More planned housing riles Disney
The company and Anaheim are already knee-deep in conflict over a 1,500-unit plan. A 449-unit plan promises even more.
By Dave McKibben, Times Staff Writer
May 10, 2007
It isn't nearly as vast or publicized as the controversial proposal to build lower-cost housing just down the street from Disneyland, but there is another looming residential project drawing Disney's wrath.
And it too comes with lower-income worker housing in an area of town that the entertainment giant says should be confined to tourism and the financial windfall it brings to Orange County's second-largest city.
Disney and some city leaders have been locked in battle over Platinum Pointe, a proposal to build about 1,275 condos and 225 lower-income apartments where Disney someday hopes to build a third amusement park. The dispute has sparked a lawsuit, two citywide ballot drives and plenty of rhetoric.
Now, the owners of an RV park on the far edge of the resort district want to build a 449-unit condo high-rise. The site, now home to the Anaheim RV Village, lies across Interstate 5 from Disneyland, barely within the boundaries of the resort district but squarely on Disney's hit list.
Developers of the proposed Parc Anaheim high-rise see the property, surrounded by two elementary schools, neighborhoods and the freeway, as a gateway to the city's downtown and generally unconnected to the tourist district.
Disney officials say the city, by allowing two residential projects in the zone, may be creating "a land rush" on housing in an area that it has painstakingly groomed for high-end tourism.
"The common theme with both of these projects is that they sit in an area zoned for tourist uses," said Rob Doughty, a Disneyland spokesman. "So they just shouldn't be there."
Disney's focus and energies have been geared toward blocking Platinum Pointe. But Parc Anaheim officials said they learned last fall through city staff that Disney did not consider them welcome in its neighborhood.
The news surprised David DiRienzo, Parc Anaheim's co-developer, who said Disney officials had assured his investors the company would not object to plans for a residential complex on the property.
"I still haven't spoken to Disney and I'm perplexed as to what their opposition is," said DiRienzo, whose Urban West firm is developing the project with Irvine-based St. Clair Meyers. "I thought in America you always got to face your accuser. But I guess that's not the case with Disney."
Doughty said company officials had a "brief, second-hand conversation" with the city about the project's concept, but there were no specifics about the plan.
"We said we would need to hear more," Doughy said. "And they mistakenly took that as a green light."
Now that a Disney-backed ballot initiative to stop resort district housing is being pushed, DiRienzo is fighting to keep his project alive by forming a coalition of developers and business owners to oppose the measure, if it makes the ballot.
A second measure, backed by a coalition of business interests and also backed by Disney, would specifically block the Platinum Pointe project.
DiRienzo called the measure, aimed at preserving the resort district for tourist-friendly uses, Orwellian.
"This proposition isn't about one or two developers, it's about anybody who owns private property within the resort," he said. "If you own a gas station, restaurant or a hotel, you may have to get voters to approve a new business. It's Big Brother and it's alarming.
"Disney is saying, 'We want to control this land as though it's our own, but we don't want to own it. We will dictate what is built, not government, not a body of local representatives.' When you take government out of the equation, you get a dictatorship."
Environmental reviews on Parc Anaheim have been completed, but the developer said Disney's actions could delay the project at least three years. The council has cleared the way for the Platinum Pointe complex by changing zoning on the site, but a specific plan hasn't been submitted.
It is unclear how much City Council support the Parc Anaheim project has.
Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, Platinum Pointe's biggest supporter because of its lower-income housing component, is backing Parc Anaheim, which would include several dozen lower-income units, work-live lofts, shops and a preschool.
But Councilman Harry Sidhu, who is supporting the anti-housing initiative along with Mayor Curt Pringle, is opposed to the project.
"If we do not protect our resort and keep building hotels here," he said, "other communities like Garden Grove, Fullerton and Orange will build them and our revenue stream will be gone."