Angels’ $325m stadium land deal, day two: Still more questions than answers

I was hoping by this morning we’d know more about the proposed $325 million Los Angeles Angels stadium land purchase deal with Anaheim that would answer some of yesterday’s unanswered questions, like whether the team would pay full property taxes,  and what kind of sale-price breaks would be allowed if the team builds parks and affordable housing, etc. Unfortunately, so far today’s news coverage hasn’t shed much more light on these issues:

  • A Bill Shaikin article in the L.A. Times didn’t cover any new ground since yesterday, or even ask any new questions, preferring to focus on how “the city of Anaheim is on a pretty good run” with retaining its sports teams. (First bullet point: “So when do the Angels open their brand new, grand new [sic] stadium?“)
  • The O.C. Register’s Alicia Robinson stuck to he-said-she-said, with quotes from people calling the proposed deal a “home run” (councilmembers Lucille Kring and Trevor O’Neil) and those who still have concerns (councilmember Jose Moreno, me).
  • The Voice of OC’s Spencer Custodio posted an article focused on the secrecy with which the council negotiated this deal — the paper’s lawyer, open government attorney Kelly Aviles, said this seems like an obvious violation of the Brown Act, the state’s transparency law — but didn’t have much more on the questions left hanging by the city’s perfunctory three-page summary.

Yesterday afternoon did see the release of the appraisal of the Angels’ stadium-plus-parking-lot land, but that wasn’t super-clear either: It determined a “Range of Hypothetical Prospective Fair Market Value” for the site of between $300 million and $320 million — but then laid out more specific examples that provided a range of values between $134 million and $500 million, so it’s not totally apparent where the $300-320 million determination comes from. It still makes the $325 million sale price at least not too far off from fair market value, but when “not too far off” could potentially mean leaving $175 million on the table, you really want to make sure all the t’s are crossed.

One reporter I spoke to indicated that it was their understanding that Angels owner Arte Moreno will pay property taxes on the site, though I haven’t seen that in writing yet. If so, the main concern would be those deductions from the sale price that Moreno would be eligible for in exchange for building parks and affordable housing; as I told Custodio, while there’s some logic to Moreno getting to claim credits for building stuff that would otherwise be on the public’s dime, sometimes developers choose to build things that are public benefits because they’ll also benefit them, so getting that benefit and a land price discount too would effectively be double-dipping.

It’s too soon to be super-negative about this deal — $325 million is a hell of a lot more than the $1 Moreno wanted to pay back in 2013 — but it’s also too soon to say whether it’s a good deal for the public without knowing how all the finances will work. And it’s definitely a concern that this process is being rushed through without much time for public or council debate, with a final vote now likely before the holidays. Those unanswered questions are big ones, and the clock is ticking.


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