Anaheim will revisit resort district housing

Times Staff Writer

Putting itself on a collision course with the city’s largest and most famous employer, the Anaheim City Council voted 3 to 2 Tuesday night to reopen debate on whether to allow housing in the resort district -- a proposal Disney has fiercely opposed.

The vote is the latest escalation in the debate between city leaders and Disney officials on what belongs in a neighborhood dominated by Disneyland and California Adventure.

The decision to reconsider the 1,500-unit residential project comes five weeks after the council deadlocked, 2 to 2, on the proposal, a split vote that resulted in the housing plan’s rejection.


Councilwoman Lucille Kring had abstained from the council vote after Disney attorneys raised the possibility that she had a conflict of interest because a wine bar she planned to open nearby could affect her ability to vote objectively.

But on Monday, the Fair Political Practices Commission ruled that Kring did not have a conflict and that she could vote on the project, which for months has divided Anaheim council members, Disneyland, local residents and business leaders.

Disney attorneys cited a 2001 case in Truckee in which a council member was advised not to vote on a housing project because it was within three miles of his wine and cheese shop. It was determined that he might receive financial benefit from an influx of new customers.

But the FPPC said Kring had only signed a nonbinding letter of intent that did not obligate her to lease space in the GardenWalk development and that she should be allowed to vote.

“I want an opportunity to ask questions to both sides,” she said. “I never had that opportunity, and I regret that.”

Housing advocates, union and community leaders and Anaheim residents spoke in favor of the housing development.


“The city of Anaheim should never be intimidated or allow itself to be threatened by any business that feeds off the citizens,” said Larry Larsen, 60, an Anaheim Hills resident. “I personally resent Disney’s heavy-handed tactics to usurp the power and authority of the citizen’s City Council. I may or may not agree with their decision, but they should be the ones making it, not Disneyland.”

The council’s decision to rehear the issue comes a day after Disney and tourism officials announced plans to seek a citywide vote to stop developers from building homes in Anaheim’s resort district. Three weeks ago, Disney sued the city to block the 1,500-unit project, being developed by SunCal Cos.

After Tuesday’s vote, SunCal officials were pleased. “This is a real victory for the citizens of Anaheim and for people who believe in democracy,” company consultant Frank Elfend said.

Council members Bob Hernandez and Lorri Galloway joined Kring in voting to take another look at the SunCal project. The new hearing is expected to take place April 24. Hernandez and Galloway have supported the planned development throughout the process. Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle and Councilman Harry Sidhu, who opposed the project at last month’s council meeting, voted against a rehearing.

Pringle urged Disney and SunCal officials to discuss a compromise before the rehearing.