What The Judge’s Decision on GardenWalk Is…And Is Not.

Opponents of the GardenWalk agreement — the 15-year, 80-20 Transient Occupancy Tax revenue split with the project’s developers — are doing a victory dance over yesterday’s Superior Court decision. And that’s to be expected. But it’s important to be clear about what this decision is, and what it isn’t. Let’s take the latter, first. The court was not making a judgment on the merits of the agreement. Indeed, the agreement was really beside the point — it could have been about garage sales or ice cream vendors. The ruling really came down to the language of the January 24, 2012 council agenda item regarding the GardenWalk project:

“Discussion to consider an amendment to an existing economic assistance agreement and provide direction to staff to develop an agreement with the developer (GardenWalk Hotel Project).”

Given that language, I believe another judge could have reasonably decided the other way and upheld the vote (admittedly, I haven’t seen the decision, so I may have to revise that belief). It seems very clear to me from the phrase “discussion to consider” that it is was very possible to council would vote on the matter than evening; after all, “to consider” means “to think carefully about, especially in order to make a decision.” However, that’s now a moot point (unless the city appeals the decision).

This decision is also an opportunity to revisit the oft-repeated complaint by GardenWalk opponents that they were “denied the opportunity” to speak at the January 24 council meeting because they did not know there would be a vote that evening.

That’s a tough one to swallow, for several reasons. For starters, it’s not like OCCORD, Los Amigos or any other similar pressure group only show to speak at Anaheim City Council when there is definitely going to be a vote on an issue they care about. On the contrary.

Secondly, the amended GardenWalk agreement had been working its way through the city for months – it didn’t suddenly burst from obscurity. And it is important to remember it is an amended agreement — a TOT split was already in place.

Let’s face it: OCCORD, Los Amigos and other elements of what became the “Take Back Anaheim” coalition were asleep at the switch. The GardenWalk agreement was on the agenda. It was clear from the language that a vote might very well take place, and veteran council watchers like the above groups should have known that.

I’m sure we’ll now have plenty of opportunities to re-hash and re-hear the arguments for and against the project in the weeks ahead.

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  1. Lifetime Anaheim Resident

    Thank you Matt for pointing out that the split was already in place – this type of economic assistance has existed in Anaheim for nearly a decade if not longer. Ironically, Tait and Kring voted for TOT splits for hotel and other developments in the past when they were last on council. Hopefully, Tait will stop haranguing his colleagues and stop putting the city through a media storm over this “amended” agreement as you so succinctly put it. Let’s add up his ‘tax giveaways’ over the years and see what kind of number they produce – the hypocrisy has to stop. It’s time to lead and let our city move forward.

  2. I hope Mayor Tait will now put aside his silly destructive politics, allowing the City to move forward and stop getting in the way of job creation. Congratulations to Councilwoman Kring and Councilman Brandman on your swearing-in ceremony last night.

  3. Trying to spin this giveaway on the basis of job creation is a joke. Mayor Tait is the only council member who can’t be bought and sold by Disney.

  4. Lifetime Anaheim Resident

    Anaheim 84 (aka Jason Young) – Tait voted for 50 percent TOT agreements over and over again as a council member. He only seems to care about this latest agreement – the facts do not support your arguments. He also voted for pensions of 3 at 50 for employees which will amount to hundred of millions in costs to Anaheim voters that will never be recovered. Your revisionist history does not hold water.

  5. [Comment deleted due to being a mendacious, malicious personal attack.]

  6. Previous TOT agreements made sense, they were a genuine “feasibility gap” between 3 star and 4 star hotels. In short, the City’s General Fund still pulled in the TOT equivalent to a 3 star hotel on site, and the amount over that on the 4 star price went back to the developer to cover the increased construction costs etc of building a better facility. That is worth supporting if it gets us those better hotels the keystrokes Marstkn report says we need. The conflict is when we go way beyond that feasibility gap to give ALL of the TOT away. The other issue is that the Keyser Marstkn report is old, it was done in a very different economic climate, and there is no telling if the data is still valid. Really, we have a report that says Anaheim requires 4 star hotels to draw better conventions yet in the next breath our hoteliers claim the market will not support those hotels without subsidy. Either the market is driving need or it isn’t, and I am even game for some limited subsidy to help incubate a 4 star. But when we give all the benefit away, then it is time to rethink the need for this. Tait is not being divisive for questioning the giveaways, he is doing the job we elected him to do, what is infuriating is the juvenile behavior of those who cannot stand to be questioned, and rather than justify their decisions they simply attack the questioner. For all those accusations that Tait is the antagonist I have yet to hear a single incident that he has instigated or accelerated. If this type of subsidy is to continue it is time for a new report to update the Keyser Marstkn piece and reflect today’s economic reality.

  7. Damn autocorrect. Keyser Marston report. Sorry.

  8. Thank you Cynthia for your intelligent thoughts on this issue. Something this blog clearly lacks.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      Jason, the only places on this blog that lack intelligent thought are in your comments.

      Given your venomous opinions and stilted writing style, you’d have fit right in as the editor of some Eastern Bloc party organ. I keep waiting for you to write something like “the peace-loving peoples of Anaheim will continue to resist the running doogs of capitalism!”

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