Disneyland Expansion Rockets Forward in Unanimous Anaheim City Vote

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On Tuesday, April 16, the city of Anaheim approved a sure-to-be-historic Disneyland expansion. The plan, dubbed Disneyland Forward, isn’t 100% clear. Rather, a rare fluidity underscores the controversial relationship between Anaheim city council and The Walt Disney Company. Yet, the unanimous decision followed eight hours of deliberation, including hours of questions and concerns from the public. The Disneyland expansion isn’t quite a done deal. But it’s moving forward at a speed that heartens some Anaheim residents and concerns others. 

How the Disneyland Expansion Helps Anaheim

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Anaheim has a vested interest in the proposed Disneyland expansion. Mayor Ashley Aitken has stated (and a Disney representative has elaborated) that the project will contribute affordable housing, funding for public departments such as police and fire, and even revitalize infrastructure across the city. The specifics, as confirmed by both Anaheim officials and Disney representatives, stand at $30 million for housing and $8 million for public services. Disney has also vowed to contribute approximately $2 billion to Anaheim’s resort district over the next decade. 

Disneyland’s Growing Pains

Disney has been cryptic about the full details of their plans, indicating that even they don’t fully realize what they want to do yet. However, the Disneyland park is situated in a pocket of Anaheim which makes expansion difficult; a growing concern for the theme parks division of the company. Residential districts and freeways tightly border the theme park. The proposed Disneyland expansion may be the only means of the Anaheim location moving forward without compromising an already impressive roster of attractions. 

While Disneyland Forward is billed as a Disneyland expansion, it might be more accurate to consider it a reorganization. The theme park’s footprint wouldn’t grow under the current proposal. Rather, it would allow for the construction of a multi-story parking structure, freeing up the current parking areas for attraction development. If approved, Disneyland Forward would allow the entertainment company to bypass the usual planning processes instituted by the city. Naturally, such liberty for a massive corporation is stoking concern in some of Anaheim’s citizens. 

Photo credit: HarshLight

Controversial Street Acquisitions

Arguably the most alarming aspect of the Disneyland expansion proposal for Anaheim citizens is the company’s purchase of three public roads for approximately $40 million. Disney would acquire Hotel Way, Magic Way, and a portion of Clementine Street as part of the deal. Residents stated particular concern over the purchase of Magic Way, claiming the street allows for a convenient means of accessing the 5 freeway. Yet, representatives of Disney presented their own research showing that guest traveling to the park make up 99% of the traffic on Magic Way.

The Relationship Between Anaheim Officials and Disney 

Anaheim citizens reticent to accept a rushed approval process for a Disneyland expansion are further disturbed by the unique relationship between Anaheim city council and the Walt Disney Corporation. It’s no secret that Disney has contributed significant amounts to several council members’ political campaigns. Recently, FBI agents stated in sworn affidavits that the Disneyland resort exerts a disproportionate influence over Anaheim’s city hall. 

Opposition and Support for the Disneyland Expansion

Organizations that have already sided against Disneyland Forward include social activist group Chispa and Orange County Communities for Organized Responsible Development. But not all Anaheim residents share their concerns. The planned Disneyland expansion finds fervent support from the OC Business Council, California Chamber of Commerce, OC Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and an army of Disney employees. Hotel associations and labor unions have also vowed their support, including carpenters, painters, iron workers, and others who stand to benefit from the over 9,000 construction jobs Disney is touting. Outside of Anaheim, California Governor Gavin Newsom has also praised the proposal. 

Photo credit: Anthony Quintano

The Fast Track Forward

The Disneyland expansion will still need to pass a second round of voting from Anaheim’s city council sometime in May. If approved, Disney can begin acting on their proposal as soon as June 7. We’ll refrain from making any predictions, but you know what they say. Never bet against the Mouse. 

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