Save Our Anaheim Resort District Initiative (2008)

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The Save Our Anaheim Resort District, also known as the Disney Ballot Box Zoning Initiative, would remove authority from the Anaheim City Council to make any land-use decision within 2.5 miles of the Disneyland resort area without prior voter approval.

It has been approved for Anaheim's citywide ballot on June 3, 2008. The initiative is paired with a veto referendum that will also appear on the June 2008 ballot seeking to overturn an early 2007 decision by the Anaheim city council to give residential zoning on 1,500 acres in the prime resort area of Anaheim to SunCal, a real estate development company. That residential zoning would enable SunCal to build 1,500 condo units in or near the prime resort area.

With the support of Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle and State Senator Lou Correa, the SOAR Coalition and more than 100 volunteers collected 21,243 signatures in less than 30 days. The signatures were certified by election officials on June 20, and now the City Council can repeal its previous decision or place the issue on the ballot.[1]

SOAR also states that since Disneyland is responsible for 54% of Anaheim's revenue, than Anaheim voters should be able to decide at the ballot box about policy issues that will have an impact on the resort's finances and economic well-being.

Disneyland's role

The Walt Disney company, as of October 31, 2007, had spent $1.7 million on the SOAR campaign, with $402,000 going directly to SOAR. SOAR has received only one other donation, which consisted of $100.[2]

The funding enabled collection of signatures on both the veto referendum seeking to overturn the city council's grant of residential zoning to SunCal, and on the initiative seeking in the future to prevent the city council from making such zoning changes with direct, citywide, voter approval.

The National Petition Management company coordinated the signature collection effort.[3]

Opposition

Opposition to the Disney Ballot Box Zoning Initiative comes from the Committee to Defend and Protect Anaheim which is funded by members of the Anaheim city council and SunCal, the real estate development firm whose planned development is the source of the controversy. SunCal planned to develop 1,500 low-cost housing units near Disneyland, close to a site that Disney had long planned as a 3rd amusement park site.[4]

The Committee to Defend and Protect Anaheim is issuing withdrawal cards so that citizens can remove their signatures from SOAR's referendum and initiative, asking them to "Stop the Disney Takeover."[5]

Petition Collision

There have been two police reports of the groups harassing each other. One was when SunCal petitioners were in the way of the Disney petition table at a local farmer's market. Todd Ament, co-chairman of SOAR, also reported the SunCal petitioners blocking him again when he tried to set up a table.

SunCal has reported similar actions from SOAR. John Lewis, a SunCal political consultant, said opponents show up where petitioners were already stationed. "SOAR people got in their face and tried to intimidate them."[6]

See: Petition blocking.

Status

To date, the issue has spawned three lawsuits, three ballot measures, a threat of a recall and protests at City Hall.[7]

As of November 10th, Lucille Kring, a member of the Anaheim city council, had reversed her original vote. In so doing, she gave SOAR's initiative the majority vote against approving zoning for development near Disney Land. This was based on SunCal backing out of the development planned for the area. SunCal claims that Frank Family (the current property owners) defaulted on the $46 million dollar arrangement and that they conspired with third parties to do it. They are suing the owners.

Despite a majority vote in the council, Mayor Curt Pringle has said that the group will continue to push the initiative forward for the June ballot, giving future decision near that area to voters. He has also been quoted that he will urge the rest of the city council to push the initiative through themselves and save taxpayers the $250,000 it would cost to bring the issue to the election.

Meanwhile the Committee to Defend and Protect Anaheim and other developers in the area have vowed that the initiative is not over. David DiRienzo, the high-rise project's developer, said "This issue was not about one project or one developer," he said. "This is about individual property owners, small and large, who should have the right to pursue the best use for their property. That's what being a property owner in America is all about."[8] The group does not deny that SunCal backing out has hampered the group's efforts, and that they are thinking of pushing back their deadline for the June 3rd ballot.

As of February 21, 2008 the city council has decided that saving $250,000 is not enough to not bring the initiative before votes. The Disney-backed initiative that would restrict the city council land-use powers in the resort area will be on the June 3rd ballot.[9]

Second developer

Derek Baak, one of the developers fighting Disney, has rushed his building proposal through the permit process to make the February vote in order to beat the Disney initiative that will likely be on the June ballot.

In January 2008, now Baak is considering walking away from the project because of bad housing/lending markets after two years of negotiations to buy and develop the five-acre parcel.

"This should be a red flag to all developers and landowners in this city," she said. "To me, it feels like one entity, Disney, is deciding what landowners and developers must do, to the point of [forcing an early decision on] financing a project that is not economically feasible," said Councilwoman Lorri Galloway.[10]

See also

External links

References