State law that only affects OC comes in response to Angel Stadium fiasco

Statute gives “real teeth” to surplus land sales for affordable housing

New Law for Orange County Stems From Angel Stadium Fiasco
Governor Gavin Newsom; Senator Tom Umberg; Angel Stadium, 2000 E. Gene Autry Way (Getty, Loopnet)

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed two bills to prevent Anaheim and other cities in Orange County from selling surplus land in violation of state affordable housing laws.

Senate Bill 34 and SB 229, written by state Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, come in response to the Angel Stadium corruption scandal and aim to compel open bidding from affordable housing developers, according to the Orange County Register and LiberalOC.

“At the very least, the people of Anaheim and Orange County deserve accountability with their tax dollars in light of the ongoing stadium mess,” Umberg said.

SB 34 will bar any government in OC from selling land if it is not done in compliance with the Surplus Land Act. It requires any agency to rebid a property it was trying to sell if the state Housing & Community Development Department found it had violated the law.

It would apply only to Orange County and end in 2030.

The law is a direct response to the now-aborted sale of Angel Stadium for $320 million to a company led by Angels owner Arte Moreno, and an ongoing federal investigation into city corruption. Former Mayor Harry Sidhu last month pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

The state Housing & Community Development Department handed Anaheim a notice of violation of the Surplus Land Act for failing to negotiate with affordable housing developers before the sale.

Anaheim maintained the law didn’t apply to the stadium deal. The state’s only recourse to break the stalemate would -have been to take the city to court.

Anaheim and the state reached a legal settlement requiring the city to put $96 million from the stadium deal into a fund to build affordable housing. 

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The new law gives the housing department “real teeth” against violators, Umberg has said.

SB 229 requires a local agency that receives a violation notice to hold a public hearing to review and consider the substance of the violation. The hearing would require a two-week notice.

The state’s surplus land law requires public agencies that want to sell surplus property to first offer it for the potential development of affordable housing. 

If they get any viable housing proposals, they must have good-faith discussions with those bidders. If they can’t reach a deal, they can dispose of the land as they see fit.

“Back in 2021, there was a reasonable question about whether a stadium leased for Major League Baseball was surplus land. But we are in a different time and place today,” Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said in a statement. 

“We have tracked the legislation and its signing and will always adhere to any applicable California law.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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