Anaheim supports state bill that could allow Disneyland to reopen earlier
The Anaheim City Council is backing a state bill that could allow Disneyland to reopen from its pandemic closure earlier than expected.
The council voted 6-1 in favor of showing support for Assembly Bill 420, which was introduced earlier this month by Assembly members Sharon Quirk-Silva, who serves north Orange County, and Suzette Valladares.
The bill would allow larger theme parks like Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm to reopen after meeting the same requirements as smaller amusement parks.
The state’s theme park reopening guidelines hold that larger theme parks can only reopen at 25% capacity when its county is in the minimal tier of less than one new COVID case per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus positivity rate of less than 2%.
Smaller theme parks can operate at limited capacity once their county has reached the moderate tier of 1 to 3.9 new COVID cases per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus positivity rate of 2 to 4.9%.
Orange County is still in the widespread tier, which is the most restrictive. The four-tiered system is ranked widespread, substantial, moderate, then minimal.
“Anything that we can do to safely reopen theme parks is critical to economic recovery for our city and region,” said Mayor Harry Sidhu, who proposed the item.
Sidhu and other Orange County politicians have called on Gov. Gavin Newsom before to make a pathway for reopening Disneyland.
Sidhu’s campaign received $2,000 from Disney during his mayoral run in 2018. Disney donated at least $1.6 million to candidates and city ballot measures during the 2018 election, including to current council members Jordan Brandman and Trevor O’Neil.
Sidhu said Tuesday that large theme parks like Disneyland have the resources to enforce the best available safety protocols. He also mentioned that reopening the county’s larger theme parks would help jump-start the local economy.
“This means tens of thousands of people could go back to work earlier,” Sidhu said. "... It could mean the city could start our physical recovery sooner or that we could continue to provide essential services to the residents.”
Councilman Jose Moreno, the only dissenting vote, said the council should be focusing more on public health rather than the economy or reopening Disneyland.
“I am extremely worried because it seems that we can’t keep our eye on the ball,” said Moreno, a staunch critic of Disneyland
He went on to say that the state bill would put the COVID-19 risk at Disneyland on par with small parks like Adventure City in Stanton, which sits on about 2 acres.
He said that while he was impressed by Disneyland’s “bubble environment,” he is more worried about the potential spreading of the virus in the surrounding resort area.
“We are talking about pushing legislation to allow sooner, 25,000 to 35,000 visitors to come to Anaheim every single day,” Moreno said. “Not to mention the 5,000 to 10,000 employees who will have to work to serve those folks.”
He also noted Anaheim is taking the brunt of the county’s coronavirus cases along with Santa Ana, and the areas surrounding the resort are hot spots for the virus, combining for about 50,000 cases.
Moreno also said reopening Disneyland could cause the virus to spread further in children and the Latino population, which has been disproportionately affected by the virus.
Moreno’s views failed to gain the support of other council members.
“Public health is currently the priority and focus, and public health will continue to be that until we can overcome this pandemic,” said Councilman Avelino Valencia. “However, with that being said, we do need to at least have conversations about reenergizing our economy in a safe manner. And with that, I will be supportive of the resolution.”
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