The Disneyland Resort is planning a major expansion of its theme parks and is seeking local government approval to begin, the resort announced today.
The proposed DisneylandForward expansion project will not involve Disney acquiring new property in Anaheim. But it will seek approval from the City of Anaheim to allow Disneyland to be more flexible in how it uses its current property. The result could be an expansion of the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks west of Disneyland Drive onto land currently used as parking lots and the creation of a "Disneytown"-style shopping, dining, and hotel district on the site of the current Toy Story parking lot.
"With these updated approvals, Disneyland Resort can continue to invest and be an industry leader in bringing first-of-a-kind offerings to Anaheim, which in turn will create thousands of new jobs and help support Anaheim's funding for important services such as fire, police, and public schools," a Disneyland statement said.
Disney's 1990s agreement with the city that created the Anaheim Resort District currently restricts how Disney can its property, assigning areas for use as theme parks, hotels, or parking. But Disney would like to erase those distinctions, allowing it to create a more "integrated" experience in Anaheim. Disneyland is not seeking public funding for its plans nor approval to add hotel rooms or attractions beyond what the city already has agreed to, Disney officials said.
"We feel completely comfortable with the quantity that we have approved," a Disney official said. "We just need the flexibility to try to deliver on those quantities in different ways."
Concept images shared with reporters showed what could be an expansion of Disneyland into the Downtown Disney parking lot and DCA into the Simba lot. Disney officials said that they are not proposing a third gate in Anaheim but rather an expansion of the existing two theme parks.
Disney officials did not detail any specific attractions that could be included as part of these theme park expansions. But they did cite the Fantasy Springs expansion at Tokyo DisneySea and Zootopia at Shanghai Disneyland as well as the Toy Story Land and TRON Lightcyle Run attractions as the type of projects that could be designed for Anaheim if the parks had additional space for expansion.
As for the Toy Story lot, Disneyland officials suggested that space could become a locals-focused dining and entertainment area, along the lines of the Disneytown area next to Shanghai Disneyland or a plussed version of Walt Disney World's Disney Springs.
But where would guests park, with thousands of surface spaces removed to accommodate these plans? As part of the DisneylandForward project, Disneyland is reviving the "Eastern Gateway" parking garage off Interstate 5 and its connection across Harbor Boulevard to the parks.
That project died after hotels and businesses along Harbor complained that it would cut Disneyland visitors' access to their properties. Eventually, Disneyland instead built the Pixar Pals parking garage to accommodate an expected surge in attendance following the opening of Star Wars Galaxy's Edge. Disney officials expressed hope that a cooperative approach with neighbors and local officials would help win support for DisneylandForward.
"We are not asking for any public funding as we go through with this expansion," a Disney official said. "We are very hopeful that people will see it as a big, bold plan and see the long-term positive impact that this could have in our community going forward."
Today's announcement kicks off what Disneyland expects to be a two-year process to win approval for its proposal. Next steps will include draft and final environmental impact reports and a public comment period before the plan goes up for planning commission and city council approval. People can learn more about Disneyland's plans at its project website, Disneylandforward.com.
Update: For our analysis of DisneylandForward and the potential opposition to it, please see our next post, What's Behind Disneyland's Expansion Proposal?
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