Morris Newman's June Deals column, "Disney Spins Negative Fantasia About Housing," is off the mark, citing misinformation and wrongly taking Disney to task on Anaheim housing issues. As the former director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, and now as President and CEO of the Orange County Business Council (OCBC), I appreciate the opportunity to correct the record.
California communities are required by law to create long-range general plans with extensive public input, hearings, expert advice and ultimately a vote of elected council members, so that residents and businesses know where future homes, businesses and parks should go. The general plan is a blueprint folks can rely upon for their own individual and business planning, reflecting future demographics that are a city's destiny.
General plans should stand for something, particularly in a time when population growth and job growth are predictable with reasonable certainty. In 1994, the City of Anaheim approved its general plan and, as part of it, created the Anaheim resort area — only 5% of the city's land area — turning a blighted area into a world-class resort destination. Relying on that plan, millions of federal, state, local and private dollars were invested in 2.2 square miles, an area that contributes nearly 50% of the city's annual revenue.
Further, implementation of that plan resulted in the Anaheim resort area becoming the fastest growing market in the country for hotel occupancy. Transient occupancy taxes, paid by resort visitors, have more than doubled, from $33 million in 1994 to $80 million in 2006.
As to housing, Anaheim's planning and implementation of its general plan appear to be just as successful, as indicated in OCBC's recently released Workforce Housing Scorecard 2007 Inaugural Edition. After a year's research and academic peer review, we concluded Anaheim is a county leader in workforce housing production — including low- and very low-income housing. Anaheim's housing matches its jobs generation and will likely continue to do so. If only other Orange County cities could be as forward-thinking! The report can be found at www.ocbc.org.
Orange County has lost almost 15% of its 25 to 34 year olds in the last five years. They cite the inability to find a home to start their families as a top issue. They're not just moving inland, but out of state to Las Vegas, Phoenix and Austin. Daily commuters into Orange County are expected to grow to 600,000 by 2025.
We risk becoming a county of aging boomers with ever-increasing traffic congestion for the young who will be forced to travel to "service" us, and we face a county brain drain of well-educated talent to fill high-paying jobs. OCBC contends that to solve this, each city's general plan must be implemented consistent with its approval. Good planning has to mean something.
On August 21, the Anaheim City Council responded to the collection of thousands of signatures by Anaheim residents demanding a public vote be taken to overturn the council's previous position allowing non-resort uses in the lucrative resort area. OCBC contends that "a deal is a deal;" that the 3-2 City Council wrongly ignored its general plan and agreements with the business community; and Anaheim voters should overturn the decision when they head to the polls June 3, 2008.
Anaheim should stay the course because it's working. Keep the resort area as planned, and continue to put housing where the long-range plan says it should go.
- Lucy Dunn, Orange County Business Council