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Disneyland's renovation plan gets environmental review

Helen Li, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

The Walt Disney Co.'s long-term plan to upgrade and renovate its Anaheim theme park and resort has reached another milepost with the release of a report that details how the project will affect the environment.

Anaheim released a 17,000-page environmental impact report on Sept. 14 for DisneylandForward, which aims to squeeze more attractions, shops and restaurants into the resort's existing 490-acre footprint.

While the four-year construction phase will have significant but unavoidable effects on noise pollution, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions in the surrounding community, it won't negatively affect transportation or neighborhood aesthetics, the report concluded.

To proceed with its plan, Disney must receive approval from Anaheim to rezone various areas of the resort for mixed-use land development. An environmental impact report is required for any new construction to ensure that Disneyland complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act. The goal is to disclose a project's potential effects on the natural and human environment and efforts to mitigate them.

To date, Disneyland has not put forth any specific construction plans, but has cited Tokyo Disneyland's Fantasy Springs' Frozen Kingdom and Shanghai Disneyland's Zootopia-inspired expansion as examples. An "Avatar"-themed experience may also be part of the lineup.

"We cannot even begin to design at that level until we get the guidance of what we can and cannot build," Rachel Alde, vice president of development for Disney Resorts, said at a press reception on Thursday at Disneyland's headquarters.


The report, which was funded by Disney and commissioned by the city of Anaheim, analyzed 16 areas of potential impact during construction and operations, including energy, water conservation, cultural resources, wildlife and greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Joe Haupt, chief executive of real estate development firm Spectrum Development Group, the report assumes a "worst case scenario" of what could happen. An acoustic engineer, for example, spent two weeks in the park collecting sound profiles to model on a computer how a shift in design could affect noise pollution.

Disney cited key mitigation measures, including installing 12-foot-tall noise barriers and prohibiting aerial firework shows west of Disneyland Drive and in the Toy Story Parking Lot area. To address visual aesthetics concerns, Disneyland will implement a "360-degree architectural design" to improve public views from adjacent residential properties.

When Disneyland's first environmental impact report was conducted in 1993, greenhouse gas emission estimates were not required under California law. Since then, Disney has taken steps to reduce the carbon footprint of park employees' commutes. With DisneylandForward, the park plans to invest in additional pedestrian bridges, another parking structure and a new transportation center to mitigate traffic.


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