Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva is co-authoring legislation to hasten the safe re-opening of California theme parks such as the Disneyland Resort, which is the biggest employer and tax revenue generator in Orange County. Quick-Silva introduced the bill with Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares.
The legislation, AB 420, would apply state re-opening guidelines equally to large and small theme parks, and allow them to re-open within the “Orange” Moderate Tier 3 instead of the more difficult “Yellow” minimal Tier 4.
Currently, most California counties, including Orange County, are in the most restrictive Tier 1 or “Purple” tier. If enacted into law, AB 420 would substantially accelerate the re-opening of the Disneyland Resort.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the state’s theme park industry, which has been shutdown for nearly a year. The Disneyland Resort has laid off 32,000 cast members. Local businesses that depend on the Resort have either closed or are barely hanging on. The shutdown has blown a $100 million hole in the City of Anaheim’s treasury, which is heavily dependent on tax revenues from its tourism and convention business sector.
For months in 2020, theme park companies were practically begging Governor Gavin Newsom to release re-opening guidelines for their facilities. Although, the Newsom Administration had release operating guidelines for virtually every other economic sector, it wasn’t until late October 2020 that it finally issued rules under which theme parks could re-open.
Those rules allowed small theme parks to re-open under the Orange Tier 3, but prohibited large theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios from re-opening until their counties had achieved the Yellow Tier 1.
Currently, not a single county is in the Yellow Tier 1. 54 of the state’s 54 counties are in the Purple Tier 4 – the most restrictive.
The guidelines were widely criticized as effectively keeping theme parks shut until late 2021.
Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock blasted the rules as “arbitrary” and “unworkable,” saying they ignored that Disney had “proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world.”
All other Disney theme parks – including Walt Disney World in Florida – have been operating since last summer.
“These are not guidelines for re-opening,” said Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ament at the time. “They are a death sentence for the thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs that depend on our theme parks.”
The Disneyland Resort has laid of tens of thousands of workers in the wake of Governor Newsom’s shutdown orders. Last fall, leading economists projected a continued shutdown would result in massive job losses.
“Now, more than ever, we need to strengthen our resolve to care for each other and to create clear and proper tiers to ensure the safety and health of our community and businesses,” said Committee Chair, Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva. “Through collaboration with industry leaders, responsible and safe tourism can be used as a pathway to recovery.”
“We deeply appreciate Assembly Members Quirk-Silva and Valladares for their leadership and for introducing legislation on Safe Theme Park Reopening,” said Erin Guerrero, Executive Director, California Attractions and Parks Association. “Worldwide, theme parks have proven they can reopen responsibly while protecting the health of guests and staff. Science and data show it can be done. California should allow theme parks to reopen responsibly in the Orange – Moderate – Tier 3.”