May 30, 2024
The city is set to get more than $100 million in community benefits from Disney in return for the development agreement that will allow significant growth.

Disney’s proposal for growing its theme parks in Anaheim received approval from the Anaheim City Council early Wednesday, a consequential vote that will shape the resort and city for decades and is expected to bring in millions more visitors a year.

The development agreement the city is agreeing to maps out where new theme park construction could occur over the next 40 years, giving Disney flexibility to determine what exactly would be built – though all still within the footprint of its current properties. The goal, Disney officials say, is to use underutilized land around the resort to build immersive experiences in Anaheim as the company has done elsewhere around the world.

“We are ready to bring the next level of immersive entertainment here to Anaheim,” Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock said at the meeting, describing a mixing of rides and attractions with hotels, dining and more not seen yet at the Anaheim parks. Disney promises at least $1.9 billion in investments in the first 10 years.

A collection of homemade signs outside the Anaheim City Council Chambers urge a slowdown of the DisneylandForward proposal that the council was voting on during Tuesday evening’s city council meeting on April 16, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

Ken Potrock, the President of the Disneyland Resort, address the Anaheim City Council ahead of the $1.9 billion DisneylandForward vote during Tuesday’s city council meeting, touting the foreseen positive economic impact on the local economy, on April 16, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

A contingent of Disney supporters, many of them cast members at the Disneyland resort, applaud in support of one of their fellow cast members, who was encouraging the Anaheim City Council to accept the proposed DisneylandForward plan during Tuesday’s council meeting on April 16, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

Ken Potrock, the President of the Disneyland Resort, address the Anaheim City Council ahead of the $1.9 billion DisneylandForward vote during Tuesday’s city council meeting, touting the foreseen positive economic impact on the local economy, on April 16, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

One attendee at the Anaheim City Council meeting wears a shirt that reads “Let’s Move Disneyland Forward” ahead of a vote on the DisneylandForward vote on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

Ken Potrock, the President of the Disneyland Resort, address the Anaheim City Council ahead of the $1.9 billion DisneylandForward vote during Tuesday’s city council meeting, touting the foreseen positive economic impact on the local economy, on April 16, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

Ken Potrock, the President of the Disneyland Resort, address the Anaheim City Council ahead of the $1.9 billion DisneylandForward vote during Tuesday’s city council meeting, touting the foreseen positive economic impact on the local economy, on April 16, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

Adriana Perez Rosas of Anaheim expresses her strong disapproval of the DisneylandForward proposal, talking about Disney’s “greed,” asking “when is enough enough?,” and expressing her anger that dozens of Disney cast members were speaking, “while local residents are having to wait outside in the cold to have their voices heard,” during the Anaheim City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

Ken Potrock, the President of the Disneyland Resort, address the Anaheim City Council ahead of the $1.9 billion DisneylandForward vote during Tuesday’s city council meeting, touting the foreseen positive economic impact on the local economy, on April 16, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

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The council unanimously approved the project at the end of an eight-hour-long meeting – the first of two needed votes. It will vote again on May 7 to fully approve the DisneylandForward plan.

City staff believe that DisneylandForward will help the city’s general fund and continue its mission to grow and expand as a nationally recognized tourist destination. Anaheim Finance Director Debbie Moreno said the resort district generates about 31% of the city’s general fund.

“This project will bring a benefit to the community, not just in the near future, but for decades to come,” Mayor Ashleigh Aitken said.

The council heard presentations from Disney and listened to arguments for and against the project from dozens of people. There was much opposition over the sale of Magic Way to the company, which locals said they use to get to the 5 Freeway.

The council’s final vote would sell Magic Way and sections of two other roads to the company for $40 million.

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Much of the development DisneylandFoward will clear the way for will occur in the parking lots bordered by Walnut Street and Disneyland Drive. The company has said it may also develop the Toy Story parking lot on the southeast corner of the resort with an eye toward catering more to locals with shopping and experiences modeled after Disney Springs in Walt Disney World.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has teased an “Avatar”-themed land to investors as a possibility to be built and said Disneyland could increase in size by 50%. Potrock said Tuesday night that “Avatar” remains at the top of the list for what could be built, but “what we can do with this experience regarding the size and scope is inherently influenced by DisneylandForward.”

“It takes three to five years for Imagineers to bring an idea to fruition and the company is deciding which parks will receive funding right now. Right now. We want to make sure we get part of this investment, I would kindly say more than our fair share, part of this investment,” he said, adding later, “We want to go beyond replacing and removing current attractions and lands. We want to bring new experiences to the Disneyland Resort.”

The city is set to get more than $100 million in community benefits from Disney. Most of that money is for acquiring streets and funding infrastructure improvements, such as sewers and roads. Disney will also give Anaheim $30 million to use to help build affordable housing and $8 million for city parks, money that the city will decide how to use.

Rachel Alde, Disney’s senior vice president of global development and strategy, said the contribution to affordable housing in Anaheim is similar in value to one the company is making by contributing land to develop a 1,400-unit affordable housing complex near Walt Disney World in Florida.

Potrock called DisneylandForward a legacy project that will benefit both Disney and the city.

“Nothing is perfect,” he said in his closing remarks, “but we have worked so hard over the last three years to make this an incredible project.”

 

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