Disneyland, the Eastern Gateway, and the lessons of the Bonaventure Hotel
The Disneyland Resort is planning to build a major new parking garage on the east side of Harbor Boulevard, adding 6,800 parking spaces and creating a new "Eastern Gateway
" to the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks. Disney's plans call for visitors parking at the new garage to go through security there, then walk to the parks and Downtown Disney via a pedestrian bridge over Harbor. And that's moved neighboring business owners to protest
Business owners on Harbor have launched a website to publicize their complaints with Disney's plans. Chief among them: The bridge, as envisioned in Disney's concept art, is an eyesore; it lacks directs pedestrian access to the street (more on that in a moment), and that by cutting pedestrian access to Harbor the bridge will hurt businesses on the street, cost the community jobs and ultimately, might violate laws and regulations designed to protect against urban blight.
Disneyland clearly needs to add parking capacity, as anyone who's sat through Friday evening traffic around the resort during its busiest months can attest. With Star Wars land coming in a few years, and perhaps more Marvel-themed attractions soon after, millions more fans will be visiting the Disneyland Resort each year by the 2020s. If Disneyland does not provide new ways to accommodate those visitors' entry into the resort, Anaheim and the surrounding communities will suffer even worse traffic problems.
Disney has clashed with its neighbors in the past. Walt Disney famously decided to buy tens of thousands of acres in Central Florida so that the Walt Disney World Resort would not have the "across the street" neighbors that Disneyland had in Anaheim. Walt didn't like the visual mis-mash of diners, motels, and souvenir shops that bordered his Magic Kingdom in California.
But in the years that followed, Disneyland and its Harbor Boulevard neighbors have worked together on many occasions, as well. In the 1990s, when Disneyland was considering building its DisneySea theme park in Long Beach, the City of Anaheim worked with Disney and its neighbors to craft zoning rules for the "Anaheim Resort," which established rules for uniform sign sizes and styles, while improving the traffic flow and decoration of area streets.
The irony? Disney's go-it-alone plan in Florida led to a car-dependent 20th-century-style exurban development, while cooperation in Anaheim created something much more like the 21st-century, pedestrian-friendly development that communities across the country are trying to encourage. So it's in Anaheim where you find the real "prototype community of tomorrow."
Conflict over pedestrian bridges and car-focused urban planning is nothing new in Southern California, however. Just look up the highway to downtown Los Angeles to see what happens when demand for public spaces changes.
The Bonaventure Hotel was one of several major projects built on Bunker Hill in downtown LA in the 1970s, as that area was transitioning from a neighborhood of Victorian homes into the urban skyscraper canyon that it is today. Like many commercial developments of that era, access to the Bonaventure was designed for cars, first.
Well, actually, pretty much for cars only. The front entrance to the hotel was a driveway, leading visitors toward a receiving area inside the garage. Want to go across the street to neighboring developments? Take one of its pedestrian bridges. (Hmmm, sounds a bit like the Eastern Gateway, doesn't it?) To the sidewalks of downtown LA, the Bonaventure presented little more than solid walls. This was a hotel designed for people driving in from places afar, and not for whatever bums might be walking around the neighborhood.
But, as the years past, Los Angeles built a subway system, people moved downtown, and pedestrian traffic on downtown's sidewalks grew. Projects such as LA Live and the Walt Disney Concert Hall brought people to either end of Bunker Hill, and many of them spilled out into to the neighborhood. Bars, clubs, and restaurants opened all over downtown, revitalizing nightlife. And other hotels opened, attracting people who wanted to stay in the heart of the action.
The Bonaventure stood apart from all that, however. Ensconced inside its urban fortress, the Bonaventure found its postmodern design a disadvantage against its new competition. So, a few years ago, its management caved. It ordered a multimillion dollar "about face," to reorient the hotel toward its "back door" pedestrian entrance and to open up its design to the surrounding sidewalks.
If you tried to get a 1970s-style, car-focused project like the old Bonaventure approved today, LA would laugh in your face. As would hundreds of other communities across the country. You'd better bring some accommodation for pedestrian traffic and sidewalk life if you want to create a successful urban commercial development today.
With recent projects such as Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street, Disney has shown its understanding of the value of welcoming public spaces. (And I'll have more on how Disney is promoting that concept in another post, tomorrow.) Disney's new Eastern Gateway should welcome all fans, regardless of whether they choose to drive to the resort from their homes or walk from a nearby Harbor Boulevard hotel.
