Anaheim ballot proposal targets Disney influence

Times Staff Writers

Vowing not to allow the Walt Disney Co. to run the city, a coalition of Anaheim business owners and residents announced Wednesday that they would pursue a ballot initiative to give voters zoning control over the entertainment giant’s planned third theme park.

If the City Council puts the measure on the ballot, it could join two Disney-backed ballot measures -- an initiative and a referendum -- aimed at preserving nonresidential zoning in the area adjacent to Disneyland and California Adventure.

Supporters of the latest measure, including a developer hoping to build housing near Disneyland, are asking the council to directly place it on the ballot. Disney and its supporters collected signatures for the other two measures, neither of which has yet been approved for the ballot.


“We are trying the path of least resistance first. If that doesn’t work, we will get signatures,” said Diane Singer, chairwoman of the coalition pushing the latest measure. “We don’t want Disney controlling Anaheim.... We’re giving up voter rights to a big corporation, and I don’t think that is right.”

The Disney-backed initiative asks voters to decide whether property owners wishing to develop residential projects in the Resort District should seek approval from voters. Because the measure applies only to residential use, which Disney opposes for the entertainment district, it would probably apply only to developers other than Disney.

The referendum asks voters to repeal a City Council decision that would change zoning to allow a project that would include low-cost housing in the resort area.

Singer said the third ballot measure was necessary because “Disney has their initiatives and it’s not right that Disney is setting up rules ... and they are exempt from those rules.”

Several council members did not return calls for comment Wednesday, but Councilwoman Lorri Galloway said she supported the third measure.

“Disney’s initiative basically says everything except Disney can be voted on by residents,” she said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Councilwoman Lucille Kring said she was unsure whether she would support it. “I just am so disappointed we’re into initiatives and ballot-box development,” she said. “This is very divisive to the city.”

In a letter to the City Council, supporters of the latest initiative argued that residents should have oversight on Disney development because the company had not kept earlier promises.

A Disney spokesman did not return several calls.

City Clerk Linda Nguyen, who reviewed the latest initiative Wednesday, said that it did not meet state election code requirements because, among other things, it lacked the name and address of the submitting group.

But Frank Elfend, a consultant to SunCal Cos., which supports the ballot measure and is developing a 1,500-unit housing complex near the site Disneyland is planning a third park, described Wednesday’s filing as simply an “informal submittal for action at a later date.”

Singer said the group would retool the initiative to meet state requirements.

Annette McCluskey, spokeswoman for pro-Disney Save Our Anaheim Resort District, declined to comment. “We can’t react to something that is not real yet,” she said.