Last week, Disney unveiled plans for its new 4-Diamond hotel project as part of incorporating all its Disneyland Resort hotel properties – and Downtown Disney – into an integrated hotel area. The company also announced it was relocating its proposed 6,500-space parking structure from a site near the theme park’s Eastern Gateway, and would instead build it next to the Mickey and Friends parking structure.
According to the company’s media materials, the new hotel will “transform the west end of the Downtown Disney District with a sophisticated design creating a one-of-a-kind environment” and also create “a new and connected Resort Hotel Area with lushly landscaped walkways linking the new hotel, the Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and create a welcoming entry for visitors walking from the Anaheim Convention Center.”
The new parking structure will be built on the existing 1,000-space Pinocchio surface parking lot, for a net addition of 5,500 parking spaces, and is not part of the economic assistance agreement between the city and Disney for the new 4-Diamond hotel. 80% of visitors to the Disneyland Resort use the parking on the west side, and the new structure – plus redesigns of loading and access will significantly speed up vehicle parking and help relieve traffic congestion on Disneyland Drive and Ball Road.
For example, according to Disney media materials, these improvements will “reroute vehicles exiting the new parking structure and Downtown Disney to the former tram route situated on Disney’s property, to allow for I-5 access in a way that minimizes traffic on city streets on busy days.”
The improvements also promise to reduce or eliminate back up on city streets by:
- Boost the ability to stack cars by more than 60% in the ground-level entry lanes before the parking kiosks
- Doubles parking kiosk capacity by providing more entrances and lanes to handle increased attendance and loading
- Adding more staffing per parking kiosk to speed up loading of cars.
Whither The Eastern Gateway?
Disney had been planning to build a 7-story, 6,800 space parking structure and a relocated transportation hub on a site sandwiched between Disney Way and the I-5 freeway, connected to the park by a pedestrian bridge over Harbor Boulevard. The need for additional parking is driven by the planned 2019 opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the newest Disneyland “land” and biggest single expansion ever of the original Disney theme park.
The company had filed plans with the city last summer, but had encountered objections from several Harbor Boulevard hotels and businesses concerned how it would impact their bottom line. Disney has been trying to work with them when the new council majority elected in November 2016 moved to make appointments to city commission’s district-based. Councilmembers Steve Faessel, Lucille Kring and Kris Murray called for a phased transition to avoid disrupting the work of the commissions – especially the Planning Commission – and the sudden loss of institutional knowledge. The so-called “People’s Council” majority rejected that compromise and forced the mass resignation of all city commissioners.
The Planning Commission essentially shut down for several months as new commissioners were recruited, vetted and appointed. This predictable and entirely avoidable pause led to Disney taking a second look at its Eastern Gateway plans, ultimately shelving them in favor of the westside Resort expansion.
“This will allow Disney time to determine the highest and best use for each of Disney’s east side properties over the long term,” according to the company’s media materials.
All told, the westside expansion is a major part of Disney’s $2 billion investment in the Resort Area. The new 4-Diamond hotel will create 1,500 construction jobs and 1,100 permanent operations jobs. Contrary, Councilman Jose F. Moreno’s “the Resort creates poverty” rhetoric, these are good jobs that can provide upward mobility for the opportunity-minded.
The hotel will generate $25 million in net incremental Transient Occupancy Tax revenues during the first five years of operation, and more than $1 billion in TOT for the city’s general fund during the next 40 years.