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Settlement Remains Elusive in Angels' Suit With Anaheim

November 24, 1986|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

The banner, surrounded by pink and white balloons, read "Back Together Again." So did the buttons that were passed out to the crowd in the Anaheim Stadium banquet room.

California Angels owner Gene Autry was the first to get his button. Don R. Roth, then the mayor of Anaheim, made sure of that. He pinned it on Autry himself.

In retrospect, said Michael Schreter, the vice president of Golden West Baseball Co., the Angels' parent company, "The only thing missing from all that hoopla was Barbra Streisand singing, 'Memorieeeeeeees.' "

The party, almost three months ago, was in celebration of the dismissal of most of the lawsuits and counterclaims the City of Anaheim and the California Angels had filed against each other. It was touted by officials--mostly from Anaheim--as the springboard for a settlement of a larger lawsuit at the core of the controversy, known as "the big one."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 26, 1986 Orange County Edition Metro Part 2 Page 2 Column 5 Metro Desk 2 inches; 64 words Type of Material: Correction
Anaheim City Manager William O. Talley on Tuesday clarified details of a 1984 settlement offer from the city to California Angels owner Gene Autry in the baseball team's lawsuit over Anaheim Stadium parking lot development. Talley said the city offered the Angels $4 million over a period of 10 years to drop the suit. Talley said the Angels accepted the offer but a week later turned it down. The Angels have denied that any $4-million offer was made or accepted.

But the settlement never came.

Now, the courtroom phase of the "big one" is nearing an end. After almost a year of testimony and other evidence, the attorneys closed their briefcases Friday and will return Dec. 8 only for some last-minute rulings on motions.

Yet after the presentation of about 1,500 evidentiary exhibits and a series of hearings that requires almost 20,000 pages of transcripts to chronicle, the litigants are no closer today to concluding their costly dispute than when it all began.

Now the question is: Can the Angels, the City of Anaheim and Anaheim Stadium Associates, a partnership between the Boston-based development firm of Cabot, Cabot & Forbes and the interests of the Los Angeles Rams, settle the dispute over who has what rights to the Anaheim Stadium parking lot before Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank D. Domenichi renders his decision next summer? And if so, what will it take from each side?

The dispute centers on the development rights to areas of the Anaheim Stadium parking lot granted by the city to Anaheim Stadium Associates as part of the package that lured the Rams to Anaheim in 1978. The Angels say the city granted those development rights to the Rams in violation of their stadium lease with the city.

The Angels' $100-million lawsuit, filed Aug. 8, 1983, blocked high-rise development on part of the stadium parking lot. The case has cost each of the litigants millions of dollars--more than $5 million for Anaheim and about $4 million each for the two other sides--and has divided a city, possibly cost one councilman his job, and propelled the Angels and the Rams more heavily into local politics.

All the parties agree they would like to settle the case. But while representatives for the city and Anaheim Stadium Associates say negotiation is a must, not a maybe, representatives for the Angels say it's too late.

"The time of discussion has come and gone," Schreter said. "Everybody would like to see a settlement. But there is no settlement discussion, and there is no possibility in my estimate of a settlement at this time or before the judge comes out with a final ruling."

But without a settlement, "we are doomed to litigate this forever," said Alfred E. Augustini, an attorney for the development firm and the Rams.

The attorneys have said that no matter who wins, the losing side plans to appeal.

All sides said last week that they have come close to settling the lawsuit in the past, and each blames the other for pulling out or turning down various offers.

Offer Disputed

In March, 1984, the city offered Autry $4 million over a four-year period to drop the lawsuit, said City Manager William O. Talley.

Schreter, with Autry sitting in the same office, accepted the city's offer during a March 1984 telephone conference call with Talley and former Councilman E. Llewellyn Overholt Jr., Talley said last week. But a week later Schreter called back to say "Mr. Autry changed his mind," Talley said.

But Schreter, saying there never was a $4 million offer, called it "absolute, total fabrication."

"That's just another untrue story. There is no validity to that whatsoever," Schreter said.

Attorneys for the city and Anaheim Stadium Associates said last week that any settlement may hinge on the second part of the ASA development project.

Two-Phased Proposal

One phase of the multimillion-dollar proposal consists of four office towers and four parking structures on 20 acres of the stadium parking lot facing Orangewood Avenue. But what would be included in the second part of the project--on 48 acres of the parking lot facing State College Boulevard--has yet to be announced.

Even before the lawsuit was filed, the Angels said they would not discuss settlement or consider agreeing to the Orangewood Avenue project unless the city either killed the State College Boulevard phase or gave the Angels ultimate veto power over details of that part of the project, Talley said.

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