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Disney Alters Parking Plans for O.C. Resort

April 17, 1993|MATT LAIT and CHRIS WOODYARD | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

ANAHEIM — Yielding to the concerns of surrounding residents and businesses, the planners of the proposed Disneyland Resort said Friday that they have completely redesigned what would be one of the nation's largest parking structures.

But the city of Anaheim and the Walt Disney Co. made no further major changes in the $3-billion project, despite scores of letters from the public expressing concern about traffic congestion, housing and pollution, according to a final environmental impact report released Friday.

That release marked another milestone in a project that Disney promises will boost the local economy and create thousands of jobs in Orange County.

Deputy City Manager Tom Wood said the study shows "that the project can be successfully constructed within an urban environment and still remain environmentally sensitive."

Although Disney said the report has adequately addressed potential trouble spots, it has agreed to a modification of the west parking garage to make it less obtrusive to neighbors. These refinements will cost Disney about $6 million more, said Kerry Hunnewell, who heads the project team for Disney.

The structure was going to be oblong in shape, fronting Walnut Street, with 10-lane ramps leading directly to the Santa Ana Freeway. But because of community concerns about the mammoth 16,700-space parking structure, Disney has agreed to change the shape to a square, reducing its frontage on Walnut. The company will also add soundproofing and terracing to make it less of an eyesore.

The new design will require moving the proposed position of one of the resort's three hotels.

The environmental impact report, which is technically a city document, was produced largely by private consultants and paid for by Disney. As required by state law, a public hearing on the report will be held April 28. After that, City Council approval is required before construction may begin.

The expansion would include three new hotels with a total of 5,600 rooms, a companion theme park to Disneyland called Westcot Center, a 5,000-seat amphitheater, a retail district ringing a six-acre lake and pedestrian walkways. The resort would also have two of the nation's largest parking structures.

A project of this scope has never been undertaken in an urban environment, and Disney officials said they have painstakingly tried to mitigate the impacts. Nonetheless, Disney officials conceded last November when the draft EIR was released that the project will result in "significant" environmental impacts, from air pollution and traffic congestion to the loss of agricultural land.

Several businesses bordering the project have expressed fears that the project will harm them. For instance, Odetics Inc. officials worry that the vibration from the east parking garage next door could hamper their high-tech manufacturing of products, from robots to satellite data recorders. The owner of the Days Inn on Ball Road says dust from construction of oversize freeway off-ramps could shoo away hotel guests who want to lie by the pool.

Some residents Friday were still upset over the placement of the mammoth parking structure, despite the changes in the plan.

"The only thing that will make us happy is if they move the darn thing," said Curtis Stricker, the president of a homeowners association on Walnut Street, near the proposed structure. "We are opposed to the project as it is proposed. Everyone in this neighborhood is."

Disney officials said Friday that they are concerned that significant opposition to the project could kill it. Already, Hunnewell said, the resort is "teetering on the edge" of economic feasibility and could fail for a number of reasons.

Hunnewell, who is vice president of the Disney Development Co., said several groups, in particular the city of Garden Grove and Anaheim's own school districts, were laying the groundwork for court battles.

"It's a road map to litigation," said Hunnewell of comments made by Garden Grove and the school districts. "It's potentially a project killer."

Garden Grove had spent more than $145,000 to review the project and submitted more than 100 comments complaining that the EIR was too vague about traffic congestion, availability of affordable housing and other areas. The cities of Orange and Stanton had similar concerns.

The consultants who prepared the final report replied in the text that they believe that Garden Grove's concerns are adequately addressed and that no further mitigation is required. Garden Grove city officials could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the various cities, eight school districts also responded to the draft EIR. Some charged that Disney had underestimated the impact that the project would have on school enrollment and the necessity for additional schools.

They want Disney to contribute more money to them than is required under state law. Under that law, Disney must pay 27 cents for each square foot of development, totaling about $2.5 million, as stated in the final EIR.

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