Hotel Workers: Referendum Drive Will Stop Two Huge Anaheim Hotel Subsidies; Rally Aug. 4 @ 10 a.m.




UNITE-HERE workers protesting Disney in a previous local conflict.

UNITE-HERE workers protesting Disney in a previous local conflict.

The group “Citizens for a Better Anaheim” will announce Thursday morning that it will launch a referendum drive to stop two of the three Anaheim Hotel subsidies that were approved by the Anaheim City Council on July 26.  The effort is associated with UNITE-HERE Local 11 and word comes out in a press release under the name of its Secretary-Treasurer, Ada Briceño.  Here’s the meat of the press release.

Citizens for a Better Anaheim seeks vote on two controversial development agreements

WHAT: Citizens for a Better Anaheim is launching a petition signature drive aimed at sending two controversial Anaheim hotel development agreements to the ballot.

Dozens will gather Thursday at one of the proposed projects, the Anaheim Plaza Hotel, to protest the Anaheim City Council’s giveaways to hotel developers. The rally will kick off the referendum petition drive and invite all concerned Anaheim residents to join the campaign.

WHEN: Thursday, August 4, 10:00 am

WHERE: Anaheim Plaza Hotel, corner of Katella Blvd and Disney Way

WHO: 50 union members in red t-shirts; UNITE HERE Local 11 Secretary-Treasurer Ada Briceño

WHY: Taxpayers and union members of Citizens for a Better Anaheim contend that development agreements for the proposed Anaheim Plaza and Anabella hotels are government giveaways to luxury hotel developers—money that could fund schools, roads or other city services that benefit more of the city’s residents.

Critics of the proposed projects add that the public benefits listed in the development agreements are limited and non-specific, despite the proposed projects receiving a 70% rebate on hotel taxes for 20 years. They contend that the current City Council is giving away valuable tax revenue and land use entitlements just before Anaheim’s first-ever by-council district elections, which will radically alter the size and makeup of the Council and likely would have affected the outcome of such significant approvals.

The tax rebates are part of Anaheim’s Hotel Incentive Project, which encourages more Four Diamond hotels in the Resort District.

A Disney development also proposed under the City’s Hotel Incentive Program is an example of how the public could receive more benefits from tax breaks in development deals. The project would guarantee quality jobs because of a prior agreement between Disney and UNITE HERE Local 11, the union that represents thousands of Disneyland cast members.

Citizens for a Better Anaheim is comprised of concerned Anaheim residents and taxpayers and Resort District employees who are members of UNITE HERE Local 11.

I am very glad to see UNITE-HERE push this petition drive, which will need to have about 12,600 signatures turned in by August 25 (although it will seek to exceed that goal substantially just to be safe), in part because a group of people including Brian Chuchua were going to have to do it otherwise — and we are far less equipped for the task.

Some thoughts:

  • This will affect the two non-Disney hotels, the ownership of which traces back to investment groups based in Hong Kong.  These interest did agree to a Project Labor Agreement to satisfy the (mostly temporary) interests of the Building Trades, who have been out in force supporting the subsidy.  They have not shown interest in providing similar agreements — or even accepting a “card check” system, which would enhance the ability of workers to unionize and bargain collectively for their own benefits — with those who would be working at the hotels over those 20 years.  Such workers would likely affiliate with UNITE-HERE.
  • Technically, the “subsidy” is mandated rebate of 70% of the Transient Occupy Taxes on the two hotels for 20 years after each opens, which is anticipated to forfeit about $300-350 million per year of what would otherwise be revenue for the City, controlled by future Anaheim City Councils.  (That the tax money initially does come into the City accounts before going back out allows the City to say things like “a huge percentage of the revenue to the city is from the Resort District,” glossing over the fact that that revenue is not “revenue” in the sense that the City can save or spend it, but that it is earmarked to be returned to the hoteliers.
  • The balance of the $550 million or so expected to be rebated over 20 years goes to the Disney-affiliated hotel.  The Disney-owned hotel does have some sort of at least provisional agreement with UNITE-HERE that its future hotel workers will be unionized.  (The union leadership seems pretty confident about this.)  But the reason that the Disney hotel is excluded from the referendum drive is that the City arranged for the agreement to fund the hotel to be “referendum proof” — in other words, not an ordinance or even a resolution.  This seems fishy to some of us, me included, but as people are not lining up to fund a lawsuit over it it will probably survive — at least for now.  (Could a new City Council rescind the agreement, which already puts another 20% of TOT on Disney-owned property — meaning that 90% in total will be rebated — towards paying debt service on a bond that largely benefitted Disney?  I think that it probably could — but it won’t be easy or straightforward to make that happen.  Hey, are you registered to vote yet?)

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)