Great Park’s builder’s good offer needs more scrutiny
I ran for Irvine City Council in 2010 because I care about my community and because I believe that many important decisions in government take place at the local level. One of the most important local issues relates to the future of the Orange County Great Park. While lofty promises were being made to the public about the Great Park, the previous council majority wasted an opportunity to start construction of important features for the benefit of the public.
Our new council majority was elected with a commitment to make real progress on truly creating a Great Park. The proposal from FivePoints presents a wonderful opportunity for the city of Irvine and the residents of our county. After years of delay, we now have a way of building out a large part of the park, as promised to our citizens for many years. This offer will build 688 acres of the park, with such features as: 17 soccer fields and a soccer stadium, seven baseball fields and six softball fields, 25 tennis courts and a tennis stadium, 11 sand volleyball courts and a volleyball stadium, an 18-hole championship golf course, several multiuse sports fields and a variety other recreational uses including biking, hiking and more. This is in return for granting FivePoints the ability to build an additional 4,606 homes.
I am excited to be able to vote in favor of this project. I look forward to casting that vote.
However, at the time that this complex proposal was brought before the council, it was clear from both the city staffs report and their presentations that they had time to conduct only a partial analysis of the impacts of this offer. In short, more work was required. In fact, the staff report highlights several areas that require “further discussion” and that their review is still a “work in progress.”
Areas requiring more analysis include such critical components as the design features, construction progress, and potential city liabilities. Separately, there are significant policy issues concerning public access to the park, as well as operating and maintaining the park amenities.
Irvine is a world-class city. One of the reasons for our outstanding character is our commitment to the finest planning process in the country for a city of our size. Indeed, the reason FivePoints is able to sell all their homes is because of the desire of people from all over the world to live in Irvine. New residents invariably tell us that one of the reasons that they love our city is that we have no major problems here – we have everything properly planned out – from our streets, to our schools, to our home development to our parks. We need to continue that fine tradition of planning properly for everything we do, including new villages and our public features.
Jeff Lalloway is Irvine mayor pro tem and chairman of the Great Park board of directors.