By Mayor Tom Tait
As mayor, I have clear priorities for my job on behalf of the people of Anaheim: public safety, civic upkeep and responsible stewardship of the taxpayers’ money and assets. The current agreement on the renewal of the Angels’ lease flies in the face of my commitment to be a responsible fiscal steward.
Here’s a quick summary of this issue: Most people know that Arte Moreno owns the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. But the residents of Anaheim own the stadium and the land around it: 155 acres of prime entitled real estate and one of the largest potential revenue-generating assets in the city. There are different visions of how that land could be used to create jobs and new economic activity, but there is no disputing the economic potential of the land.
The Angel’s current lease, signed in 1996, gives the Angels the use of the stadium and most of the surrounding parking lot until 2029. It is the team’s, not the city’s, obligation to maintain the stadium as a first-class facility. The lease also gives the team an opt-out clause in 2016.
On Sept. 3, with very little public notice, the city council—in a 4-1 vote (I was the lone dissenter)—voted to amend the current lease and agreed to the framework of a new deal that: 1) extends Moreno’s opt-out clause through 2019; 2) allows the team to remove Anaheim from the team’s name; 3) approves a 20-year stadium lease with minimum rent; and 4) leases the 155-acre parking lot to a separate Arte Moreno business entity for one dollar per year for a minimum of 66 years. They gave that independent entity the unrestricted right to transfer or develop the property, with none of the profits going to the people of Anaheim.
As mayor, I could not vote in favor of this flawed deal. Real estate professionals have also said that the deal doesn’t make fiscal sense. Wally Courtney, a broker with Paul Kott Realtors, told the OC Weekly: "I've sold, and leased many, many multimillion dollar properties in Anaheim; financially this doesn't make sense for the citizens."
So what can we do?
I believe the public should be given access to a full professional appraisal of the land by an independent licensed appraiser. The people of Anaheim, who own the land, should have a clear assessment of what the land is worth.
We also need to revisit the framework of the agreement. The majority on the council tells us their vote is just the beginning of the negotiations, but who starts negotiations by first giving away the city’s biggest asset? A better plan is one that splits the development and profits equally between both parties.
Finally, we should not agree to allow the team to drop Anaheim from its name. A major benefit of having a home-town team is community pride and identification. When the home team is named after a rival city, much of that benefit diminishes. There are good compromises that could be explored, such as the Orange County Angels, SoCal Angels or back to the California Angels. If we agree to allow them to drop Anaheim, then the Angels should have to agree to drop Los Angeles.
I personally am a huge Angels fan and have been my entire life. But I can’t let that get in the way of making sound fiscal decisions on behalf of the people I represent. I believe that the city should successfully negotiate an agreement that is a win-win for both the people of Anaheim and the Angels—and one that protects future revenues for Anaheim residents, our children, and our children's children.