilateral executory contract with non-performed duties on both sides. Additionally, the repudiation must be unequivocal.

In other words (and admittedly I may be, and would love to be, wrong) I think that what Team Arte Moreno has done is to say “OK, we accept the fact that you have engaged in an anticipatory breach, despite our demand for assurance that you would comply by a given deadline of June 14 — and (left unstated for the moment) now we’re going to sue you. My guess is that a suit for injunctive relief might arrive as early as today, Tuesday May 31; it might be filed later, but it needn’t be, and my guess is that the Angels’ lawyers have had this exact contingency plan, for what happens if Anaheim ever tries to back out of a contract, in their back pockets for what may be years.)

City Attorney Robert Fabela’s response to the vote, along the lines of “uh, ok, I’ll do what I can to find a way to make this work,” did not help things much — it made this plan seem hasty and ill-considered — and I can imagine his not taking sufficient action quickly enough to keep a judge from ordering that Anaheim must comply with the contract. Defenses against having to perform the contract obligation (such as fraud and duress) are potentially available, but they’d be hard to prove, given that the fact that a supermajority of the City Council — albeit ones installed by the Cabal, of which the Angels were probably only the third-most important member after Disney and SOAR — did approve the contract with the Angels/SRB. And if Arte Moreno wants a court to order “specific performance”, he might have a winning case. This would explain the peculiar wording of how the Angels “accept” the city’s cancellation — which may mean “accepting” it only as an attempted cancellation, which they expect get a court to strike down! — and that when they says that they “are currently exploring all of our options” that means “we’re gonna sue you.” I don’t think that they think that this is over by a long shot!

One thing, however, may get in the way: actions that have been taken by Anaheim Planning Commissioner Steve Whitean appointee of Dr. Moreno, the main hero of this story, whom you’ll see as the second hero of this story — that allow for a second line of defense against the contract’s execution, on the grounds that a different sort of CEQA procedure than that used for the Angels plans needed to have been conducted, but wasn’t.

NOW GET READY to learn about the law that the Angels knew about, but didn’t expect to pop up at the last moment like this and perhaps impede their ability to sue.

3. The Battle Over the “Sustainable Communities Act”

The Angels/SRB position seems to be predicated on the notion that they have NOT violated the Surplus Land Act. But one member of Anaheim’s Planning Commission, Dr. Jose Moreno’s appointee Steve White, thinks that a second law also blocks approval of the agreement under its present terms. I asked Steve White about this and obtained the responses that I summarize below:

This project came before the Planning Commission in Sept. 2020, in a less-detailed version of the present plan. It was submitted seeking a Planning Commission finding that the appropriate California CEQA document for this was the “Sustainable Communities Assessment”, provided for by the Sustainable Communities Act (SB 375). This Act was designed for small residential projects adjacent to transit; such a project was called Transit Portal Project, or “TPP”. Its purpose was to reduce automobile use, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions — and to offer speedier environmental approval of any qualified development. The City and the Angels wanted that greater speed in order to keep with Todd Ament’s timeline — which helped get former City Manager Chris Zapata fired. Using the correct procedure would have added at least another year to the project — probably 1.5 years for a project this size — and using the wrong procedure they could cut down the time before approval to 90 days. No EIR would be required; the SB 375 assessment lets applicants skip through that requirement.

Obviously, Angels Stadium qualifies as being near transit — even if it’s only the lame ARTIC (which I still say must yearn to be a homeless center), but there’s a second qualification as well: at least 50% or more of the square footage of the buildings in the project must be residential housing. The plan was presented as 52% residential, so it would seem to qualify as that — if they hadn’t, um, done some “creative legislative interpretation.”

