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Bonanza Predicted by Disney Report : Long Beach: The theme park and resort would mean a $3-billion shot in the arm to the Southland economy, the study claims. City officials will take a hard look.

October 25, 1990|FAYE FIORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An economic report released Wednesday by the Walt Disney Co. predicts that Long Beach would reap an economic bonanza if the company builds a $2.8-billion theme park there, but Long Beach officials say they are skeptical of the study that seems to promise only riches.

The two-month study by a Los Angeles real estate consultant firm concludes that "Port Disney"--the mammoth project that Disney is contemplating building around the Queen Mary--would mean a $3-billion shot in the arm to the Southern California economy--measuring everything from taxes and new salaries to the profits from dry cleaning Disney uniforms. It would include $81 million in new tax wealth to Sacramento and give Long Beach a bounty large enough to pay for more than half of its police, the report says.

So many jobs would be created by the project that the entertainment giant would take its place behind McDonnell Douglas as the city's second-largest private employer, the report concludes.

But the glowing picture presented by Disney executives was met with a lukewarm response from several Long Beach officials, who say they plan to look hard at the methods used in the study and compare the results with figures being developed by their own consultants.

"Whatever number of jobs they project, are they guaranteeing those jobs? How do we know they'll be there?" asked Community Development Director Susan Shick, a member of the negotiating team that will sit down, probably next month, to begin bargaining with Disney over a proposal that could turn Long Beach into a tourist mecca.

Disney has announced its intentions to build a second West Coast theme park either around the Long Beach waterfront or beside Disneyland in Anaheim, where the company is considering a concept similar to Florida's Epcot Center.

Disney officials say it could be months--or years-- before a decision is made. That leaves the two cities vying for a park sure to mean millions of local dollars in hotel, property and sales taxes at a time when Long Beach faces tough times economically--its naval shipyard threatened by closure and its aerospace industry gutted by layoffs.

Until now, however, no one has predicted precisely how many millions a Disney creation might bring. According to the study by Kotin, Regan & Mouchly Inc., the aquatic park and five-hotel resort in Long Beach, known as Port Disney, would attract 13 million tourists yearly when it was completed in 2010.

However, the study--based almost entirely on numbers provided by Disney--does not address what could be staggering costs for road construction and other improvements--a multimillion-dollar expense that could be borne in part or entirely by Long Beach.

Also, the consultants' figures for the cost of police protection and other city services came not from the city but from an independent research firm.

The study is only the first of many from Disney. Disney and Long Beach have hired teams of consultants to study every conceivable effect of the park, a project so complex it could take three years just to secure the necessary government permits.

Meanwhile, the report released Wednesday shows an impressive profit picture:

* Three-billion dollars in economic activity in Southern California's five counties, with $1.7 billion of it in Long Beach. The economic boost would come from Disney tourist money, spinoff business and the infusion of new salaries created by the park and spent throughout the Southland.

* Nearly $15 million yearly in new taxes for Los Angeles County, with an additional $5.6 million going to the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.

* Nearly $47 million in new Long Beach tax money from spending created or induced by Disney.

* Nearly $4 million in new money for Long Beach schools and $600,000 to local community colleges.

* Nearly 37,000 permanent jobs in Southern California, two-thirds of them in Long Beach. These include everything from hotel housekeepers to the printers who make menus for Disney restaurants. Disney itself would employ 12,400, from entry-level work to executive positions. The rest would be employed in jobs created to meet the needs of Disney tourists.

* Nearly 59,000 construction jobs lasting at least one year.

"It was easy for us to say the project would have a terrific impact on the city of Long Beach and Southern California, but without any data or analysis to back it up, we were just speaking in generalities," said Alan G. Epstein, vice president of the Disney Development Co. Despite Disney's upbeat attitude, Long Beach officials were reluctant to celebrate a project that also threatens to bring to town traffic jams, smog, environmental destruction and noise pollution the likes of which Long Beach has never seen.

"This is the first step in at least a hundred-step process," said Long Beach Mayor Ernie Kell. "We have to decide what to do with the Long Beach Freeway. What's the impact on marine life? What about the cross-town traffic?"

The economic study and Disney's many meetings with the local community might make it appear that Long Beach is edging ahead in its race with Anaheim. But Disney's Epstein said the two towns remain on equal footing, and he noted that the company has spent "many millions" exploring their potential.

The Promise of Jobs Disney contends that 36,700 permanent jobs would be created by Port Disney in Long Beach by the time it was completed in 2010. 21,400 L.A. County: 7,500 Long Beach: 2,500 Rest of Southern California: 5,300 DIRECT JOBS: Those generated by the park and the services it requires, everything from hotel housekeeper to the dry cleaner who presses Disney uniforms. INDIRECT JOBS: Those induced by the park, resulting from increased tourism and other factors.

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