Trust, not Verify: Anaheim hasn’t even ASKED for the CSUF DisneylandForward Study.

At Wednesday’s “Informational Workshop” on DisneylandForward, the three superstar economists of Cal State Fullerton’s “Wood Center for Economic Analysis and Forecasting,” who created the economic study, for Disney, that only Disney and themselves have seen, and which Disney is using to justify their gargantuan and controversial proposal – that’s (above) Aaron Popp, (asst. prof. of economics), Adrian Flessig (prof. of economics) and the fabled Anil Puri (DIRECTOR of the Wood Center) – had their own table, and allowed me to take their picture. It would have been a better picture if they hadn’t been hiding behind posterboards of the “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” monkeys.

Just kidding, I added those myself. But they’re appropriate! Not many attendees went to the economists’ table, perhaps having heard (wrongly) that it is a “dismal science.” But the ones who did, asked if they could see the economic study, WHY they couldn’t see the economic study, and why even the City of Anaheim hasn’t been allowed to see that study (the word having gotten around.)

“Ah, but no!” exclaimed Puri, Flessig & POPP, “the study IS available online, you are mistaken!” “Really, where can we see it? Can you help us find it?” “Certainly!” And they directed our friends to… the “9-page Executive Summary” which we’ve all seen, and which is very much NOT the “economic study.”

You’ll be forgiven for clicking on the above link, and reacting, “What? Where is it?” It doesn’t even seem like 9 pages online. There are three subtitles: “Modeling the Disney Magic,” “An Economic Powerhouse,” and “Some Things Can’t be Quantified.” You read it and learn nothing. It is simply a DisneylandForward advertisement, like any you could see on TV these days. We KNOW that Disney is an Economic Powerhouse. We see clearly why Disney goes to the Wood Center to get the results they want. We assume a lot of the figures are exaggerated but can’t prove that with no access to the study. And there is NOT ONE WORD about any sort of negative impacts to the community. (I’d thought there’d be at least a little nod in that direction!)

I asked Anil Puri (whose name Natalie Rubalcava pronounces with reverence) why we and the City can’t see the study, and he answered, “It belongs to Disney because they paid for it, and it contains proprietary information®.” I asked, “What sort of proprietary information, and how much could it have? Can’t that be redacted?” and Flessig snapped, “Not unless Disney says so, and we can’t tell you what sort of proprietary information.” “How many pages is the report?” I asked, hoping to learn at least THAT one thing. “We can’t tell you that either,” crackled POPP.

But one friend of ours did get an important nugget from the celebrated and gregarious Puri, who told us that nobody from the City – not council, not staff – had even requested a copy of the report. They would have to request it from Disney, and then the Wood Center would quickly prepare a version with the proprietary stuff redacted – it would be as simple as Snap, Crackle, Popp! In fact that is the normal course of business – that’s what MOST cities do when they’re being sold an impossibly perfect vision of a new project. That is what a NORMAL city does.

In fact, the only Councilmember to make it to the event, Norma Campos-Kurtz (who is up for her first election in November), told us she just might do that, and well she should. It’s probable that nobody high in the staff, which seems to be following Disney instructions as though they were their real boss, would take any interest in it. Hopefully some Council members would. But we in the public definitely have an interest in poring through that document, to see what might be omitted and/or exaggerated. This is of VITAL public interest, for a proposal dictating the terms we and Disney will be living under for forty years.

And this gives ONE MORE REASON that Tuesday the 16th’s scheduled vote needs to be delayed – we all deserve to see that report, and Council SHOULD want to.

Moving on…

Interlude: Lovely Natalie

The Disney-worshiping YouTubers (who are legion) have indiscreetly spread the rumor that the real reason Disney is in a rush to push this through so fast is just in case Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava gets recalled in June.

What a sticky wicket for Natalie! It seems like if she votes to rush this through prematurely, that WOULD be a good reason for folks in her district to recall her, especially right after she came out against any policies forcing developers to build more affordable housing.

Could she, would she do that, after famously being elected with nearly 400K of Disney money?? Not a real good look, if she did. (You may have noticed I haven’t weighed in on that Recall yet.)

We learn some things…

It’s tricky, a sort of art form, but with the right sort of jujitsu attitude you can actually learn a few things at an event like this, and we did, and it was mostly about Imperial Disney’s insistence on buying (at “market rate”) and closing our public street MAGIC WAY


Just in case you haven’t been following this: Back in the 90’s before the last Disneyland expansion, you could drive down Cerritos all the way across town! All the way from LA County to the 5 and the 57, it was great. Kept a lotta traffic off Ball and Katella too. But Disney’s plans required closing Cerritos at Walnut Street, so to make up for that they agreed to build Magic Way, to get people from Walnut to Disneyland Drive (which used to be just part of West Street) and thence onto Ball and maybe the 5 freeway, thoroughfare of champions! It wasn’t as good as before but it was something.