The 50% figure for the Anaheim Parking Lot project was inaccurate because it did not include the mobility modes (which you know as “parking structures”) within the total square footage to be built in the project. In other words, the were pretending that the 50% figure only referred to square footage everything except parking structures. But parking structures are buildings built by (and in fact critical to) the project as well; their square footage should have been counted in both the numerator and denominator in calculating the percentage of building square footage going to residential housing. (To be clear: street level parking lots would not be counted; only buildings would be counted. And again, as parking structures are, to almost correctly quote Steve White, “freaking buildings”, they have to be counted. No part of the law excludes them.) When included, the percentage of residential housing among all structures to be built goes down to somewhere around 40%. (It can’t be calculated precisely because the city still has still not received any figures regarding the square footage of these parking structures) — which may not be an accident. But we do know that they need 12,500 spaces for the Stadium, with perhaps 3,000 spaces simultaneously available for the Grove Theater, plus spaces visitors for the planned retail district (which would have a footprint of about that of the gigantic Brea Mall!), plus two 900-room hotels. (Parking for residents of the new construction is separate and is excluded. But baseball fans, theatergoers, hotel guests, and shoppers are not residents.)

The proposal came before the Planning Commission asking for a finding that SB 375 SCA was the appropriate document. Commissioner Steve White raised the issue — asking tartly whether the vehicles in the parking garage would still exist within our own universe or actually be parked in some other one, “untouched by terrestrial math.” When Steve White raised the issue to the Staff, Anaheim Director of Planning Ted White – no relation! – raced forward and said that parking is not included in any calculation of the square footage. Steve White retorted that it was still a building! — and lost the vote 6-1. Steve White later asked Ted White for any documented basis for his assertion — and did not receive one. He still hasn’t.

(If you look at the logs, Cabal capo Jeff Flint had made calls to every member of the Planning Commission except Steve White — who to this day has never had a even a single conversation with Flint — lobbying them about the issue (as documented in his own Lobbyist Quarterly Report log.)

The proposal came back to the Planning Commission almost two years later (April 2022) after the “Surplus Land Act” agreement which eliminated the need to build affordable housing on the site, had been struck with Attorney General Rod Bonta. (Once again, Jeff Flint had called everyone on the Planning Commission except Steve White about this.) Steve White called the Planning Commission’s attorney before it came up and raised the same issue again, asking her whether he should ask for guidance from the City Attorney. She suggested that he instead talk to Ted White, whose answer you see above.

Bear in mind: the Angels could have chosen to pursue approval the correct way, through CEQA, during those two years — but for some reason (which we may suspect, but cannot conclude, involved the entitled obstinacy of Messers Arte Moreno, Jeff Flint, and Harry Sidhu) they chose not to do so. And so now they get to reap the benefits of that decision.

The Sustainable Communities Act actually includes a flow chart that shows when it is and is not applicable. The flow chart explicitly says that it includes buildings. Again, flat parking lots are not included, as they are not buildings. But parking STRUCTURES are buildings: they are corporeal. They are tangible. They exist in our universe. They have not joined the bleeding choir invisible. They have a footprint that can be measured in square footsies. And there is no basis for any exclusion of it that anyone has been able to identify — and Steve White has explicitly asked for any basis for such an exclusion, and heard only crickets.

(And no, statutory interpretation rules are likely to be unavailing for the Angels. As Steve White has pointed out, if parking structures were not included as buildings in proposals for use of the TP exception, the system would have to allow huge parking lots with just a few residential buildings nearby. That’s not the purpose of the law.)

Steve White called Assemblyman Tom Daly, who had spoken against this project, to express his concern about the misapplication of the Sustainable Communities Assessment in order to expedite CEQA approval without an EIR. He could only reach Daly’s top aide, Avelino Valenciayes, the Anaheim City Councilmember! — and explained the issue to him. He still has no idea whether Valencia conveyed to Daly the full reasoning behind his concerns. White also went to State Senator Tom Umberg’s office about this, but he did not respond. (Steve White suspects that Asmb. Daly, Sen. Umberg, and others in the known may have anticipated that the FBI’s hammer was about to come down, and may have thought that that would almost surely render this issue moot. But, again, I don’t think it does.)

