In what's becoming an increasingly familiar happening, activists took to the steps of Anaheim City Hall this morning to denounce yet another vote by the council majority. The issue this time for the Take Back Anaheim group wasn't a massive $158 million giveaway for a hotel project, but a potential deal involving Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner Arte Moreno that they say would be even worse for residents.
Last week, as our current print news feature scorns, a predictable 4-1 vote moved the opt-out time frame for the Angels lease with the city by three years from 2016 to 2019, giving Moreno the opportunity to be the next 'should I stay or should I go' sports figure in the footsteps of ex-Laker center Dwight Howard.
The framework for negotiations includes a lucrative deal, to put it nicely: the private footing for renovations or construction of a new stadium in exchange for leasing 150 acres of city-owned prime real estate surrounding the Big A at a dollar per year for 66 years. That has concerned residents feeling like they've been intentionally beaned from the pitcher's mound.
“This is not the 99 Cent Store,” longtime resident Victoria De Gomez said in brief but punchy statements from atop the steps of city hall. “I'm a realtor. That property is worth more than $300 [million] a year. Why are they doing that? I want transparency.”
Speaker after speaker assailed the framework of negotiations including former councilmembers Richard Chavez and Lorri Galloway. Mayor Tom Tait was previously announced as going, but did not arrive or speak. He had his say on the issue at the council meeting in question.
One of the more surprising voices to take the microphone was Wally Courtney, a real estate broker with none other than Paul Kott Realtors, Inc., a longtime firm with connections to the lords of Anaheim. “Just looking at the business portions of this MOU, obviously they make absolutely no sense,” he said, drawing on decades of experience. “I've sold, leased many, many multimillion dollar properties in Anaheim; financially this doesn't make sense for the citizens.”
Courtney mentioned seeing City Manager Marcie Edwards by chance the day after the council meeting earlier this month, taking the opportunity to ask her what would the Angels have done if Mayor Tom Tait's desire to extend the vote for three weeks had come to fruition. “Probably nothing,” he recounted as her response.
After the rally wrapped up, Galloway–rumored to be planning another political run in Anaheim–expanded on the comments she made in terms of what residents could do in the interim.
“I'm absolutely an advocate of community benefits,” she tells the Weekly. “It's a negotiation. What are you going to do with the development of this land? How is it going to benefit the people who live here? How can we have affordable housing there? How can we have all the things that matter to everyone who lives here?”
Galloway prefers a scenario where the Angels can be kept in the city while better benefiting the community at the same time instead of Moreno pocketing all the revenue from future developments. And if that can't happen, would she echo in any way, shape or form, the 'Take the Halos and Run' open letter to the Angels owner penned by our Mexican-in-Chief?
“This isn't anti-baseball. It's not anti-Angels,” she says. “But if [Moreno] will only stay here for a dollar a year, then go somewhere else.”
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz