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Disney wants voters to decide land use

Anaheim resort and its tourism allies are trying to put on the ballot their opposition to any home development. The tactic surprises city officials.

March 20, 2007|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

Keeping up a full-court press, Disney and tourism officials announced plans Monday to seek a citywide vote to block developers from building homes in Anaheim's resort district.

The election plan is the latest in a series of aggressive steps the entertainment giant has taken to prevent a 1,500-unit condo-apartment complex, and others like it, from taking shape near Disneyland and California Adventure.

Disney, which last month sued the city to block the project, has been unbending in its position that the area be reserved for tourist-related uses such as hotels, time-share units and, ultimately, a third Disney amusement park.

At a press conference Monday, Disneyland President Ed Grier said the ballot initiative represented "a permanent solution to protect the resort." The initiative would require Anaheim voters to approve or reject any land-use changes within the 2.2-square-mile resort district. "This ballot issue ensures the resort will remain a world-class destination, and it puts the residents in charge of the future," he said.

But Disney's announcement was immediately complicated by the state's ruling Monday that an Anaheim councilwoman -- who abstained from weighing in on the housing proposal last month -- can vote on the matter. The determination is critical, since the plan failed when the council split 2 to 2 on the project. Lucille Kring's would have been the deciding vote.

The ruling clears the way for Kring to vote -- as soon as this evening -- to bring the housing plan back for a second hearing. Two council members, Lorri Galloway and Bob Hernandez, have already indicated they would vote to rehear the project. Kring indicated she would too.

It was unclear whether the referendum would trump any council decision to rehear, or even approve, the housing plan.

Kring had abstained after Disney attorneys suggested that a wine bar she planned to open nearby could affect her ability to vote objectively. But the Fair Political Practices Commission said Kring had only signed a "nonbinding letter of intent" that did not obligate her to lease space in the GardenWalk development and should be permitted to vote. If Kring signs a lease, the commission said, the issue would have to be reexamined.

As the debate over the resort district has grown, so has the divide between city leaders and Disney. Some said they were caught off guard by Disney's plan to push a ballot referendum.

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, who has proposed a compromise solution that would allow some housing in the resort district, said he was generally supportive of the ballot initiative. "The community feels the protection of the resort as an economic engine to the city is vital," he said.

For the most part, Disney and Anaheim have enjoyed a cozy relationship since Disneyland was built more than 50 years ago. But the housing proposal -- which would include some low-cost units -- has thrown the city's largest employer and Anaheim officials into a rare public feud.

dave.mckibben@latimes.com

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