The Planning Commission — which we’ll note for her fans includes Lucille Kring! — approved it again over Steve White’s objection — with four new people now on the Commission — by a 4-1 vote. (Luis Andres Perez, who holds the same position with Umberg as Avelino does with Daly, recused himself from the vote because he once worked for the Building Trades, who eagerly want this, and Jordan Brandman confidante D.R. Heywood did so for some other reason. Others include former City Staffer Natalie Meeks, Gloria Ma’ae’s appointee Phillip T. Wolfgramm, Sidhu’s friend and appointee Dave Aladoria.

Steve White has privately tried to make this legal objection to the planned sale to many people, including staff members. He has twice done so publicly at the Planning Commission meetings, then and once again at the City Council meeting where it was approved — which eliminates any argument that he waived this objection — though he was a little hampered at Council by the impossibility of presenting all of this information within three minutes. Hence my interview with him here, and my hope that many many people will send this link to City Attorney Robert Fabela, so he will have a better idea about how Arte Moreno’s possible gambit here. (I have little doubt that Fabela is capable of making such an argument; my concern is whether he will have the freedom to make such an argument when 5/6 of the Council may still want, FBI notwithstanding, to see Arte Moreno prevail.)

This demand is not only corrupt: it’s violates the law. A majority of Planning Commissioners was not empowered to approve a project without the normal CEQA clearance, if it didn’t actually qualify as a Transit Portal Project, aka “TPP”! CEQA clearance was required and it didn’t occur — which should by law void any contract predicated on such clearance. (The one thing that Fabela obviously can’t do, as the representative for the city, is to file for an extraordinary writ to ask a court to neutralize the Planning Commission and City Council’s violations of the Sustainable Communities Act. That would have to be done by an outside party.)

* * * * *

APPENDICES

EXHIBIT A: The “Angels/Arte Moreno’s SRB” Press Release/Letter

The letter below will be dissected in a separate post within the next week:

EXHIBIT B: THE ANGELS’ NOTICE & TIMELINE FROM ANAHEIM.NET

ANAHEIM, Calif. ― The city of Anaheim and all members of Anaheim’s City Council have condemned actions documented in a federal investigation of former Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu and a former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive.

Anaheim is working administratively and with the City Council to address this difficult moment and move forward in the best interest of our city.

Residents, businesses and visitors should have no concerns about our city’s commitment to serving our community. Police, fire, utilities, Community Services, Public Works, Planning and all parts of city continue their work as usual.

Here is a running, regularly updated timeline of events and how Anaheim has responded:

May 16Anaheim learns of an affidavit in a federal investigation of Sidhu; Anaheim publicly shares affidavit on city website and with major media outlets. Anaheim issues a statement of being troubled and dismayed about what is described and that the actions were outside the city’s knowledge and process on the Angel Stadium of Anaheim site. Mayor Pro Tem Trevor O’Neil is requested at City Hall for consultation with city staff. You can read more here.

May 16-ongoing: Anaheim shares information and comments with TV news, newspapers, online publications and other media.

May 17Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil assumes mayor duties in absence of mayor, in accordance with Anaheim’s city charter.

May 17: Anaheim learns of a federal criminal complaint against former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive Todd Ament. You can see the complaint here.

May 17: Anaheim City Council holds regularly scheduled meeting with Mayor Sidhu absent; Council Members Avelino Valencia and Jose F. Moreno call for Sidhu resignation, Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil and Council Members Jose Diaz, Gloria Ma’ae and Stephen Faessel express serious concerns.

May 18: Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil and Council Members Faessel and Diaz issue a formal request for the mayor’s resignation to Sidhu’s lawyer. “The deeply troubling issues that have come to our attention involving Mayor Sidhu since May 16, 2022, raise serious concerns and questions about his ability to continue as mayor of Anaheim,” the letter reads. “I and my City Council colleagues now must seek to support the continuity of municipal government, uphold the public trust and continue with the business of the City of Anaheim without the distraction and uncertainty created by the federal investigation involving Mayor Sidhu.” You can read more here.

May 18: In a separate statement Council Member Ma’ae calls for Sidhu’s resignation.

