Can Disney Agree to Affordable Housing in Anaheim?

(Photo courtesy of OC Register; story cross-posted at JOMO blog and Calitics)

Oh my! Here’s some interesting news on the fight over affordable housing in Anaheim. The Register has a story on last night’s Anaheim City Council meeting, and of their latest decision to give Disney, Suncal, and the affordable housing advocates three weeks to work out a compromise.

Obviously, this leaves one HUGE question in my head. Can the two sides reach a compromise? Is there middle ground between affordable housing near Disneyland and giving Disney free reign to do as it pleases in the “resort district”?

Follow me after the flip for more…

Outside Anaheim City Hall, affordable housing activists staged a protest by pitching over 100 red-domed tents outside. They were doing this in an effort to help people visualize the need for affordable housing for Orange County’s working poor. They used the tents to do a skit in which people were not allowed to pitch their red-domed tents in an area called “Disneyland”, and then they were forced away by “Disney Villains” from another area called “Nimby-land”. The people with the tents had nowhere to stop and put their tents down, just like how far too many working families in Orange County have nowhere to call home.

Inside city hall, an unusual sense of calm came upon council chambers. OK, so it was still kind of tense. However this time, the meeting went on fairly smoothly. And in the end, the Anaheim City Council voted 3-2 to give all sides in the dispute another 3 weeks to reach a compromise.

But how can a compromise be reached? Is there land available for affordable housing in other nearby areas? Is there an affordable housing proposal in Anaheim that Disney can support? Is there another proposal for the “resort district” that Suncal and the affordable housing advocates can support?

As we’ve discussed before, the working-class folks who make the entire “Anaheim Resort District” work are in dire need of homes that are within their reach and within their budget. However Disney just doesn’t want to see any housing within the “resort district”, as that may disturb their “third gate” plan for a possible third theme park and plenty of new timeshare properties to go with it. So can both sides agree to “third gate” AND affordable housing? Is there room for both in Anaheim?

I guess we’ll find out in these next three weeks.

  36 comments for “Can Disney Agree to Affordable Housing in Anaheim?

  1. August 1, 2007 at 11:37 am

    i’ve never commented so much on this blog before but i just wanted to add one more thing to your thought provoking post.

    does disney not realize that there could be no third park or timeshares without these people working for them???

    clearly not.

  2. Andrew Davey
    August 1, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    I guess not, OC Girl. Ya know, that’s the craziest thing about Disney. They don’t even realize that IT’S ULTIMATELY IN THEIR LONG-TERM INTEREST THAT THEIR EMPLOYEES HAVE A PLACE TO LIVE. ‘Cuz if there’s no place to live, why would anyone want to work for Disney in Anaheim? Even if they don’t care about these people’s lives… If they care about THEIR BOTTOM LINE, then Disney needs to reach an agreement with Suncal and the affordable housing advocates that includes a plan for more affordable housing in Anaheim.

  3. Not a Mousehead
    August 1, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Another untold part of this story is the amazing coalition of housing advocates, progressive clergy, community leaders, and union workers that have come together to make sure that working families have a voice in what happens. Something we don’t always see on Orange County.

  4. Andrew Davey
    August 1, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Very true, Not a Mousehead. How very true. Basically EVERYONE who really cares about the well-being of the community in Anaheim has coalesced behind this push for affordable housing in the Land of the Mouseketeers. Now how often can we get progressive clergy, community leaders, union workers, AND housing advocates to unite behind one cause? And how often do we have a big developer AND a few high-priced Republican consultants fighting the same villain (in this case, Disney)?

    Now THAT’S quite a feat! 🙂

  5. Publius
    August 1, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Call me cynical (I’ve been called much worse), but has it dawned on anyone else that PERHAPS the “big developer” and the “high-priced Republican consultants” are USING the progressive/labor coalition to get the city to rule against the all-powerful Disney?
    If this coalition succeeds in changing votes on the Anaheim City Council or at the ballot box, they are the ones who stand to profit, right?
    I’m all for affordable housing closer to job centers, but trying to step back and think critically…

  6. Andrew Davey
    August 1, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    I have, Publius. I have. However, why is Disney spending all this money on the “SOAR” initiative? Are they really trying to “save the resort” for the poor lil’ tourists, or are they trying to do to Anaheim what they’ve done to Orlando with Reedy Creek?

    Now I know that the Reeps and Suncal don’t give a rat’s arse about affordable housing. They just want a quick dime. However, WE SHOULD CARE.

