Disney reveals more plans for its new California community

September 13, 2023, 1:25 PM · The first phase of Disney's next real estate development will include more than 300 homes, with a third of them designated for buyers ages 55 and older, Disney said today.

Last year, the company introduced its "Storyliving by Disney" concept, which it will develop first with Cotino, in Southern California's Coachella Valley. You can catch up on what Disney has announced for this project in our previous posts, Disney Announces New Residential Real Estate Business and Disney Embraces IP for California Real Estate Development.

Today, Disney Signature Experiences announced that Cotino will offer three different single-family, detached home collections:

Cotino site map
All images courtesy Disney

Disney also released a site map for the "first chapter" of the Cotino development (above), noting the Longtable Park Residences that will be designated for homebuyers aged 55+. Those homebuyers will have exclusive use of Cotino's Longtable Park.

Longtable park

Disney also released a concept image for another park in the development, Laughing Place Ranch, "designed to celebrate Walt's love for horses with an equestrian-themed dog park featuring separate play areas for small and large pets," Disney said in its press release.

Laughing Place Ranch park
Laughing Place Ranch dog park

Disney said it anticipated Cotino to begin accepting pre-sale appointments "to discuss additional details including floorplans, home designs and pricing" later this year. Disney and partner DMB will begin the initial phase of residential development on Cotino's northwest corner, which borders Gerald Ford Drive and Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage.

"We're thoughtfully and intentionally bringing elements to the community to encourage camaraderie among neighbors while also using our renowned Disney placemaking to weave the essence and beauty of the Coachella Valley into the fabric of the community," said Claire Bilby, senior vice president and general manager of Disney Signature Experiences Emerging Businesses. "Alongside the developer and builders, we're creating a special place where residents will have a distinctive lifestyle that can only be found in the Cotino community."

Okay, that quote is gonna send me off into commentary land. Buckle up.

If Disney really wants to build a model community, it should pay as much attention to whom it sells as it does to what it sells. America is suffering through one of the worst housing crises in its history, while it remains awash in empty and under-occupied homes. People are priced out of housing because corporations and investors are buying a huge percentage of the homes on the market, only to keep them empty, put them up for rent at outrageous prices that leave them empty, or to offer them for short-term rental that, again, leaves them empty for a large percentage of time.

I understand that Disney's primary reason for building Cotino and developing the Storyliving concept is to make a buck - or, more accurately, a ton of bucks. To do that, Disney does not need to look at anything beyond a potential buyer's ability to pay.

But with its two previous real estate developments, Disney at least has gestured toward the idea that the people who buy there should actually live there. Disney implemented restrictions prohibiting short-term rentals in both Celebration and Golden Oak. (Though, I know, those are frequently violated, especially in Celebration.) I would love to see Disney enact a short-term rental ban in all Storyliving communities, as well.

And if anyone feels inclined to ask, yes, I support a nationwide ban on short-term rentals in all areas zoned for residential housing. Restrict short-term rentals to areas zoned for that and other commercial uses. If a resort community wants to zone specific areas for use as Airbnbs and the like, go ahead. But residential zones should prohibit short-term rentals by default. That's an essential step toward reducing investor demand that drives up the price of housing for all new buyers.

But if Disney really wants to build communities in their Storyliving developments, rather than just make a cash grab, it needs to bar sales to corporations, private equity funds, and even individual investors. The most efficient way to do that is to implement covenants that ban any rental of any Storyliving property. Then sell these homes only to individuals or couples who actually will live there.

Of course, that would substantially reduce demand for Storyliving properties, cutting the amount of money that Disney stands to make on them. So I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen. Instead, I expect Storyliving by Cotino, when it opens, to be yet another investor-owned ghost town that serves only as temporary rental housing for Coachella and Stagecoach, or the occasional wealthy old Disney fan who just wants to check it out.

And that won't be a community, no matter how Disney tries to spin it.