May 19: Anaheim learns through media reports that cannabis consultant Melahat Rafiei was a cooperating witness in the investigation into former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive Ament. Rafiei steps down as a commissioner on Anaheim’s Culture and Heritage Commission, an appointment made by former Anaheim Council member Jordan Brandman, who stepped down from the Council in 2021. Rafiei reportedly worked with federal investigators as the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce advocated for a proposal for Anaheim to allow cannabis businesses to operate in the city. The City Council rejected any change to the city’s prohibiting of cannabis businesses on June 9, 2020. 

May 19-20: Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil, Council Member Faessel and City Manager Jim Vanderpool share with media that they attended a Dec. 2, 2020, meeting referenced in the complaint against former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive Ament, saying what they recalled attending was a business meeting focused on the economic, city budget and other impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the pending rollout of vaccines and other issues related to Anaheim’s economy. “What I attended was a business meeting, like others I have attended with various stakeholders in our city,” Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil said. “If this meeting or any other meeting was viewed differently by others, that was not my experience or understanding.” You can see documents from the meeting here. Note: cover page appears to contain wrong date, which should read Dec. 2, 2020.

May 20: Anaheim receives a letter on behalf of SRB Management LLC, pending buyer of the stadium site and made up of Angels Baseball owner Arte Moreno and family, saying the stadium site sale was negotiated in good faith with extensive public review and potential benefit for the city of Anaheim and those it serves. The letter asks for the sale to move forward by June 14, 2022. You can read the letter here. Anaheim issues statement: “We have received and are evaluating the letter. The stadium site plan was pursued in good faith and on the merits of the proposal and the benefits it could bring to our city. While what has come to light this week falls outside that process, it nonetheless raises questions, concerns and complications. City Council members have expressed initial reservations about whether this current proposal can go forward. We will look to the May 24 City Council meeting for a full discussion and direction.”

May 22: Anaheim learns that Melahat Rafiei resigns as a Democratic National Committee state representative and as secretary for the California Democratic Party; the moves follow her May 19 resignation from Anaheim’s Culture and Heritage Commission and the OC Fair Board.

May 23: Anaheim receives notice that Mayor Sidhu is resigning, effective May 24. A vacancy will be addressed by the City Council in consultation with city attorney, city clerk, Anaheim’s charter and state law in coming weeks. You can read more here.

May 24: Anaheim’s City Council unanimously votes to void 2020 agreement to sell Angel Stadium of Anaheim and see development around it. “The stadium proposal was evaluated and approved on its merits,” Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil said. “However knowing that there may have been an element of corruption that brought the final product to us, we cannot move forward in good conscience.” The action directs the city attorney to immediately void the stadium site sale and notify buyer SRB Management. The action also starts a legal process that will involve filing a motion for declaratory judgment in Orange County Superior Court based on concerns of conflict of interest and that the transaction was not at arm’s length.

May 25: Anaheim sends letter to SRB Management notifying of City Council decision to void 2020 agreement to sell Angel Stadium of Anaheim and see development around it. “… (I)n the best interests of the Angels and the residents of Anaheim, the city believes the (purchase and sale agreement) is void as a matter of law and public policy. Given these extraordinary and deeply disturbing circumstances, the city requests that SRB and the Angels join with the city in acknowledging that the PSA is void.” You can read the letter here. [Ed. Note: PDF of latter from City Attorney Fabela to Molly Jolly of the Angels.] You can read more on the City Council’s decision here.

May 27: SRB Management notifies city, shares publicly that it accepts the City Council decision to void the 2020 agreement. SRB statement: “Given that the City Council unanimously voted to cancel the stadium land agreement, we believe it is the best interest of our fans, Angels Baseball, and the community to accept the city’s cancellation. Now we will continue our focus on our fans and the baseball season.” Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil statement: “We welcome and thank the Angels for their mutual understanding of what is called for in this moment. It is the right thing to do. But a long-term plan for the stadium site and baseball in Anaheim are still opportunities we want to explore. We will continue working to get past this moment with the door open for a fresh start when the time is right.

EXHIBIT C: “Anaheim News” from Anaheim.net

City Council votes to void Angel Stadium of Anaheim agreement

ANAHEIM, Calif. (May 24, 2022, updated May 25, 2022) — Anaheim’s City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to void a 2020 agreement to sell Angel Stadium of Anaheim and see development around it.