    These workers need a place to live. And they need living space that’s within their budget. Disney should recognize that it’s in their long-term interest to let their employees have a place to live. And if they don’t want them living where the mobile home park is right now, then they should be willing to negotiate a settlement that includes affordable housing SOMEWHERE near Disneyland.

    Disney has milked so much out of Anaheim over the years… Why can’t they let everyone else in Anaheim get their fair share for once?

  7. August 1, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    I’ve got to hand it to SunCal — they’ve played a great game here. By sprinkling a small number of affordable units into their otherwise unabashedly market-rate, for-profit giant condo project, they’ve managed to co-opt three-fifths of the Anaheim City Council and dupe affordable-housing advocates into shilling for their project.

    As a homeowner in downtown Anaheim, someplace that’s been harmed by harebrained redevelopment schemes in the past (like the destruction of Anaheim’s downtown in the 80s, or the razing of single-family homes in the 50s & 60s for apartments that are essentially slum housing today), what’s disturbed me about the whole SunCal brouhaha is the total disregard that the City Council has shown for its own planning process. The Council’s actions set a worrisome precedent — that what little hard-won zoning and plan protection my neighborhood has now can be cast aside later if a developer manages to find the right shiny object to dangle in front of a susceptible councilmember. Maybe someday I’ll find plans to replace my house, or my neighbors’ homes, with another giant condo project with a sliver of affordable housing; maybe it’ll be a collection of big-box stores (think of the tax revenue!)

    I support affordable housing; there are two infill projects being built within a block of my house. I think we need to do more infill, buy out some of the sad apartments downtown and rebuild them to modern standards, and put housing into ‘taboo’ areas of Anaheim like Anaheim Hills or the residential areas of the Platinum Triangle. I’m horrified by the racist readers’ comments that appear every time the Register does a story on this issue. But I can’t see why this particular project is worth being the focus of so much energy and passion. It seems to me that a lot of people are being cynically used by SunCal in the worst way — that many of the people giving tearful, emotional testimony before the council have been given a lot of false hope that this project is going to solve their problems.

    As for Disney being an octopus that controls Anaheim politics, what happened at the Council meeting last night? Galloway moved to grant SunCal another delay based on a vague letter from Frank Elfend asking for more time. On one hand, you have 21,000 Anaheim residents who want to rescind SunCal’s zoning change; on the other, you have who-knows-how-many other residents vociferously supporting the project — and who does Galloway listen to? What does Galloway take action upon? The word of *ONE* well-placed political consultant! I guess that it doesn’t matter if the Council is in thrall to special interests, as long as the special interests aren’t Disney …

  8. August 1, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Can someone please tell me how many units are in the entire project?
    And how many of these are affordable, below-market units?

    Sounds like much ado about precious little…

  9. Andrew Davey
    August 1, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    I’ll have to look that up. And no, I don’t think this debate is over “precious little”. I think A WHOLE LOT is at stake as Anaheim decides whether the citizens and their elected representatives determine the future of the city… Or whether Disney can do whatever it wants and treat the whole city like its own personal fiefdom a la Orlando.

  10. August 1, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    According to previous Register articles, SunCal’s proposal is for 200 affordable units out of 1,500 total. But it’s my understanding that these numbers aren’t solid, given that the project hasn’t moved past hypotheticals.

  11. August 1, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Before you continue spouting-off about things without doing your own research, you should know that Walt Disney World is located in the city of Lake Buena Vista, Florida. It’s about 15 miles from the city of Orlando.
    I hope I’m not the only one who would appreciate one or two thoughtful, accurate posts instead of dozens of inaccurate posts and comments.
    Just a constructive suggestion.

  12. Andrew Davey
    August 1, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Kevin- Thanks for that info. I’ll keep track on that.

    Publius- I know it’s not Orlando proper. Still, I guess I should have been more precise in saying ORANGE AND OSECOLA COUNTIES instead of Orlando. I’m sorry for that. But still, I’m not BSing about Reedy Creek…

    No, you’re not the only one who appreciates accurate posts. I do, too. That’s why I do my best to keep te facts straight. I should have said OSECOLA AND ORANGE COUNTIES instead of Orlando earlier, and I’ll remember to do the same next time. 🙂

  13. August 1, 2007 at 5:04 pm


    Hold on there. SunCal went through the planning process like anyone else, and was able to obtain a zoning change. If zoning were set in stone, never to be changed once on the books, there’d be no Resort District, which changed existing zoning.

    And for someone who’s horrified by racist reader comments on the OC Register website, you might expend some of that horror for the quasi-racist street campaign Disney has waged against the SunCal project: all those Disney circulators talking about “low income housing next to Disneyland” attracting “unsavory people..”

