$6 Billion Development Wave Hits Anaheim

Urbanize.LA recently published an article reporting on a $6 billion “development wave” hitting Anaheim:

Approximately $6 billion in investment is coming to Anaheim, by way of expansions to the city’s major theme parks and new commercial developments surrounding Angel Stadium.

Besides the addition of the much-vaunted Star Was land at Disneyland Park, planned developments include four luxury hotels, an expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center, new homes, offices, hotels and retail destinations in the Platinum Triangle district.

This past July, Anaheim granted approval to a trio of hotels in the city’s Resort District.

What constitutes this $6 billion in private investment in Anaheim?

Disney’s $2 billion investment in Star Wars Land, the 6,800 space parking structure.

Disney’s $$624.7 million, 4-diamond, 700-room hotel.

The Wincome Groups 4-Diamond, 580-room hotel on Harbor Boulevard and the 634-room, 4-Diamond hotel on Katella Avenue.

The 466-room, 4-Diamond JW Marriott to be built at the GardenWalk, plus a second 4-Diamond hotel at the site.

The addition of 200,000 square feet of flexible meeting space to the Anaheim Convention Center.

The promise of the Platinum Triangle, stalled by the Great Recession, is bearing fruit as development there picks up. The $450 million LT Platinum Center being planned next to Angel Stadium calls for 442,000 square feet of retail space, 77,000 square feet of offices, 340 condominiums and a 200-room hotel. The A-Town Metro project (a mix of for-sale and rental housing plus retail and entertainment), is underway. Jefferson Stadium Park, across from Anaheim Stadium, will include 1,000 apartments and 10,000 square feet of retail.

None of this occurred in a vacuum. It happened because the City of Anaheim has a plan for its economic development. The Platinum Triangle exists thanks to the vision of former Mayor Curt Pringle, and is designed to attract certain kinds of development. Disney is investing $2 billion in its theme park and parking infrastructure expansion because the City Council agreed to extend an existing de facto moratorium on taxing visitors to Disneyland. Five luxury hotel projects (unless the hotel workers union blows up some) will built due to the city’s TOT tax rebate policy. Together with the Convention Center expansion, they’ll keep Anaheim’s Resort competitive as a top-tier destination – which is important given its centrality to the city’s economy. Sometimes that reality seems lost on the critics that Anaheim is competing with lots of other cities as a convention and tourism destination.

These are the policies – the Anaheim Way – that have led to an Anaheim with financial resources and amenities for which other Orange County cities would kill. These are the policies of the much-maligned Council Majority and the political-policy continuum of which it is a part.

And these are the policies which Mayor Tait and his progressive allies seek to end, and replace with…what? Judging by his rhetoric and record as mayor (which is quite different from his council record), Mayor Tait wants to repeal these policies and enact a sharp break with economic development strategy that has worked well for Anaheim for the past 50-plus years.

His leftist political allies pay lip service to Tait’s goals…to an extent. They don’t oppose TOT tax rebates to attract luxury hotels – they object when such deals omit force unionization agreements, prevailing wage requirements and other “community benefits” coveted by the Left. In other words, they share Tait’s opposition only in so far as these policies do not benefit progressive interests politically and financially. Sometimes one has to wonder if the mayor understands that his allies are taking him for a ride.

If the mayor’s progressive allies had had their way, the city would have encrusted the Platinum Triangle approvals with a litany of expensive liberal nostrums such as prevailing wage requirements for all jobs; mandatory child-care and pre-school; low-income housing mandates; etc.

Tom Tait will be out of office in two short years. If he is successful in electing his candidate slate, those are the kinds of mandates that will be impose on future economic development projects. The city will continue to utilize economic assistance agreements like the Hotel Incentive Policy – except they’ll be leveraged to fatten UNITE-HERE’s member rolls and political coffers. This progressivism won’t be confined to business – the portion of the city’s budget set aside for public school districts will continue to grow, creating a portal for the teachers union into council elections and an incentive to harness the city’s taxing powers for their own benefit.

The Anaheim Way of economic development has been demonstrably, concretely successful in generating jobs and business expansion, creating opportunities for economic growth, and providing the city with a secure and growing revenue stream for city services.  Usually, the smart thing – the conservative thing – is to stick with what works.

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