The vote follows the May 16 notice of a federal investigation into former mayor Harry Sidhu stemming from actions he may have taken related to the stadium site proposal. Sidhu resigned as mayor on Monday.

“The stadium proposal was evaluated and approved on its merits,” said Mayor Pro Tem Trevor O’Neil, who is handling the duties of mayor per Anaheim’s city charter. “However knowing that there may have been an element of corruption that brought the final product to us, we cannot move forward in good conscience.” 

The action directs the city attorney to immediately void the stadium site sale and notify buyer SRB Management LLC, made up of Angels Baseball owner Arte Moreno and family.

Anaheim notified SRB Management of the City Council decision on Wednesday. 

“(I)n the best interests of the Angels and the residents of Anaheim, the city believes the (purchase and sale agreement) is void as a matter of law and public policy,” the letter reads. “Given these extraordinary and deeply disturbing circumstances, the city requests that SRB and the Angels join with the city in acknowledging that the PSA is void.”

You can read the letter here.

The Council action would also start a legal process that will involve filing a motion for declaratory judgment in Orange County Superior Court based on concerns of conflict of interest and that the transaction was not at arm’s length.

The Council action also ends a process that started with 2019 negotiations and resulted in a set of agreements approved in September and October 2020.

The agreements had called for selling the city-owned stadium and 151 acres of land for $320 million, paid partly in cash and partly as affordable housing and a park built on the stadium site.

Updated sale and development agreements, reflecting a now-paused settlement with the state of California related to issues raised about the Surplus Land Act, were expected to go before the City Council in June in what would have been the final step before the close of a stadium site sale.

Based on the City Council’s action, the city will no longer take action to sell the stadium and develop the surrounding land as previously approved. 

A lease for the Angels to play at Angel Stadium continues through 2029 with three three-year extensions though 2038.

You can read more about the federal investigation here.

You can see past documents about the proposed sale and process here

EXHIBIT D: What the Environmental Quality Act actually says about this

(Only sections 21155 and 21155.1 turn out to matter here, but I imported the whole thing.)

PUBLIC RESOURCES CODE – PRC

DIVISION 13. ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY [21000 – 21189.70.10]

  ( Division 13 added by Stats. 1970, Ch. 1433. )

CHAPTER 4.2. Implementation of the Sustainable Communities Strategy [21155 – 21155.4]

  ( Chapter 4.2 added by Stats. 2008, Ch. 728, Sec. 14. )

Cal. Public Resources Code Section 21155.  

(a) This chapter applies only to a transit priority project that is consistent with the general use designation, density, building intensity, and applicable policies specified for the project area in either a sustainable communities strategy or an alternative planning strategy, for which the State Air Resources Board, pursuant to subparagraph (H) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 65080 of the Government Code, has accepted a metropolitan planning organization’s determination that the sustainable communities strategy or the alternative planning strategy would, if implemented, achieve the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

(b) For purposes of this chapter, a transit priority project shall (1) contain at least 50 percent residential use, based on total building square footage and, if the project contains between 26 percent and 50 percent nonresidential uses, a floor area ratio of not less than 0.75; (2) provide a minimum net density of at least 20 dwelling units per acre; and (3) be within one-half mile of a major transit stop or high-quality transit corridor included in a regional transportation plan. A major transit stop is as defined in Section 21064.3, except that, for purposes of this section, it also includes major transit stops that are included in the applicable regional transportation plan. For purposes of this section, a high-quality transit corridor means a corridor with fixed route bus service with service intervals no longer than 15 minutes during peak commute hours. A project shall be considered to be within one-half mile of a major transit stop or high-quality transit corridor if all parcels within the project have no more than 25 percent of their area farther than one-half mile from the stop or corridor and if not more than 10 percent of the residential units or 100 units, whichever is less, in the project are farther than one-half mile from the stop or corridor.(Added by Stats. 2008, Ch. 728, Sec. 14. Effective January 1, 2009.)

