When is a deadline not really a deadline?
The Angels and the city of Anaheim might soon find out. The team faces a Dec. 31 deadline to opt out of its stadium lease or remain bound to it through 2029, but one city councilman suggested the deadline might not be that firm.
“I’m hearing it’s not a big pressure point,” Councilman Jose Moreno said after Tuesday’s council meeting.
Negotiators for the city and team will meet for the second time on Friday, city manager Chris Zapata said during the meeting. The Angels last week presented the city with an initial proposal for how they might develop the parking lot around the stadium, and the council met in closed session Tuesday to discuss how the city should respond. No details of the Angels’ proposal were publicly disclosed.
There are 20 days from Friday’s negotiating session until Dec. 12, when the agenda must be disclosed for the final council meeting of the year. That would leave fewer than three weeks to finalize a complex proposal for the financing and construction of a mini-village on the 155-acre Angel Stadium site.
A city statement last week said the two sides “expect to continue talking and working toward progress by year’s end.” A majority of the city council appears determined to strike a new deal with the Angels and could extend that deadline past Dec. 31 if the two sides are making progress.
Even without an extension, there is nothing that would prevent the team and city from resuming negotiations in the new year. The Angels are well aware that their ultimate deadline could be next November, when three of the seven council seats come up for election.
“I’m still distressed that the council may panic at the threat of the Angels opting out and settle for something that may not be in the best interest of the city,” said Moreno, one of two council members who have monitored the negotiations with a wary eye.
In August, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu set forth his priorities for negotiations: the sale or lease of city land at market rates, revenue from Angel Stadium and any surrounding development, good jobs at good wages, and a real estate project that includes not just retail, dining and entertainment, but also parks, affordable housing and a neighborhood grocery store.
Sidhu is the only council member on the city’s negotiating team, but the council never formally voted on what the city’s priorities should be in the discussions. Even now, after an update behind closed doors, Moreno said he still isn’t sure where Anaheim might draw a hard line and where it might remain flexible.
“It’s hard to say what the deal points are from the city standpoint,” Moreno said. “I really don’t know.”