And it will, even if local businesses feel the need to stir up public pressure on Disney to help ensure that happens more to their liking. (Because... hey, it's business.) Disney's plans already call for continued pedestrian access to the resort directly from Harbor's sidewalks on the west side of the street, even if all the new parking garage guests will flow over the street via that bridge. But let's hope that the final design looks better than the concrete canyon at street level that the current concept art suggest.
No one wants to the Anaheim Resort to become another 1970s downtown LA. At least, no one should.
The problem with the bridge is Disney rigidly designed it at 65 feet width. Happens to be the same width of the purchased hotel property. This means the public cannot access Disney's security apparatus from the Harbor sidewalk using Disney's property. Disney forces the public to enter an undetermined new route, which could be from Katella or Manchester or insisting on an easement from McDonalds or the Harbor hotels back entrance.
I like articles about urban planning and density. But maybe because I'm not familiar with the Disneyland property or the Bonaventure Hotel, it's hard for me to wrap my head around this, since there are no photos in this post.
Thanks for a trip down memory lane. I used to stay at the Bonaventure for work back in the 80s. It was nothing but a confusing maze of overpasses 4 stories in the air. Without smartphones it was so easy to get lost since the passageways had no connections to the street names far below. I don't remember if you could even get to real street level without walking through the parking garage.
The overpass idea has been simmering for years. I'm not a fan of the design ether but from what I see and understand security is THE huge issue and that makes since. I have no idea how much Security costs Disney but any one involved in security work knows...Narrow the entrance and funnel people though points. What this shows me is they are expecting security issues ahead of time. The porus system that exists today may not work for long. I think considering that this may be it.
The "Say No To Disney" website is not particularly persuasive (or easy to read). They claim that the bridge is "out of character" and it will cause "aesthetic dissonance" that will lead to "urban decay". But, they fail to provide any pictures.
From a legal perspective, the merchants/hotels along Harbor Blvd. know they have raised nuisance claims, but their end goal is to delay construction. If they can cause a construction delay they feel all power will revert to them.
Honestly, this seems to be less about the parking structure and more about pushing the property values of the Harbor Blvd. businesses down. Ultimately, Disneyland needs to expand, and those property owners know that. Disney is creating leverage for a future buyout situation.
"If they can cause a construction delay they feel all power will revert to them."
How will Calexit affect these plans?
The use of legal language means what? Until they file a lawsuit, a delay is impossible. The city can always delay given the political pressure. The website is a PR attempt, but I doubt the public will step up for tourists. Tourism is the city's responsibility. The new city council is more about protecting the residents of the city and less about taking sides in a dispute between Disney and the Harbor businesses.
Disney is one of the world's largest corporations, right? So what if they over pay for some hotels and McDonalds and Panera and whatever else is around them? Buy them up. Demolish them. Use that space for improvements.
The Anaheim City Council is comprised of candidates preferred by the Mayor that is less concerned with Disney.
This has nothing to do with aesthetics and everything to do with the fear that some of the businesses along Harbor Blvd have about the new bridge and security gate hurting their business. Probably for good reason.
@24: You're in no position to ask for facts since you appear to not be in possession of any. The previous Anaheim City Council gave away many Disney specific incentives including no admission taxes for 30 years with an additional 15 year extension in exchange for $1 Billion plus $500 million of spending. This happened after Disney already announced its Star Wars Land expansion. The hotel giveaway occurred well after Disney already opened the Grand Californian Resort. Why must Disney be further incentivized for projects it already intended to do? Anaheim can't revoke its agreements for the approved projects. If you don't care to consider the current political reality of the city council, you're terribly misinformed.
You omit facts. You didn't bother to repeat the $1 Billion plus $500 Million investment requirements to ensure no admission taxes are imposed. Disney was already going to spend the money so it seems like the City Council needed to find a reason to preclude the tax. No tax will be on the table for 45 years even after the City Council changes members with a new political mix that's less kowtowing towards Disney.
It's capitalism for Disney to avail itself to whatever the government is willing to give, but why tie itself up for 45 years? I would say the current city council will maintain the tax break, but even the mayor didn't want to tie up its hand for 45 years. Since the last 15 years of the agreement will not take effect for years, they can always change their minds before the terms comes into play. That's what the government can do.
@Gabriel "I just think it could have Disney characters on it, or at least vines and foliage. But some Mickey head shapes at the very least, would be nice."
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