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Newsletter: Essential California: Disneyland’s long road to reopening

Visitors ride the spinning teacups at Disneyland in a pre-pandemic photo.
(Paul Hiffmeyer / Disneyland Resort)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Oct. 21, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Before the coronavirus shuttered Disneyland in mid-March, the world’s most famous amusement park had suspended operations only three times: for a national day of mourning after President Kennedy’s assassination, after the 1994 Northridge earthquake and in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

This year, after several months of closed gates, a July reopening was scheduled — then indefinitely postponed during the virus’ summer surge. The park has now been closed for well over 200 days.

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Struggling businesses of all sizes have been pressuring California officials on the state’s reopening timeline for months. But Disney’s battles with the state over reopening the park have been particularly loud.

The Walt Disney Co. bluntly criticized the state as it announced plans to lay off thousands of workers late last month. That same week, executive chairman Bob Iger resigned from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s high-profile COVID-19 economic task force, marking what Sacramento bureau chief John Myers called “an abrupt public confirmation of the growing tensions stemming from California’s reluctance to allow theme parks to reopen.” (Florida let its theme parks reopen at limited capacity several months ago.)

On Tuesday, California released its long-awaited protocols for reopening theme parks here, and leaders at Disneyland and other theme parks were far from pleased with the plans.

[Read the story: “Disneyland and other California theme parks get a path to reopening” in the Los Angeles Times]

Under the protocols announced by California health secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, large theme parks won’t be allowed to open until their counties reach Tier 4, the state’s least-restrictive designation. (It’s also known as the “yellow” tier, and only a handful of California counties have slowed coronavirus transmission enough to reach it.)

[See also: A county-level map of the current reopening tiers across the state from the Los Angeles Times]

Large parks are defined as those with the capacity to host more than 15,000 visitors. Small parks will face slightly less stringent rules and be allowed to reopen when they reach Tier 3. Ghaly also outlined several other restrictions that will be required of theme parks once they reopen, including selling tickets in advance to make contact tracing easier and requiring face coverings except when eating or drinking. Large theme parks will be limited to 25% capacity.

As my colleague Hugo Martín reports, theme park executives and the mayor of Anaheim immediately excoriated the guidelines, complaining that the new protocols would keep the parks closed for too long and hurt nearby businesses. Disney is the single largest employer in the city of Anaheim, and the theme park and resort’s closure has had rippling effects on the local economy.

During an Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, the health director said the county would be unlikely to reach Tier 4 until summer 2021, perhaps later. Orange County, which is also home to Knott’s Berry Farm, is currently in Tier 2. Los Angeles County, home of Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain, remains in Tier 1, the state’s most restrictive designation.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts lead a dominant Dodgers victory to open the World Series. The Dodgers won 8-3 over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. Los Angeles Times

The National Transportation Safety Board faults poor oversight and the lack of a roving watch for the deadly Conception boat fire. In announcing the findings of its investigation into the fire that killed 34 people sleeping below deck, the agency recommended sweeping changes to oversight of small vessels by the U.S. Coast Guard, including better smoke detection systems and emergency exits that lead to different areas of the boat. Los Angeles Times

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

L.A. STORIES

Police chief predicts L.A. will top 300 homicides this year, for the first time since 2009. Speaking during a virtual meeting of the Police Commission, LAPD Chief Michel Moore called the pace of violence in 2020 a “terrible loss” and an “erosion” of progress that had been made reducing gun violence in the city in recent years. Los Angeles Times

A top mayoral advisor will step down amid sexual misconduct allegations. Rick Jacobs, a top political advisor to Mayor Eric Garcetti, said Tuesday night he will “take a leave” from his work with Garcetti, a day after a second person made misconduct allegations against Jacobs. Los Angeles Times

Black Lives Matter organizers are suing L.A. Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and her husband over a gun-pointing incident at their family home. Video taken at the scene of the March 2 protest showed David Lacey, a former investigator for the district attorney’s office, opening the door with a handgun drawn. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Confused by Prop. 15, the property tax ballot measure, and what it would mean for 1978’s Prop. 13? Here’s an explainer. Los Angeles Times

“I’m a gay, Jewish Democrat — the perfect target for an internet cult obsessed with pinning pedophilia on gays, Jews and Democrats.” State Sen. Scott Wiener writes about how he became a QAnon target in this opinion piece. New York Times

CRIME AND COURTS

The Justice Department files a landmark antitrust case against Google. The litigation marks the government’s most significant act to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

State officials announce plans to devote additional resources to curb coronavirus transmission in Riverside, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. With Riverside’s recent reclassification, all three counties are now in Tier 1. Los Angeles Times

San Francisco is the first Bay Area county to advance to Tier 4, the least restrictive tier in California’s economic reopening blueprint. San Francisco Chronicle

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Richard Neutra’s famed Kaufmann Desert House is for sale in Palm Springs. The legendary home — a Midcentury marvel cemented in history through famous photographs, including Slim Aarons’ 1970 photo “Poolside Gossip” — is up for grabs at $25 million. Los Angeles Times

A 1947 photo of the Kaufmann House shot by Julius Shulman.
(Julius Shulman / J. Paul Getty Trust)

The Impossible Burger maker is hiring more than 100 scientists to develop meatless steak, fish and more. Impossible Foods, the Redwood City company responsible for the soy-based burger, just announced that it’s expanding its research and development team over the next year to about 300 people. San Francisco Chronicle

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: partly sunny, 78. San Diego: partly sunny, 73. San Francisco: partly sunny, 73. San Jose: partly sunny, 84. Fresno: sunny, 87. Sacramento: sunny, 87. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Yasuko Morihara:

Dad was a grad student at UCLA in 1953 when Mom and I joined him. We lived in the Crenshaw area. As Dad studied, Mom would take me on “adventures.” My favorite was the one to Exposition Park. We would get off the bus at the Rose Garden, admire the flowers, then have a bento lunch on the lawn near the Coliseum. Mom would tell me all about the 1932 Olympics. Then we went to the Beaux Arts building housing the Natural History Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They were both free, which allowed us to go many times.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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