Disney wins in Anaheim

Times Staff Writer

After 18 months of often fierce debate and $2-million worth of lobbying, Disney finally got what it wanted -- no new housing in the Anaheim Resort District.

Victory came after the City Council agreed Tuesday night to strip itself of its power to decide what can be built in the city’s high-powered Resort District. Under the new ordinance, any future decisions -- such as whether to build housing for resort workers -- would have to be approved by a citywide vote, assuming the council approves such a plan in the first place.

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle said the vote essentially “ties the hands” of this and future councils from putting housing in “the economic core of the Resort District.”


“We can look for other places to build housing in the remaining 95% of the city, and we have,” he said. Pringle, Harry Sidhu and Lucille Kring voted to adopt the ordinance, and Lorri Galloway and Bob Hernandez voted to place it on the ballot. The anti-housing zoning ordinance takes effect April 4. That means that two remaining housing proposals for the Resort District must be altered or face a citywide vote if the council signs off on them.

Disney officials, who did not return phone calls Wednesday, have long wanted to control the feel of the Resort District. The company spent $2 million backing a coalition of business and community leaders that gathered signatures and campaigned for the initiative and a second anti-housing referendum. Disney also filed a lawsuit against the city to block a 1,500-unit condo and low-cost apartment project. That plan fell through last fall when an agreement between the developer and landowner broke off.

The proposed housing development became a sore spot between city leaders and Disney executives, who said housing would be inappropriate in the area around Disneyland and California Adventure that was zoned for tourist uses in 1994. The issue attracted national and international media attention, threats of a recall of council members and regular City Hall protests.

With no organized opposition, the initiative appeared to be on its way to victory in the June election.

The City Council’s approval takes the ordinance off the ballot.

The council’s 3-2 decision to adopt the initiative outright was a surprise. Sidhu, who was the deciding vote, said last week he favored letting the voters decide the matter.