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Replies (7)

September 13, 2023 at 1:49 PM

I just don't understand the reasoning behind this business model. I get Disney's desire to diversify and to solidify its reputation for high quality theming and "placemaking", but ultimately what is the financial strategy here?

Do they plan on all units to be rentals or some type of co-op/condominium where Disney maintains ownership of the real estate? If that's not the case, the only revenue they get out of this is the initial sale and whatever licensing agreement (and continuing use/improvement agreement) that is established allowing for a continuous flow of revenue from fees and occasional improvement projects. What happens if this development degrades over time, or the attention to detail is neglected by residents and caretakers? While some of those aspects can be mandated through agreements and neighborhood boards, it still means Disney would need to monitor and ensure the neighborhood maintains its key differential elements that warrant the inevitably high sale prices. That sounds like a lot of work and some substantial risk Disney would be undertaking for what is a minimal return from the initial property sales and regular assessments/fees.

This seems like a project that looked smart on paper, but is unlikely to yield much to the long term bottom line. In turn, Disney could take a massive black eye if this does not meet the standards people are expecting (which will probably be on the lines of current deluxe resorts), or those standards cannot be maintained without continuous increases to property assessments.

September 13, 2023 at 2:14 PM

I think we are probably going to disagree on housing and zoning policy, if simply due to the fact that the “short-term rental market” I think has a largely overstated in its effects on the housing market. Hotels have successfully outcompeted with AirBnb now and we are already seeing (rightfully) a lot of regulation in that market. I also disagree with the concept that America is “awash with empty and under-occupied homes.” Yes, there are plenty of empty homes in Rust Belt cities, but the issue with housing in America has almost been driven by lack of supply, over-stringent zoning regulation, and a lack of density in some of the most urban areas of our country. There are barely any empty homes in LA county, and many of the ones that are are largely unfit for occupation. I think we will agree that it would be preferable that huge corporations are not the ones developing and building throughout the country, but at the same time, I think the single family home owner in San Francisco blocking any new development is just as much a problem.

As to why I think Disney is doing this, I think it is for the same reasons that Apple created Apple TV+; it is an expression of how powerful the brand is. Apple literally decided “oh, we have such good aesthetic taste in everything from design and marketing, that we could probably go into an unrelated business and make some of the best aesthetically pleasing stuff on the market there as well!” And to their credit, they did. They didn’t do it because they needed the revenue. They didn’t do it because it was the most obvious synergy for the brand. They did it because they could and wanted to.

Similarly, Disney has proven to be a world leader in creating enjoyable and meaningful spaces, whether in their parks or in their resorts such as Aulani. I think that Disney, as a brand, is deciding “oh we are so good at making creative and fun spaces, that we could literally go into a metro area that isn’t directly tied to our parks and make a great community there.” Yes, there is an obvious growth opportunity there, but it is also to continue to build the prestige of the business.

Lastly, America is notorious for having some of the most uninspired and soul crushing master planning. I’d be innately interested in seeing a company as creative as Disney take a stab at trying something new.

September 13, 2023 at 2:49 PM

As George Carlin would say: its a club, and you aint in it lol.

September 13, 2023 at 4:25 PM


At a time when Disney has forgotten how to make successful movies, they might want to focus up.

September 13, 2023 at 4:34 PM

it's hilarious to me that they're in the process of de-splash-mountaining their United States parks while also naming an actual park "Laughing Place" in this development.

September 13, 2023 at 10:54 PM

@jacob hahaha, and Zip a Dee Doo Dah plays from speakers throughout the neighborhood.

The old people who can afford to live here are just fine with Splash Mountain as it was.

September 14, 2023 at 11:59 AM

No offense to anyone from Coachella Valley, but why are they building this in Coachella Valley?

As a Southern California resident, Orange County or the Inland Empire seem like much better options. Even cheaper parts of LA and SD counties are much much much closer to the heart of Southern California and Disneyland itself than Coachella Valley. Coachella Valley is just so far from everything and so unbelievably hot that I can't imagine the value of this community is being maximized by placing it all the way out there.

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