Disney worries housing project near parks would be eyesore
A plan to put 1,500 condos and apartments within the shadows of Disneyland is drawing criticism from Walt Disney Co. officials, who argue such housing would be an eyesore located that close to the company's amusement parks.
The City Council has embraced the project, which calls for 1,300 condominiums and 200 low-cost apartments, in hopes of easing a housing shortage.
Disney officials agree housing is a pressing issue in the city of 350,000 people, but that it doesn't belong outside the gates to Disneyland and Disney's adjacent California Adventure park.
"It's like owning a wonderful house in a wonderful neighborhood," said Ed Chuchla, Disneyland's vice president of corporate real estate. "You care about the house and what could impact it."
City Councilwoman Lorri Galloway said the debate has highlighted her concerns over the future direction of Anaheim's resort district.
"Disney is looking at a time when you didn't have to make 25 bucks an hour to live in a two-bedroom apartment," Galloway said of the city's largest employer. "Time and society have altered that plan naturally. Disney is just going to have to change with the times."
The area, which increasingly has given way to hotels, restaurants and the tourist-friendly retail district called Downtown Disney, has long been a source of frustration to Walt Disney Co. officials.
Walt Disney himself complained that soon after he opened Disneyland in 1955 the area outside the park became filled with fast-food restaurants, cheap hotels, ugly neon signs and ticky-tack tourist attractions.
"We don't like it, but we get blamed for it," he said in 1965, according to a Disney historian.
Given a second chance when Walt Disney World opened in Florida in 1971, the company persuaded the Florida Legislature to create the Ready Creek Improvement District surrounding the park. That allowed the Disney company to finance, build and oversee development around Disney World without interference.
The district, which now includes four Disney parks, also controls utilities, transportation, and police and fire services.
Disney is Anaheim's largest business with 20,000 employees, and 40 percent of the city's general fund comes from tourism. Anaheim is also home to professional baseball and hockey teams and a large convention center.