Cal. Public Resources Code Section 21155.1.  

If the legislative body finds, after conducting a public hearing, that a transit priority project meets all of the requirements of subdivisions (a) and (b) and one of the requirements of subdivision (c), the transit priority project is declared to be a sustainable communities project and shall be exempt from this division.

(a) The transit priority project complies with all of the following environmental criteria:

(1) The transit priority project and other projects approved prior to the approval of the transit priority project but not yet built can be adequately served by existing utilities, and the transit priority project applicant has paid, or has committed to pay, all applicable in-lieu or development fees.

(2) (A) The site of the transit priority project does not contain wetlands or riparian areas and does not have significant value as a wildlife habitat, and the transit priority project does not harm any species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1531 et seq.), the Native Plant Protection Act (Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 1900) of Division 2 of the Fish and Game Code), or the California Endangered Species Act (Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 2050) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code), and the project does not cause the destruction or removal of any species protected by a local ordinance in effect at the time the application for the project was deemed complete.

(B) For the purposes of this paragraph, “wetlands” has the same meaning as in the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Manual, Part 660 FW 2 (June 21, 1993).

(C) For the purposes of this paragraph:

(i) “Riparian areas” means those areas transitional between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and that are distinguished by gradients in biophysical conditions, ecological processes, and biota. A riparian area is an area through which surface and subsurface hydrology connect waterbodies with their adjacent uplands. A riparian area includes those portions of terrestrial ecosystems that significantly influence exchanges of energy and matter with aquatic ecosystems. A riparian area is adjacent to perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams, lakes, and estuarine-marine shorelines.

(ii) “Wildlife habitat” means the ecological communities upon which wild animals, birds, plants, fish, amphibians, and invertebrates depend for their conservation and protection.

(iii) Habitat of “significant value” includes wildlife habitat of national, statewide, regional, or local importance; habitat for species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1531, et seq.), the California Endangered Species Act (Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 2050) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code), or the Native Plant Protection Act (Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 1900) of Division 2 of the Fish and Game Code); habitat identified as candidate, fully protected, sensitive, or species of special status by local, state, or federal agencies; or habitat essential to the movement of resident or migratory wildlife.

(3) The site of the transit priority project is not included on any list of facilities and sites compiled pursuant to Section 65962.5 of the Government Code.

(4) The site of the transit priority project is subject to a preliminary endangerment assessment prepared by an environmental assessor to determine the existence of any release of a hazardous substance on the site and to determine the potential for exposure of future occupants to significant health hazards from any nearby property or activity.

(A) If a release of a hazardous substance is found to exist on the site, the release shall be removed or any significant effects of the release shall be mitigated to a level of insignificance in compliance with state and federal requirements.

(B) If a potential for exposure to significant hazards from surrounding properties or activities is found to exist, the effects of the potential exposure shall be mitigated to a level of insignificance in compliance with state and federal requirements.

(5) The transit priority project does not have a significant effect on historical resources pursuant to Section 21084.1.

(6) The transit priority project site is not subject to any of the following:

(A) A wildland fire hazard, as determined by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, unless the applicable general plan or zoning ordinance contains provisions to mitigate the risk of a wildland fire hazard.

(B) An unusually high risk of fire or explosion from materials stored or used on nearby properties.

(C) Risk of a public health exposure at a level that would exceed the standards established by any state or federal agency.

(D) Seismic risk as a result of being within a delineated earthquake fault zone, as determined pursuant to Section 2622, or a seismic hazard zone, as determined pursuant to Section 2696, unless the applicable general plan or zoning ordinance contains provisions to mitigate the risk of an earthquake fault or seismic hazard zone.

(E) Landslide hazard, flood plain, flood way, or restriction zone, unless the applicable general plan or zoning ordinance contains provisions to mitigate the risk of a landslide or flood.

(7) The transit priority project site is not located on developed open space.

(A) For the purposes of this paragraph, “developed open space” means land that meets all of the following criteria:

(i) Is publicly owned, or financed in whole or in part by public funds.

(ii) Is generally open to, and available for use by, the public.