    Maybe you missed it, but both SunCal and Disney are in talks together and Disney didn’t fight the second continuance. Trying to spin last night’s council meeting as some SunCal manipulation is wrong and dishonest.

    Laslty, that “21,000 Anaheim residents who want to rescind SunCal’s zoning change” is pure Disney/SOAR spin. The Disney circulators asked people to sign the petition in order to have a vote on the SunCal project, regardless of how they felt about the project. Furthermore, more than 6,000 of those signatures were invalid — not counting all the rescission cards our side collected. In the end, the referendum barely had enough signatures to qualify.

  14. Andrew Davey
    August 1, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Wow, Matt! You and I agree for once on something! That in itself is a miracle! 😉

    OK, OK, I’ll get serious again. You’re right on the Disney spin. They are acting like they’re the ones who support democracy in Anaheim when they’re the ones who want to take away Anaheim residents’ right to have a say on wha happens in big chunk of their city! Oh, and I’ve also heard about their quasi-racist “We can’t let the POOR BROWN PEOPLE live by Disneyland!” campaign.

    I hope that Disney comes to its sense in these negotiations, and they let the affordable housing into Anaheim.

  15. Not a Mousehead
    August 1, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    In response to Publius, the entire project is supposed to have 1500 units, of which 225 (15%) must be affordable, below-market rental units for low and very low income families. What’s more, the developer is required to meet the affordability requirements without the benefit of city subsidies, and the affordability percentage is written into the zoning overlay. This may not sound like a lot of housing — it’s certainly not enough — but depending on how you count, it would be as many or more new affordable units than have built in all of Anaheim over the past five-plus years. Note also that there are roughly 200 mobile homes remaining on the site today. A couple dozen more have already been condemned by the city for the purpose of widening Haster St. and extending Gene Autry Way. If Disney gets its way and a hotel is someday built on the site, all of the mobile homes will be taken out and not replaced with any affordable housing whatsoever. This would set a very bad precedent for future resort development that may threaten adjacent low income neighborhoods. Development is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the working poor.

    In response to Kevin, I am part of the progressive/labor coalition that is advocating for affordable housing on this site. I have not been duped, and I am not shilling. I am fully aware that SunCal, just like Disney, is only interested in maximizing their own bottom line. Unlike Disney, SunCal is willing, for the sake of what they probably thought would be political expediency, to give something to the city in exchange for the development rights they want. That doesn’t make them angels, but it does set them apart from most other developers in Anaheim and the rest of OC. By contrast, we have to ask what happened to the 500 affordable units that were discussed back when Disney was planning WestCot, which eventually became California Adventure? Those units were never built, but if they had been, the entire debate right now would be very different.

  16. Dan Chmielewski
    August 1, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    15 percent? That’s it? Was your posted comment here billable time Matt? 😉

  17. Not a Mousehead
    August 2, 2007 at 6:32 am

    Um, Dan, can you name even one residential development in Anaheim for which the developer was required by law to build 15% affordable units? In Anaheim’s Platinum Triangle, 9,500 residential units are getting built, NONE of them affordable. In the Mountain Park development, 2,500 houses are getting built, again with ZERO affordable units.

    Anaheim, like all but five cities in OC, has no inclusionary housing requirement whatsoever, and even if it were politically possible to pass an inclusionary ordinance, I doubt we could get more than 15% affordability. Irvine, which probably has the strongest housing policy in OC, does not require more than 15%. Should we be aiming higher? Yes, absolutely, but we’ve got to start someplace.

    I’m a bit surprised that Matt’s post didn’t disclose the fact that he is one of SunCal’s paid consultants. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are a lot of us who are involved in this fight because, as progressives, we are deeply concerned about the housing crisis faced by working families in our community. If SunCal ever goes back on its commitment to build affordable housing, we will do our best to run them and their high-priced consultants out of town. With pitchforks.

  18. East Shall Rise
    August 2, 2007 at 10:06 am

    The question of affordable housing is not the battle for the little piece of land in the Resort Area. The greater question is what is Mayor Pringle, City Staff, Disneyland, and local businesses going to create affordable housing. The City has approximately 60 acreas of city owned land in another part of town. This could be used for affordable housing.

  19. Dan Chmielewski
    August 2, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    In all due respect, the free market should decide the price of housing. If the entire development was affordable, that in one thing. But how crappy will 15 percent of the houses be compared to the others. And we these homeowners are ready to sell, will they be restricted to affordable equity on the resale?

