Anaheim City Council to take up critical vote on Disneyland expansion project

ByIrene Cruz KFSN logo
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Anaheim City Council to vote on Disneyland expansion project
Disney's plans to expand its theme parks in Anaheim will go before the City Council on Tuesday for a critical vote.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Disney's plans to expand its theme parks in Anaheim went before the City Council on Tuesday for a critical vote.

With the proposed DisneylandForward Project, the company wants to spend $1.9 billion to develop the property over the next 10 years. That includes $40 million to buy streets from the city of Anaheim including Hotel Way, part of Clementine Street and Magic Way.

The Anaheim Planning Commission last month voted to greenlight the expansion project. The Anaheim City Council still needs to give its approval.

Disney is one step closer to getting its expansion project approved. The company wants to buy city streets around the Anaheim parks.

The proposed expansion wouldn't increase Disney's 490-acre (488-hectare) footprint in Southern California or change what the company already has permission to build. But it could help the company develop new attractions. They could place rides and entertainment options on what is currently a sprawling, 50-acre (20-hectare) parking lot - and move parking for Disneyland to a multistory structure - all while keeping within the boundaries of a resort surrounded by residential neighborhoods.

Disney's goal is to create what it calls more immersive experiences for tourists, similar to the attraction Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, which opened in California in 2019. The company said it doesn't yet know which stories would be central to the new developments, but the idea is to create areas like "Zootopia" in Shanghai Disneyland, where animal characters walk through a vibrant cityscape that resembles the setting of the film.

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Right now, there isn't enough room in the original Disneyland in Anaheim to build something on a large scale without affecting existing attractions, which are relished by loyal, long-time visitors to the company's oldest theme park, said Rachel Alde, Disney's senior vice president of global development and finance.

Staff for the city's Planning and Building Department has recommended Disney's application be approved.

The project "will allow us to continue Walt's legacy of bringing Disney stories to life, right here in Anaheim," Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resort, told the planning commission last month.

Also included in the proposal is a $30 million commitment from Disney for affordable housing across Anaheim. This includes funding for parks, plus street and transportation improvements. Disney is also estimating 9,000 construction jobs.

"For nearly three years now. Disney has asked what Anaheim residents need and they listened. Disney answered all of our concerns with solid solutions Disney asked they listened and they delivered," said a speaker at Tuesday's meeting.

Mixed opinions from residents

Several Anaheim residents spoke about their thoughts on the plans during Tuesday's meeting, and many included mixed opinions.

"Magic Way's closure for through vehicle traffic is crucial to the safety of our neighborhood ... the crosswalk on Walnut where it will allow my family, along with countless residents and cast members, to safely cross the street and enjoy our neighborhood," said one resident.

Another resident said she considers her family "a Disney family" and said she's excited about the new rides the expansion could bring, but feels "betrayed that Magic Way is up for sale."

"You're going to close a street to privatize it, which is not only going to increase the noise pollution and the traffic on Ball Road and Walnut. We already have our streets overtaken by tourists that don't want to pay the parking fee at Disney, and what do we get out of it?" said another resident.

Disneyland was founded in 1955 by Walt Disney.

It's the first time Disney has sought a major change to its California theme parks since the 1990s, when the company obtained approvals to turn its first park into a resort hub. It later added a second park, Disney California Adventure Park, and the shopping and entertainment area called Downtown Disney.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of this ABC station.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.