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Disney’s Big Plans Include a Big Bill for Taxpayers : Theme parks: Cost to city of Long Beach is estimated at $880 million. No wish list for public improvements has been presented to Anaheim.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

It’s no secret that the Walt Disney Co. expects the cities of Anaheim and Long Beach to make expensive public improvements as the two municipalities compete as the site of a new $3-billion theme park to be built at the end of the decade.

But a confidential city memo that was disclosed over the weekend has left some of the Long Beach locals gasping: Disney wants taxpayers to fork over $880 million for concessions ranging from land to new roads to utility connections. Disney’s earlier estimate was about $500 million.

Similar demands for taxpayer-sponsored public improvements--including road widenings, land acquisition and parking structure construction--would be placed on Anaheim. City leaders say, however, that they have yet to receive a definitive request from the entertainment giant.

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The $880-million cost was disclosed Saturday by the Long Beach Press-Telegram. A city official familiar with the document confirmed the figure to The Times and said the memo was based on preliminary estimates received by the Long Beach community development director.

Disney’s wish list includes $260 million for city land and site preparation; $60 million for new roads; $330 million for monorail, ferry and parking costs; $130 million for pedestrian and bike paths, a marina, new parkland, refurbishment of the Queen Mary; and $100 million for utilities, the newspaper reported.

“It seems excessive,” Long Beach Mayor Ernie Kell said when reached for comment. “Of course, the bottom line is what kind of revenues this (project) generates.”

He expressed hope that the cost estimates can be be reduced during negotiation and that Disney’s project will generate enough tax revenue to make the public outlay worthwhile.

Despite the heavy costs, Long Beach and Anaheim officials are not likely to walk away from the bargaining table. An economic benefit report prepared by Disney has shown that cash-strapped Long Beach could expect to reap $47 million in new annual revenue from the $3-billion DisneySeas theme park, its new hotels and other amenities. Disney says the new project would result in 37,000 jobs, two-thirds of which would be in Long Beach.

The company has not provided a similar economic analysis to Anaheim on the benefits of having a $3-billion Disneyland Resort, including its Westcot theme park, which is similar to a permanent world’s fair, and three new hotels.

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Disney has said that “community support”--a term that is widely interpreted as meaning how far a city is willing to cooperate with Disney’s demands--will be a prime factor in deciding which of the two cities will land a new theme park. Disney officials have said they expect to decide by the end of the year where the new park will be built.

Alan Epstein, a Disney vice president, said that no formal list of public improvements has yet been presented to Anaheim. “We just got going. It’s too preliminary to say,” he said.

Anaheim Deputy City Manager Tom Wood said he has not seen a formal Disney wish list for his city. But he added that such a list would only be a starting point for talks. “It will all be subject to negotiation and looking at what kind of cash flow comes of the project,” he said.

Some Anaheim community leaders say, however, that they will be monitoring to see that the city gets a fair shake.

“They (Disney) are looking for a whole lot of money from the public sector,” said Betty Ronconi, treasurer for the 700-member Anaheim Homeowners for Maintaining the Environment. “They need to consider putting more (money) back into the city. I hope the council is not going to give away the whole city to get Disney first” before Long Beach.

Times staff writer Kevin Johnson contributed to this article.

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