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Disney Seeks Change in Time-Shares Law

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Walt Disney Co. is seeking to change a state law regulating time-share resorts as part of a plan to develop time-share resort villas near its amusement parks throughout the world, including in Anaheim and possibly Long Beach.

At the request of the Burbank-based company, Sen. Frank Hill (R-Whittier) has introduced a bill to change the time-share law for Disney’s benefit. The bill would give Disney tight control and the property rights to any time-share property it may build in California.

In addition, Disney’s lobbyist said the company wants an exemption from the law that gives the Department of Real Estate control over how much the firm can charge California residents who purchase an out-of-state time-share contract.

Disney spokesman Erwin Okun said Disney is hoping to offer “a unique product in the time-share field that would require certain changes in California law.” He would not elaborate on plans for the time-share projects, dubbed the “Disney Vacation Club.”

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But Disney’s Sacramento lobbyist, Doug Gillies, said the company is expected to open its first time-share resort development near Walt Disney World in Orlando by late 1991. Disney wants to begin selling time-shares to a 501-room complex of villas soon.

“There would be a hotel desk, which will be manned 24 hours a day, and there would be maintenance people, just like in a hotel,” said Gillies, adding that he inspected the villas two weeks ago. “Obviously, the places would be furnished with everything you needed--including linens and dishes.”

Gillies said Disney eventually hopes to build an international chain of these time-share resorts that include such recreational amenities as tennis courts, volleyball nets, saunas, jogging paths and exercise clubs. They will be targeted for the EuroDisney resort now being built near Paris and Tokyo Disneyland in Japan. Disney may also build time-share villas at a new ski resort in Colorado, he said.

The lobbyist said the company is also interested in building one or more of the villa complexes in Southern California. Potential sites are the desert, near Disneyland in Anaheim and Long Beach, where the company is considering building Port Disney--a marine theme park next to the Queen Mary.

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State time-share laws allow a person to buy the right to use a piece of property on a periodic basis--for the same week each year, for instance--in perpetuity or for a specified number of years.

It is most popular in vacation and resort areas, where people guarantee their right to use a condominium for one or two weeks a year. The industry also has been subject to widespread abuse, with hard-sell tactics of shoddy developments in undesirable vacation spots.

But Disney would bring an air of respectability to the time-share business. “It gives the industry quite a bit of credibility,” said David Matheson, a spokesman for the American Resort and Residential Development Assn. in Washington, a time-share trade group.

The company wants to use the time-share concept to essentially become a one-stop shopping center for vacations, Gillies said.

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“It is their intention, as part of the service that they will provide, if you have purchased one of these and want to go to Disney World in Florida . . . you call this 800 number and book your airline reservation, book your space at the Disney resort and also make reservations for Epcot or whatever else you want to do,” he said. Epcot Center is part of Walt Disney World.

Disney’s decision to build the villas in California hinges on whether it can change state law to its liking, the lobbyist said. The immediate concern is how Disney can change regulations giving the state Real Estate Department the power to negotiate and approve prices for time-shares sold more than 200 miles outside of California.

The power comes from the “out-of-state land promotions law,” which was passed in 1963 after a series of scams involving Californians who were fooled into buying time at substandard resorts.

Gillies said Disney views California as a prime market for selling time-shares to its Orlando resort but wants an exemption from the state’s power to negotiate prices.

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Another Disney concern is how state law may affect any future resort investment in California, Hill said. He said the company wants to retain tighter control of any future development in either Anaheim or Long Beach than the current law allows.

“Because of the location, they’re concerned about the upkeep and how it looks and how it reflects on the whole Disney aura,” said Hill, who said he was asked to carry the bill because his district is close to Anaheim, which has been unrepresented since John Seymour was appointed to the U.S. Senate in January. “How do they maintain Disney standards for the time-share?”

Hill said the company hopes to do that by changing the law so that it will retain management responsibilities for a potential time-share resort in California. Current law makes it possible for individual users in a sold-out time-share project to take control of the owners association.

In addition, Hill said, Disney wants to make sure that ownership of the land underneath any California time-share project reverts back to the company. Gillies said the company is thinking about taking the land back about 50 years after it opens a resort for business.

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Times staff writer Chris Woodyard contributed to this story.


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