  20. Not a Mousehead
    August 2, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    The 15% will be rental units, so resale isn’t an issue in this case. And they’ll have to be decent, good quality homes, just like other recent affordable developments in OC have been. If you want to see what today’s affordable housing looks like, check out the apartments that are about to open up on Vine St., just south of Broadway, in Anaheim.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s wise to leave our basic needs entirely to the mercies of the free market.

  21. August 2, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Jubal: Of course SunCal went through the planning process — I’m not suggesting that they’ve been passing bribes under the table. However, had this project not had the affordable housing pixie dust sprinkled upon it, would they have gotten the City Council to change the Resort Plan with such relative ease? Would the Council have ignored the recommendation of its own Planning Commission? Again, approving this project sets a bad precedent. Why bother with planning and zoning at all, if they’re just going to get junked whenever a developer comes down the road with a non-conforming project that’s tuned to the psychology of a few key members of the City Council?

    As for the petition circulators: any individual’s use of racism and fear in an attempt to get petitions signed is deplorable — but you keep selling that as evidence of a centrally-orchestrated, Disney-planned racist plot, and I’m not buying it, for the simple reason that every paid circulator I’ve ever talked to has been completely nuts. These are guys who are willing to say or do anything under the sun in order to get their petition signed — and given the Register-reading, racist-commenting demographic that seems to exist around here (the OC, not this blog), it’s no surprise that circulators hit upon that as a workable tactic, and kept pulling it out again. FWIW, the repeal petition I signed was carried by an *UN*paid, volunteer circulator from my neighborhood; she was polite, well-informed, and *not once* did she mention the brown hordes!

    (And why is it that the actions of Disney’s circulators point to a vast conspiracy that needs to be repeatedly mentioned on OC Blog, while OC GOP-paid circulators switching voter registrations is an isolated incident, merely the action of a few bad apples … let us never speak of it again!)

  22. August 3, 2007 at 8:38 am


    I’ll tell you the difference:

    Once the OC GOP found out about the registration flipping — and it was uncovered because of the follow-up mechanisms the OC GOP built into the process — they put a stop to it. The party has no incentive to pay for bad registrations.

    As for Disney — those paid circulators are given a script. They don’t just make up those talking points themselves. Disney used two different circulators companies for the initiative and the referendum — but in both cases, the spiel with the coded racial subtext was the same. That’s not an accident or a function of the character of the circulators.

  23. August 3, 2007 at 8:43 am

    Was your posted comment here billable time Matt?

    Dan — this is a retainer client, not hourly.

    I’m a bit surprised that Matt’s post didn’t disclose the fact that he is one of SunCal’s paid consultants.

    Not A Mouse:

    You’re right, I should have. I just forgot. I’ve posted that disclaimer so many times I sometimes forgot not everyone in the local blogosphere is aware of that fact. I wasn’t trying to hide it: I referred to SunCal as “our side.”

  24. August 3, 2007 at 8:46 am

    By contrast, we have to ask what happened to the 500 affordable units that were discussed back when Disney was planning WestCot, which eventually became California Adventure? Those units were never built, but if they had been, the entire debate right now would be very different.

    What Disney promised Anaheim during the Resort District negotiations, and what they actually delivered, are two very different things.

    Fortunately for Disney, most have forgotten about all that.

  25. Andrew Davey
    August 3, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Fortunately for Disney, most have forgotten about all that.

    That’s why everyone in Anaheim should be reminded about this. In 1994, Disney made this promise of 500 affordable housing units as they were making their pitch for WestCot. Whatever happened to that? Where are the affordable housing units?

    If Disney had kept its promise in 1994, Anaheim probably wouldn’t be in the dilemma it’s in today with this development.

  26. August 3, 2007 at 9:28 am

    As for Disney — those paid circulators are given a script. They don’t just make up those talking points themselves.Jubal: Have you seen this script, with its talking points? Because this topic is your favorite diversionary talking point when you want to change the subject, and it sure would be a bombshell if you had actual proof.

    But again: why bother with planning and zoning at all, if they’re just going to get junked whenever a developer comes down the road with a non-conforming project that’s tuned to the psychology of a few key members of the City Council?

  27. August 3, 2007 at 10:08 am

    Off topic for a moment but is LAX in the city of LA or is it located in the city of El Segundo?
    As someone who has made MANY trips to Orlando let me report that once you get off the plane you take a monorial to the terminal to pick up your baggage and depart the airport. Although technically incorrect, the world knows Orlando to be the home of Disneyworld.
    As to the key issue of affordable housing.