(iii) Is predominantly lacking in structural development other than structures associated with open spaces, including, but not limited to, playgrounds, swimming pools, ballfields, enclosed child play areas, and picnic facilities.

(B) For the purposes of this paragraph, “developed open space” includes land that has been designated for acquisition by a public agency for developed open space, but does not include lands acquired with public funds dedicated to the acquisition of land for housing purposes.

(8) The buildings in the transit priority project are 15 percent more energy efficient than required by Chapter 6 of Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations and the buildings and landscaping are designed to achieve 25 percent less water usage than the average household use in the region.

(b) The transit priority project meets all of the following land use criteria:

(1) The site of the transit priority project is not more than eight acres in total area.

(2) The transit priority project does not contain more than 200 residential units.

(3) The transit priority project does not result in any net loss in the number of affordable housing units within the project area.

(4) The transit priority project does not include any single level building that exceeds 75,000 square feet.

(5) Any applicable mitigation measures or performance standards or criteria set forth in the prior environmental impact reports, and adopted in findings, have been or will be incorporated into the transit priority project.

(6) The transit priority project is determined not to conflict with nearby operating industrial uses.

(7) The transit priority project is located within one-half mile of a rail transit station or a ferry terminal included in a regional transportation plan or within one-quarter mile of a high-quality transit corridor included in a regional transportation plan.

(c) The transit priority project meets at least one of the following three criteria:

(1) The transit priority project meets both of the following:

(A) At least 20 percent of the housing will be sold to families of moderate income, or not less than 10 percent of the housing will be rented to families of low income, or not less than 5 percent of the housing is rented to families of very low income.

(B) The transit priority project developer provides sufficient legal commitments to the appropriate local agency to ensure the continued availability and use of the housing units for very low, low-, and moderate-income households at monthly housing costs with an affordable housing cost or affordable rent, as defined in Section 50052.5 or 50053 of the Health and Safety Code, respectively, for the period required by the applicable financing. Rental units shall be affordable for at least 55 years. Ownership units shall be subject to resale restrictions or equity sharing requirements for at least 30 years.

(2) The transit priority project developer has paid or will pay in-lieu fees pursuant to a local ordinance in an amount sufficient to result in the development of an equivalent number of units that would otherwise be required pursuant to paragraph (1).

(3) The transit priority project provides public open space equal to or greater than five acres per 1,000 residents of the project.(Amended by Stats. 2012, Ch. 39, Sec. 95. (SB 1018) Effective June 27, 2012.)

Cal. Public Resources Code Section 21155.2.  

(a) A transit priority project that has incorporated all feasible mitigation measures, performance standards, or criteria set forth in the prior applicable environmental impact reports and adopted in findings made pursuant to Section 21081, shall be eligible for either the provisions of subdivision (b) or (c).

(b) A transit priority project that satisfies the requirements of subdivision (a) may be reviewed through a sustainable communities environmental assessment as follows:

(1) An initial study shall be prepared to identify all significant or potentially significant impacts of the transit priority project, other than those which do not need to be reviewed pursuant to Section 21159.28 based on substantial evidence in light of the whole record. The initial study shall identify any cumulative effects that have been adequately addressed and mitigated pursuant to the requirements of this division in prior applicable certified environmental impact reports. Where the lead agency determines that a cumulative effect has been adequately addressed and mitigated, that cumulative effect shall not be treated as cumulatively considerable for the purposes of this subdivision.

(2) The sustainable communities environmental assessment shall contain measures that either avoid or mitigate to a level of insignificance all potentially significant or significant effects of the project required to be identified in the initial study.

(3) A draft of the sustainable communities environmental assessment shall be circulated for public comment for a period of not less than 30 days. Notice shall be provided in the same manner as required for an environmental impact report pursuant to Section 21092.

(4) Prior to acting on the sustainable communities environmental assessment, the lead agency shall consider all comments received.

(5) A sustainable communities environmental assessment may be approved by the lead agency after conducting a public hearing, reviewing the comments received, and finding that:

(A) All potentially significant or significant effects required to be identified in the initial study have been identified and analyzed.

