If you ask a Disney World tourist about Downtown Disney in Orlando they'll usually mention how crowded it is. What to do when you're staying on-site in one of Disney World's 20+ on-site resorts and aren't up for another trudge through the parks, or aren't visiting parks that day? It turns out that if you don't have a car there isn't much else to do but Downtown Disney, just a free bus ride away. Its also one of the few things to do in the Orlando area that doesn't involve a theme park admission charge. So while Downtown Disney has suffered from the loss of Pleasure Island and other closures, there's still a great interest in visiting.
Out West, Downtown Disney doesn't have that much of an on-site tourist base to draw upon. And it has to compete with Southern California's impressive mall offerings; compared alongside them, there just isn't much to do at Downtown Disney to draw large amounts of local visitors. Not to mention the sad fact that its one of the last remaining, mostly unreformed relics of the Pressler era. You might think DTDA is just fine: the best, most successful part of the Pressler-era Disneyland Resort. It can't compete with SoCal malls anyway. Until you compare it to the entertainment district concepts Disney originally had planned for Anaheim (I remember a lake and pretty architecture) before it was axed and we were left with the cheap mixed bag that exists today.
It seems like DTDA already struggles to retain tenants, and GardenWalk is a stark nearby example of failure in this area - because of the economy or local competition, I don't know, but that seems like the major factor holding back expansion.
We've heard rumors over the years about expanding Downtown Disney into the parking lot near the Disneyland Hotel and past the park gates towards Harbor Blvd., but nothing has ever come into fruition. DLR has finally achieved having two great, successful theme parks. Is it time to expand Downtown Disney, one of the remaining pieces of the puzzle to make Disneyland a great resort destination (aside from the obvious better parking, another park, and hotels)? Or is it already doing good enough, unable to really compete, from a tourist perspective or otherwise, with the multitude of superior malls and other attractions SoCal has to offer?