Disneyland, the self-proclaimed "Happiest Place on Earth," would spread a few smiles around the battered Southern California economy if it successfully pulls off a $3-billion expansion in Anaheim. But the enormity of that task is signaled by a phone-book-size draft environmental impact report that seeks to come to grips with daunting traffic and air quality problems.
When Walt Disney brought Mickey and Donald to an orange grove in the 1950s, it could not have been possible to imagine fully the extent of the coming exurban sprawl. Growing Southern California surrounded an entertainment park that was at first only a distant destination. The Walt Disney Co. later applied lessons of its California experience by controlling more real estate up front at Walt Disney World in Florida.
So now Disney wants to retool the grand old theme park in Anaheim by expanding in a city that threatens to choke it, and in a region that limps along with the state's worst traffic. In effect, by working in partnership with its host city, the goal is a one-of-a-kind, Disney-style urban renewal project. Because of the heavy traffic--an expected 26,698 vehicles on a "peak day" in the year 2000--the draft report considers such air quality control ideas as buying pollution credits under a strategy approved by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
The implications of the undertaking are considerable, not only for the city but for the region. The Santa Ana Freeway already is undergoing a massive widening project, and Congress recently appropriated $14.2 million in federal highway demonstration project funds for car-pool ramps that would whisk visitors into Disney's new, futuristic parking garages. A moving sidewalk to connect with a planned elevated urban rail system near the freeway is envisioned. If it all comes together, Tomorrowland inside the park will be a precursor of what's outside.
That's a big \o7 if\f7 . The Disney executive in charge of expansion acknowledges that the cost of the new Disneyland Resort is so high as to threaten it. Anaheim still doesn't know how much it will have to kick in, and the mayor-elect rules out using existing revenues. Construction, though a temporary nuisance, will create dust, noise and traffic.
But the potential long-term benefits in job creation and economic stimulus for the region are worth the problems involved. The concerns in the environmental impact report, of course, must be addressed, notwithstanding the obvious difficulties. And the project should move forward.