(B) With respect to each significant effect on the environment required to be identified in the initial study, either of the following apply:

(i) Changes or alterations have been required in or incorporated into the project that avoid or mitigate the significant effects to a level of insignificance.

(ii) Those changes or alterations are within the responsibility and jurisdiction of another public agency and have been, or can and should be, adopted by that other agency.

(6) The legislative body of the lead agency shall conduct the public hearing or a planning commission may conduct the public hearing if local ordinances allow a direct appeal of approval of a document prepared pursuant to this division to the legislative body subject to a fee not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500).

(7) The lead agency’s decision to review and approve a transit priority project with a sustainable communities environmental assessment shall be reviewed under the substantial evidence standard.

(c) A transit priority project that satisfies the requirements of subdivision (a) may be reviewed by an environmental impact report that complies with all of the following:

(1) An initial study shall be prepared to identify all significant or potentially significant effects of the transit priority project other than those that do not need to be reviewed pursuant to Section 21159.28 based upon substantial evidence in light of the whole record. The initial study shall identify any cumulative effects that have been adequately addressed and mitigated pursuant to the requirements of this division in prior applicable certified environmental impact reports. Where the lead agency determines that a cumulative effect has been adequately addressed and mitigated, that cumulative effect shall not be treated as cumulatively considerable for the purposes of this subdivision.

(2) An environmental impact report prepared pursuant to this subdivision need only address the significant or potentially significant effects of the transit priority project on the environment identified pursuant to paragraph (1). It is not required to analyze off-site alternatives to the transit priority project. It shall otherwise comply with the requirements of this division.(Added by Stats. 2008, Ch. 728, Sec. 14. Effective January 1, 2009.)

Cal. Public Resources Code Section 21155.3.  

(a) The legislative body of a local jurisdiction may adopt traffic mitigation measures that would apply to transit priority projects. These measures shall be adopted or amended after a public hearing and may include requirements for the installation of traffic control improvements, street or road improvements, and contributions to road improvement or transit funds, transit passes for future residents, or other measures that will avoid or mitigate the traffic impacts of those transit priority projects.

(b) (1) A transit priority project that is seeking a discretionary approval is not required to comply with any additional mitigation measures required by paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 21081, for the traffic impacts of that project on intersections, streets, highways, freeways, or mass transit, if the local jurisdiction issuing that discretionary approval has adopted traffic mitigation measures in accordance with this section.

(2) Paragraph (1) does not restrict the authority of a local jurisdiction to adopt feasible mitigation measures with respect to the effects of a project on public health or on pedestrian or bicycle safety.

(c) The legislative body shall review its traffic mitigation measures and update them as needed at least every five years.(Added by Stats. 2008, Ch. 728, Sec. 14. Effective January 1, 2009.)

Cal. Public Resources Code Section 21155.4.  

(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), a residential, employment center, as defined in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 21099, or mixed-use development project, including any subdivision, or any zoning, change that meets all of the following criteria is exempt from the requirements of this division:

(1) The project is proposed within a transit priority area, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 21099.

(2) The project is undertaken to implement and is consistent with a specific plan for which an environmental impact report has been certified.

(3) The project is consistent with the general use designation, density, building intensity, and applicable policies specified for the project area in either a sustainable communities strategy or an alternative planning strategy for which the State Air Resources Board, pursuant to subparagraph (H) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 65080 of the Government Code, has accepted a metropolitan planning organization’s determination that the sustainable communities strategy or the alternative planning strategy would, if implemented, achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

(b) Further environmental review shall be conducted only if any of the events specified in Section 21166 have occurred.(Added by Stats. 2013, Ch. 386, Sec. 6. (SB 743) Effective January 1, 2014.)

EXHIBIT E: CEQA FLOW CHART

https://planning.lacity.org/odocument/e524a6c4-8de9-449a-87e5-b5093d65c4c2/CEQA_flow_chart.pdf

The important part is in the upper left: “Does this qualify as a Transportation Priority Project?” Answer: NO, because 40% < 50%. See the link.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)