    The rule of thumb is a range of 10 to 20 percent for affordable housing. If you are a developer and are seeeing a density bonus than the affordable mandate could increase to as high as 25 percent.
    Take note of a recent story than San Diego affordable housing is only at nine percent.

  28. Not a Mousehead
    August 3, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Kevin: The resort specific plan has been amended seven times since it was passed in 1994, most recently to allow luxury condominiums (i.e., housing) as part of hotel development projects. I need to go back and check, but I’m pretty sure that several of these amendments came about as a result of issues raised by people trying to put together viable development projects — projects that were non-conforming until the City Council decided, rightly or wrongly, that they made sense in the resort. You may have taken a consistent position against all of these amendments on the grounds that they were bad planning, but I’m quite sure the same is not true of Disney and their minions. Personally, I don’t understand how they can maintain that it’s okay for the City Council to pass specific plan amendments that Disney likes but somehow wrong to pass amendments that Disney doesn’t like.

  29. Andrew Davey
    August 3, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Personally, I donÂ’t understand how they can maintain that itÂ’s okay for the City Council to pass specific plan amendments that Disney likes but somehow wrong to pass amendments that Disney doesnÂ’t like.

    And that’s why I’m perplexed here. Why is it OK for the resort plan to be amended to fit with Disney’s desires, but not OK for the plan to be amended to fit the needs of the local workforce? I don’t understand here.

    And Larry: Thanks for the info on Orlando. That’s what I meant. But still, from now on I’ll just have to get used to saying ORANGE AND OSECOLA COUNTIES whenever I talk about the Reedy Creek Improvement District that did to ORANGE AND OSECOLA COUNTIES (in Florida) what the SOAR Initiative would do to Anaheim (which is Disney taking over all government actions). 😉

  30. Not a Mousehead
    August 3, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Andrew: Thanks for letting us know about this Reedy Creek thing. No matter which counties are involved, it is very alarming indeed to think that’s what Disney might have in mind for Anaheim.

  31. August 3, 2007 at 11:53 am

    larry g-
    Saying that Disney controls city government the way it controls the government in Orlando is ridiculous. It’s like saying that they have strong influence in Long Beach because the parks are in Anaheim. I was just pointing out the error.
    And, I’m checking the good old Thomas Brothers just to make sure that LAX still is within the city limits of LA (or El Pueblo de Nuestra Sen~ora la Reina if you prefer).
    What was your point?

  32. August 3, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    From the S.D. Daily Transcript.

    “According to state law, 15 percent of all units built within a city’s redevelopment areas must be made affordable to low-and moderate-income homebuyers. Additionally, the city must use 20 percent of all annual redevelopment tax increment funds to create low- and moderate-income housing, like La Boheme’s.” (A San Diego County project).

    I believe that Not a Mousehead correctly posted state law compliance with the 15 percent obligation for redevelopment area’s in his earlier response. The key question relates to the project area. Is the proposed site inside a redevelopment zone that is controlled by the above referenced law?

    Publius. As you picked on Andrew’s geography I added that prior comment about LAX.

  33. Not a Mousehead
    August 3, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    The site is not located in a redevelopment area.

  34. August 3, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Publius. Where did I say ” that Disney controls city government the way it controls the government in Orlando”? Loser pays for dinner.
    In fact we will be there in two weeks. Bring your credit card so you can pick up the tab. Larry Gilbert

  35. Andrew Davey
    August 3, 2007 at 12:45 pm


    Come on, now! I’ve already corrected it. Disney did not strip the CITY OF ORLANDO of its regulatory powers with Reedy Creek. Disney stripped ORANGE AND OSECOLA COUNTIES of its regulatory powers over the Disney World area with the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Larry was only saying that sometimes “Orlando” is used as shorthand for the Orlando Metropolitan Area of ORANGE AND OSECOLA COUNTIES, just like “LA” is sometimes used as shorthand for just about anything in Los Angeles County south of Santa Clarita.

    And Not a Mousehead-

    No problem! I just want to warn folks of what Disney has already done to ORANGE AND OSECOLA COUNTIES in Florida in regards to regulating the Disney World area, and how this SOAR initiative in Anaheim is just another Reedy Creek that would defang the City of Anaheim of any regulatory powers over the Disneyland/CA Adventure area. Disney may be a big source of revenue for Anaheim, but it’s not some omnipotent, omniscient force that gets to make its own rules for a large chunk of the city.

  36. disneylandlover1414
    September 27, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    i hate the idea having housing unit in disneyland resort area.
    1. their too much traffic near disneyland resort area
    2. it going to be Noisy at night with the shows and fireworks and i dont
    why just freakin plan it somewhere else in Anaheim!!!!

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