With the recent COVID-19 “Stay at Home Order” from Governor Newsom, California residents have been forced to remain in their homes, some choosing to stay inside for days on end. Anaheim, the most populous city in Orange County, is definitely feeling the effects of COVID-19. Its love of cars is also being affected by the impact of the virus as well. The City of Anaheim is already considered overpopulated by many, and this problem has created a car parking shortage. The Coronavirus pandemic has made this situation even worse. People are not required to move their cars on a regular basis as they used to prior to March of this year. Folks in this city are trying to “flatten the curve” and are looking forward to normalcy given the wide variety of activities in the city. A relaxed car drive with the family sounds nice.
Many residents of Anaheim and surrounding cities are looking forward to the Orange County Auto Show 2020 in late-September. The car show industry has its roots in Paris, France where the OICA (International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers) was founded in 1919. The organization currently has 39 national automotive industry trade associations around the world. The major players in the automobile manufacturing industry in Europe, America, and Asia are represented in this association. Unbeknownst to most attendees, the OICA advocates for public policies as well. The next time you attend a car show, you can thank the OICA for practices that affect you and your family in a positive way. At the Anaheim Car Show, participants can expect to see Formula Drift Driver Ken Gushi and David Fletcher from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Car brands will show off new models such as the Type S Concept from Acura and Toyota’s TR Supra. There will also be plenty of family fun at the car show. Kids can test drive around the track and engage in a scavenger hunt. There will also be plenty of food trucks available to satisfy hunger and thirst. Impressively, while over the years many auto shows have seen declines in attendance, the OC Auto Show in 2019 actually boasted an increase in attendance. Once the COVID-19 virus is over, the estimated foot traffic will represent between 500,000 to 800,000 individuals!
With regard to Anaheim’s most prominent attraction, Disneyland, I think it’s fair to say that the company’s most recent price increase shocked many residents in Southern California. Disneyland was already charging high prices for the average family. The increase came shortly before the state’s COVID-19 “Stay at Home Order,” so it may be difficult for the company to sustain it once it opens up again. Disneyland’s reasoning for raising prices to such high rates has been to control attendance. But many in Southern California (especially Anaheim, where Disneyland has been open since 1955), know it is about The Walt Disney Company’s bottom-line results for investors. While anxious thrill-seekers in other cities await Disney’s reopening (even with the price increase), many in Anaheim’s working-class neighborhoods are anxious to jump in their car and go back to work. Most will probably steer clear of the Magic Kingdom for a while, focusing instead on activities that will help them pay their bills again.
Once people have income flowing again and have fewer concerns about catching COVID-19, they will undoubtedly begin to attend Anaheim Angel baseball games. Major League Baseball will most likely decide when it’s safe to resume play. These two major entertainment institutions within Anaheim are based upon large crowds coming together. Large crowds magnify the economic impact of the virus within this vital city.
Crowded to the point of feeling overpopulated to many residents, Anaheim already had a terrible street parking problem, even before the stay at home order. Homeowners and renters have been at odds over infringing on each other’s space when parking their vehicles. Homeowners have complained that renters are parking their cars in front of their homes, while renters complain that their buildings have not provided adequate car parking spaces. They have no choice but to park elsewhere. The “Stay at Home” order has only made this situation worse. Besides our residence, our car is our second home given the culture of Southern California. Our car provides us with freedom, adventure, and holds special memories. Not being able to drive to our favorite places has had a psychological impact on many in this community.
Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, like many other cities in California, Anaheim has lost a great deal economically. As residents and business owners are bound to their homes, the city’s expenses continue to grow. Pension debt keeps compounding daily. It may not be able to pay retirement income to people in public service for long without the tax revenue collected from these shuttered businesses. Throughout California, many cities will be forced (if they haven’t already) to lay-off people working for these municipalities. Many people, including recent high school graduates, believe that when they work for a large city that their future earnings are stable. Now that appears to be far from accurate. No segment of American society will emerge from this crisis unscarred. Few in any industry, public or private, will be untouched given the widespread impact of this pandemic. With many people furloughed, cities have probably already assessed public service lay-offs. Loss of income for most folks will only get worse. And for those who were saving up to purchase a car in 2020, most probably already dipped into their car savings. As it stands, paying for food and other immediate necessities are more important. Driving a car isn’t very popular at the moment. Every industry, including the car industry, has been affected in a negative way by what is happening. Buying a used car can help fill this gap even more than before given their relative affordability compared with brand-new vehicles.
However, with all the negative effects of COVID-19, one can’t help but notice the one positive effect that can be seen by virtually everyone, especially in Anaheim. Air quality has improved significantly amidst the pandemic. Smog has cleared up to levels not seen since the 1940s. As recently as 2018, Anaheim saw an increase in unhealthy ozone days, which can cause lung damage because of the caustic gas involved. For those who aren’t familiar with this long-term problem, Southern California has become known for heavy, dense smog. Chemicals created by an overpopulated car industry, power plants, and factory emissions – when mixed with sunlight, increase the ozone layer in the atmosphere and trap toxic emissions in it. Throughout California, skies are much clearer than they have been in a couple of generations as a result of reduced car driving. The fact that most people are not driving their cars has really changed our skies. However, 80% of California’s pollution is caused by activity related to the ports. Large semi-trucks and other heavy vehicles are the biggest contributors to air pollution. The Long Beach/San Pedro port has seen a volume drop of 25% since early February. Although the loss of income and jobs are enormous and will have a lasting effect on our economy for years to come, the air is crisp and clear. Perhaps this is the lone bright spot given the medical and economic consequences of the COVID-19 virus.
Anaheim traditionally has had a lot going on – and will rise again amid the COVID-19 crisis. With all its people and all its economic challenges, one can literally breathe easier knowing there is hope for an even better future. Perhaps people will be more careful when they interact with each other. Occurrences of the common cold might be reduced in the process. Maybe restaurants will work harder to make sure their facilities are cleaner and safer for customers and employees alike. Perhaps the fact that we aren’t driving our car as much will make us realize that we shouldn’t flood the market with more new cars. It would only worsen congestion and exacerbate the already difficult parking problem on Anaheim’s residential streets. Maybe we’d have realized that our used car and public transportation options suffice to get us to where we need to go. And maybe, just maybe, Disneyland will rethink their pricing structure! We can only hope.