Senate Bill 361 and Senate Bill 34, authored by Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana), are aimed at addressing the recent Anaheim Stadium deal and preventing future related controversies. Both headed for legislative hearings June 15 and later this month.
“Since 2019, I have repeatedly expressed concerns about this deal between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the City of Anaheim – specifically, about the value of the land and the amount of affordable housing within the requirements of the Surplus Lands Act,” said Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana).
“To make matters worse, federal and state investigations into this deal have highlighted a massive amount of corruption in connection with this transaction. Consequently, in addition to being shortchanged, the residents of Anaheim are now grappling with broken trust and faith in their local government,” continued Senator Umberg.
Senate Bill 361, introduced by Senator Umberg on June 6th, will prohibit an agency from disposing of a parcel of land if it is not in compliance with California’s Surplus Lands Act (SLA). If there is a violation, under SB 361, the California Department of Housing and Community Development will now have authority to require the local entity to rebid the sale. The measure will also require that the agency provide at least 14 days’ notice prior to the convening of a public session for the purpose of ratifying the proposed deal.
Senate Bill SB 34, introduced by the Senator earlier this week, declares that certain contracts would be considered void if they were negotiated in connection to a bribe of a public official.
California’s SLA is a state law that directs local agencies, such as cities, counties, and districts, to prioritize the development of low-income housing when selling or leasing their surplus land. Existing law makes local agencies that dispose of land in violation of these provisions, liable for a penalty of 30% of the final sale price of the land sold for a first violation; 50% for any subsequent violation(s).
Recent events in Anaheim have shed light on unforeseen consequences within the SLA. In April of 2021, the California Department of Housing and Community Development sent the City of Anaheim a letter, warning that it could be in violation of the SLA. Despite this notification and the possibility of receiving a $96 million fine, the City of Anaheim continued to push the deal through. To accommodate the fine, City officials planned to simply transfer the $96 million from the $123 million for affordable housing that was already included within the stadium land deal – thereby negating the intended effects of the SLA’s fine enforcement mechanism.
“When the Surplus Lands Act was passed, it was because the state recognized the need for more affordable housing,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), who authored legislation on the SLA. “Unscrupulous deals like the one in Anaheim circumvent the purpose of the SLA. It’s clear that legislation is needed so that we aren’t seeing more local governments benefiting from violating the law.”
To further complicate this deal, in May of 2022, the mayor of Anaheim, Harry Sidhu, announced he would be stepping down from public office, having been accused by the Federal Bureau of Investigations of solicitation, bribery, and obstruction of justice. The majority of the accusations have been centered on the city’s plan to sell public land to the Anaheim Angels. Investigators have alleged that the Mayor of Anaheim hoped to solicit $1 million or more in campaign contributions from the team in exchange for assistance in the deal.
“Media and local officials have consistently glossed over the fact that this stadium deal has, from the very beginning, attempted to skirt state law, keep officials and the public in the dark, and shortchange the residents of Anaheim by not reaping the full potential value of this property,” said Senator Umberg. “It is painful to watch the trust of the public be so egregiously eroded,” continued the Senator. “SB 361 and SB 34 are just the beginning steps needed to restore the trust of the residents of Anaheim and Orange County.”
SB 361 will be heard June 15th at 1:30pm in the Assembly Committee on Local Government and SB 34 will be heard in the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review in the coming weeks.