I’ve started to think that Disney/Anaheim chose the street names “Magic Way” and “Disneyland Drive” just so that citizens would start to assume they belong to Disney. They don’t. They are our public streets. 10,000 cars a day drive on Magic Way. Some of them are Disney employees and customers, but a lot of them are local residents trying to get to the 5 while avoiding Ball and Katella (while also doing the public service of alleviating traffic on those main drags.)

But now Disney wants to take back Magic Way too (and possibly even Disneyland Drive in the future.) They’ve been real sneaky about admitting that too. At first they told us, ah, it’s just a possibility, then they gradually became adamant about it. They started claiming local residents wanted it closed, which was a lie – we haven’t met any that do, and the e-mails to Council asking for it to be closed are copy/pasted Astroturf e-mails from Disney fans around the world who were asked to do that.

So Disney did a quick & dirty “traffic count” on the first four (rainy) days of February, and claimed that, yes, there were 10,000 cars on Magic Way every day but “99% of them are Disney employees or customers,” which is CERTAINLY NOT TRUE, as any amount of observation will tell you. They are claiming then that only 100 cars a day are us locals cutting through to Ball, when you can count that many in half an hour on a weekday morning.

To give you a sense of how cavalier our Disney-loyal City Staff is, on Wednesday David Zenger overheard City Spokesman Mike Lyster (right) tell the KCAL-9 lady it was not 99% but “99.9%” – just casually making it not a hundred but only TEN LOCAL CARS A DAY. Hey! I know all ten of those drivers. In fact I know more. (KCAL decided wisely not to broadcast THAT absurd claim.)

But as I’ve said many times, WHO CARES how many of those 10,000 drivers are or are not wearing dumb little hats, they are ALL STILL GOING TO BE PUSHED OUT ONTO BALL OR KATELLA if Magic Way is closed, making really bad traffic even worse. Add to that the millions more visitors a year Disney is hoping for. Buying those 3 acres at market value does not come close to paying for the impact closing Magic Way will have on us residents.

Back to what we learned at the Workshop.

Where was I? Yeah, the Wednesday “Informational Workshop.” The CITY WEBSITE, which is nakedly trying to sell Disney’s project to the public as though Disney owned our staff, still refers to the proposed Magic Way abandonment as “transferring responsibility to relieve public costs for roadways that primarily serve and benefit Disney,” like Disney is kindly taking this huge burden off our hands. Hogwash. Disney already pays for maintenance of those streets, through the “Anaheim Resort Maintenance District.

Well, on Wednesday Stephanie Mercadante brought this up to Ted White, Anaheim’s disquietingly tall Planning Director who seems to be Disney’s main point man on this project, and Ted awkwardly, reluctantly confirmed that we do NOT currently pay for maintenance of Magic Way, and agreed that the road is not in need of repair and is in good condition. But STILL Disney and City Staff continue to tell us that SOMEHOW Disney would be DOING US A FAVOR by “taking it off our hands!”

WHY does Disney want Magic Way anyhow? A question that has puzzled many great minds, including Cynthia Ward! After all, they aren’t planning to build a structure there, not when they’re leaving access for emergency vehicles and a utility easement underground. So why can’t they share the street with US? Cynthia asked around on Wednesday, talking to (among others) the Gibson guy who appraised the street for Disney. And Cynthia reports back:

“Turns out, while the existing pedestrian bridge on the eastern end by Disneyland Drive does an admirable job of getting their guests safely over Magic Way and into Downtown Disney (while also saving Disney money of the trams they used to provide for many more people) THERE IS ANOTHER PRESSURE POINT BETWEEN PEDESTRIANS AND MAGIC WAY FURTHER DOWN, AT MID-BLOCK! Disney’s guests cross Magic Way mid-block at ground level, and apparently Disney wants to avoid that conflict.” 

Apparently the cost of buying the whole damn road must be cheaper than building a pedestrian bridge over it, so Disney gets to inconvenience the residents of Anaheim to save some bucks. Hey Disney – BUILD YOUR OWN BRIDGE!

And we learned more, much more. Too much to include in this story. And “Aye, there’s the rub.” Council can’t very well vote on this behemoth when we’re all still learning new things about it at the last minute.

Then there’s the Staff…

All the decisions are being made by senior Staff who behave for all the world as though they work for Disney – Vanderpool, White, Lyster, Emami – the same folks who pushed through the one-sided Angel Stadium Sale which was thankfully stopped by the FBI and which got our town so many embarrassing headlines – with the same rush and secrecy.

And why not? Nobody on Anaheim staff got in trouble, got fired or anything. They know where their bread is buttered. Some on Council might care about looking like there’s been any reform since the Sidhu days, but staff doesn’t and why should they?

Let’s see the CSUF Study



About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.