YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

As NFL Visit Looms, Anaheim Council's Doubts Grow

First, two on the board said a land sale price was too low. Now, two more officials want a coalition of community and labor groups to be heard.

June 13, 2006|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

As Anaheim prepares to play host for a visit by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue this week, two City Council members indicated Monday that they might reject a proposed deal to bring the league back to their city if it failed to address the concerns of community groups and labor unions.

The plan would require four votes for approval, but four of five council members now have expressed concerns that they say could persuade them to vote against an agreement.

City officials have pitched the NFL on what they consider a relatively simple transaction: Buy land next to Angel Stadium, build a football stadium there, and develop the rest of the site. But Councilman Richard Chavez said Monday that he supported an emerging coalition of labor unions and community groups that wanted to provide input on the deal.

"I'd like to ensure that the groups that are going to be the most impacted by development -- the workers, the people that live in the area and the community at large -- have a voice in how development occurs," Chavez said.

Mayor Curt Pringle said the city could facilitate meetings between the NFL and local organizations but could not properly require the league, as a business and landowner, to adopt particular hiring or spending practices.

"I think dialogue is always good," Pringle said. "I'm not into mandating a private entity do anything with its own money."

Councilmen Harry Sidhu and Bob Hernandez have indicated that they might vote against a deal, arguing that the city's sale price of $53 million for 50 acres is below market value. Chavez and Councilwoman Lorri Galloway added Monday that they might vote no if the deal failed to address community issues.

"We are very eager to have football come to Anaheim," Chavez said. "This is not an attempt to try and kill the project."

Chavez pointed to San Diego, where developers signed a community benefit agreement as part of the plan to build homes, shops and offices around the Padres' new stadium, Petco Park. The agreement does not mandate the use of union labor but does specify minimum wages for workers and priority hiring for local residents.

The developers also agreed to pay $1.5 million toward a job training program, $1.5 million toward low-cost housing and $50,000 toward local arts, youth and culture programs. The agreement was signed by 14 community groups, including six unions.

The developers met with that coalition at the request of the San Diego City Council, said Steve Peace, senior advisor for JMI Realty, one of the development partners.

"We had pretty low expectations of producing an agreement," Peace said. "We expected to meet our obligation. But we wouldn't have done this if we didn't think it made economic sense and made it a better proposal."

Commissioner Tagliabue is scheduled to meet with Orange County business leaders Thursday during a Southland visit to assess business support for the NFL in Los Angeles and Orange County. League owners are considering bids from Anaheim and the Los Angeles Coliseum; the NFL expects to spend up to $800 million on stadium construction at either site.

NFL officials would be willing to meet with community groups "at the appropriate time," spokesman Brian McCarthy said. He called it "premature" to discuss a construction and development plan but said, "Historically, NFL stadiums have been positive for local companies and workers."

Still, Chavez said he was concerned that an out-of-state contractor might hire out-of-town workers for less than the prevailing wage, depriving locals of what would otherwise be well-paying jobs.

And with low-cost housing in short supply in Orange County, he said, those workers probably would endure long commutes and exacerbate traffic congestion.

The emerging coalition of labor unions and community groups, dubbed OCCORD (Orange County Communities for Responsible Development), plans to speak at an upcoming Anaheim City Council meeting, Executive Director Eric Altman said.

City negotiators have not finalized deal points with the NFL, and a proposed contract has not been publicly released. Pringle, who strongly supports the NFL proposal, said he did not believe the viability of the bid was in jeopardy.

"This is a public issue with a lot of public discussion," he said. "Everybody has an opinion on this.... A lot of people are offering input."

Galloway said she was interested in hearing from the coalition and was sympathetic to any expression of community needs.

"I don't want this to be political," she said. "Any decision the council makes, especially one involving something as big as the NFL, needs to address not just the economic interest of the city but the socioeconomic interest of the city."


Times staff writer Alan Abrahamson contributed to this report.

Los Angeles Times Articles