featured graphic for Thomas Umberg, California State Senator for District 34

Senator Umberg stalls his own anti-corruption bill involving Anaheim

Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana) issued the following statement today regarding legislative action taken on his Senate Bill 361, which is aimed at preventing the collusion and corruption that nearly harmed Anaheim taxpayers in relation to the sale of Anaheim Stadium.

“I’m shocked and disappointed that the State Assembly sided with special interests in Orange County and California to essentially gut SB 361. The purpose of SB 361 was to further the intent of the Surplus Land Act by insuring that future sales of public property reaped the highest value and provided additional housing. The Assembly amendments make a mockery of the seriousness of the needed strengthening of the law.

Despite assertions by both the author of the Surplus Lands Act (SLA), Assemblymember Phil Ting, and the outrage of the people of Anaheim and the local elected delegation, the Assembly Appropriations Committee chose to narrow this bill to one city and remove the enforcement mechanism. The agencies and governments opposed to SB 361 threw every excuse in the book at the wall to try to find something that would stick in an attempt to stall this effort. This should speak volumes to the public about why we haven’t seen a major uptick in affordable housing and the ‘roadblocks’ instituted by local governments in this effort.

SB 361 now, as amended, does nothing to address the collusion in the Anaheim stadium sale. My constituents and those in similar localities across the state can rest assured that, if re-elected I will reintroduce a bill to address the problem illustrated by the attempted sale – the current law does little to protect taxpayers from the city colluding with a purchaser to short change the taxpayers.”

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 and the law’s requirement to build affordable housing. 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.

SB 361 would’ve prohibited an agency from disposing of a parcel of land if it is not in compliance with California’s Surplus Lands Act. If there is a violation, under SB 361, the California Department of Housing and Community Development would have authority to require the local entity to rebid the sale. The measure would also require that the agency provide at least 14 days’ notice prior to the convening of a public session for the purpose of ratifying any proposed deal. Amendments hostilely inserted by the Assembly Appropriations Committee narrow the bill to apply only to the City of Anaheim and remove the enforcement mechanism at the heart of the legislation.

As a result of the amendments, Senator Umberg moved the bill to the Senate’s Inactive File, essentially stalling its progress in the Legislature for the year.

This article was released by the Office of Senator Thomas J. Umberg.