The Angels’ agreement to buy their stadium from the city of Anaheim should be declared “null and void,” according to a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court.
The suit, filed on behalf of a citizen group called the People’s Homeless Task Force, alleges the city violated state law by negotiating the deal with a “lack of transparency … orchestrated with an intent to keep interested members of the public, and even dissenting councilmembers, in the dark.”
Kelly Aviles, the attorney representing the group, said the city would be welcome to redo the deal with full public participation in negotiations, not just with another public hearing and a second vote.
“We think the public should have the right to be involved in the decision-making process,” Aviles said. “You have to start at the beginning. You can’t just go back and rubber-stamp it.”
On Dec. 4, the city and the Angels announced a deal under which a company affiliated with team owner Arte Moreno would buy Angel Stadium and the surrounding parking lots for $325 million, with the final price expected to be discounted if Moreno agrees to include affordable housing and parkland on the property. The city council voted to approve the deal at its Dec. 20 meeting.
The lawsuit alleges in particular that, before the Dec. 4 announcement, “there had never been any public discussion of the possibility of selling the property.” In 2018, however, the City Council publicly commissioned an appraisal of the land value for both lease and sale scenarios. In August 2019 — in an op-ed article, at a news conference and at a public council meeting — Mayor Harry Sidhu said the that the city should consider lease and sale and that he would insist on market value either way.
Still, Aviles said, the city’s decision to sell the property rather than lease it should have been publicly debated before the conclusion of a deal.
“We stand by our process,” city spokesman Mike Lyster said, “which spanned a year of public comments, updates, briefings and discussions for our city council, as well as extensive sharing of information with the community.”
Lyster also dismissed the allegation that a majority of council members had discussed the deal outside public meetings as “pure speculation.”
Said Lyster: “All council decisions required to be made in public were, and any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate and misleading.”
The sale agreement allows Moreno’s company to extend payment deadlines in the event of litigation. Under the agreement, the company makes a series of deposits. The total deposits could range from $70 million to $100 million, and the payments to the city could be staggered from 2020 through 2023, depending on how soon the company submits development plans to the city.
The bulk of the payment would be due when the deal closes, as late as 2025.