The city of Anaheim finally got back its long-awaited appraisal of the Los Angeles Angels stadium parking lots that Angels owner Arte Moreno wants to develop to fund upgrades to the stadium, and is ready to open negotiations on a new lease. And that appraisal says:
The appraisal, which city officials say is an incomplete draft, has not been made public.
Say what? The city spent nine months getting the property appraised, now has in hand a report that’s good enough to start talks with the team on a development deal, but it’s not good enough to share with anyone outside the negotiating room? Are they still waiting for the soundtrack to be added?
This is, let us say, a disturbing trend. You’ll recall that the state of New York similarly negotiated a land lease to the New York Islanders as part of a development project to fund a sports venue while keeping its land value appraisals secret, only releasing them hours before the final state board vote and even then releasing only summaries that didn’t show how the appraisal figures were arrived at. As things like sweetheart land deals increasingly subsidize sports projects — since handing over piles of cash is increasingly unpopular with the public — it’s vital to know whether a city is getting fair market value or gift-wrapping development rights for a team owner, and it’s hard to do that when the government’s own assessment is kept secret.
Anaheim councilmember Jose Moreno has announced two community forums on August 21 and 29 to answer questions about the Angels’ lease renewal plan; it’s going to be interesting to see how he ducks all the inevitable questions about “So how much is this land worth that you want to give to Moreno, and how much will he be paying us?” (Assuming that the appraisal is still secret by then, that is. We can always hope!)
In related news, it turns out that when Anaheim extended the Angels’ existing lease through the end of 2019 last year, it actually extended it through 2029, while giving Moreno a new opt-out through the end of 2019. This is even stupider than the lease extension sounded at the time — hey, everybody, now that the team owner has opted out of his lease, let’s give him another year to try to extort money from us, but give ourselves no leverage because if it doesn’t work he can just stay put for a decade under the terms of his existing lease where he pays no rent — especially since Anaheim councilmembers apparently didn’t understand that that was what they were voting on at the time.
Anaheim still has some leverage here: Moreno’s only current alternative stadium option is a plan in Long Beach that no one knows how to pay for and is on too small a site to fit a major-league stadium, so if he opts out again this December, he once again will risk making his team homeless. Though if the city plans to keep responding to Moreno’s “send money or I’ll shoot my team” threats by giving him another year of rope, the threats could literally go on forever. I’m starting to think that the Anaheim council could really use some lessons in haggling.