Anaheim officials have decided to push the state to help reopen Disneyland sooner rather than later.
As of Tuesday, California counties must reside in the least restrictive COVID-19 tier, known as the minimal tier, for their large theme parks to resume operation. Orange County has remained in the most restrictive reopening tier, known as the widespread tier, since Nov. 16.
California counties are assigned one of four tiers that are determined by COVID-19 testing positivity, case rates and health equity, with the first tier being the most restrictive and the fourth being the least.
The Anaheim City Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday to support a state assembly bill that would alter the reopening guidelines for theme parks. The bill would allow large theme parks to reopen in the moderate tier instead of the minimal one.
Unlike large amusement parks, such as Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, small ones are currently allowed to reopen at 25% capacity in the moderate tier. The bill, introduced by California Assembly members Sharon Quirk-Silva and Suzette Martinez Valladares, would allow all theme parks, regardless of size, to do the same.
Mayor Harry Sidhu said that the safe reopening of Disney parks is essential for the city’s economic recovery as thousands of people could return to work and small businesses near the park could rebound sooner.
“Nobody is saying we want to reopen Disneyland today,” Sidhu said. “This legislation does not seek to change the tiers. It only expresses that large theme parks with the bigger footprints and significantly greater resources to establish safety protocols should be able to open in the same tier as the small parks.”
Mayor Pro Tem Stephen Faessel said he’s always wanted theme parks to reopen when the time was right and that the assembly bill goes in that direction.
“It’ll help us get our people back to work. Our residents or workers in the resort district have been hit very, very hard by the pandemic. I believe we can open responsibly, responsibly and safely, while also protecting the health which is most important of our staff and guests,” Faessel said.
Council member Jose Diaz said he supports the assembly bill not for Disneyland or the hotels but for the 260,000 jobs that the region and the industry supports. He said he is concerned about the truck drivers, mechanics, electricians and warehouse workers who need to provide financially for their families.
In 2018, Disney spent $1.5 million to help Sidhu and Councilmen Jordan Brandman and Trevor O’Neil win their council races.
Council member Jose Moreno was the only person to vote against the resolution saying while he appreciates the concern for the local economy he is extremely worried the council can’t put its entire focus on public health.
“If we urge legislation to allow theme parks to open of any size, we’re basically saying that COVID is in the same context at Adventure City in Stanton as it would be at Disneyland,” Moreno said.
The councilman added the city would be urging the state to let 25,000 to 35,000 visitors to come to Anaheim every day and 10,000 employees to serve them. He said the council should urge state legislators to focus on investing resources and policies on the health crisis instead.
Moreno said that hopefully federal and state stimulus dollars can support resort workers and small businesses and suggested the city pull $4 million from Visit Anaheim’s bank account to sustain them for a few more months.
Visit Anaheim is the advertising bureau of the resort and convention center industry in the city, which is typically funded by a self-imposed bed tax from the resort hotels.
“But if we would, if we lessen the criteria, we put ourselves in harm’s risk again.” Moreno said. “Let’s just stay strong and stay focused,”
Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said in October that he thinks the county will enter the minimal tier this summer, meaning under the current state guidelines, the Disneyland Resort will likely not reopen until then.
The next Anaheim City Council meeting is scheduled for March 9.