By: Nick Gerda, Voice of OC
Another epic showdown is expected tonight in Irvine, where a historic plan to build most of the Great Park might — or might not — move forward.
It’s sparking passionate debate among residents across Orange County, who disagree on whether this is a smart move or whether the city should negotiate for a better deal.
The last meeting on the issue drew hundreds of spectators and dozens of public commentators.
This all comes after more than a decade of unfulfilled promises and $250 million in public money already spent. Others say that city leaders have failed to fully analyze the true impacts of the proposal and that the city could get much more out of it.
In the end, tonight’s decision is essentially being left to one person, Councilman Jeff Lalloway, who is the swing vote.
Here are some key answers about the decision and how it could impact you:
1. What exactly is the proposed deal?
If approved by the council, private developer FivePoint Communities would pay for and build more than half of the park at an estimated cost of $172 million.
The construction would include a massive sports park, an 18-hole golf course and a canyon and a wildlife corridor, among other features.
In exchange, the city would allow FivePoint to build an extra 4,600 homes on land now planned for businesses.
Those extra houses are expected to give a big boost to FivePoint’s profits. Some residents claim it’s worth as much as $1 billion to the developer.
2. What does it mean for residents?
With city funds for the park pretty much drained, this would likely forge a path toward getting most of the park built within the next few years.
That could mean youth would have much earlier access to its projected 17 soccer fields and 25 tennis courts, among other amenities.
And many say it would fulfill the long-delayed promise of creating Orange County’s own metropolitan park for the 21st century.
But several hurdles have put the brakes on its approval so far, including an unknown cost to the city for inevitable design changes, environmental cleanup and other issues.
3. What are the arguments for and against it?
Supporters point to the depleted city money, saying this plan is really the only option for building the park in any reasonable time frame.
The city has already spent $250 million of about $265 million in funds it had for the park. That’s prompted many to distrust the city’s ability to get the rest of the park built.
Detractors, meanwhile, argue that it would be hugely irresponsible to approve the deal as it stands and that the city could keep negotiating and get a better deal from FivePoint.
Among the issues they cite is the fact that while FivePoint would design and build the park, it wouldn’t be liable for the quality of the improvements.
That would open the city to costly lawsuits, opponents say.
Additionally, they claim the traffic impact of the 4,600 extra homes hasn’t been properly analyzed, given that the official city study found no significant increase in congestion.
4. Does the decision really rest in Lalloway’s hands?
Yes, to a large extent. The rest of the council is split on the plan, and will likely stick to their positions. That makes Lalloway the critical swing vote.
Going into tonight’s decision, he’s indicated that while he likes the overall idea, the specifics still need more analysis before winning his support.
5. How do I get involved?
Tonight’s debate is open to the public, and anyone may speak for up to three minutes on the issue.
Here are the details:
When: Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Where: Irvine City Hall. (Directions)
Free Parking: Next to City Hall off Harvard and Civic Center Plaza. Overflow parking at Bill Barber Park.
You can also contact council members ahead of time through the city’s website.
And if you can’t make it to the meeting, the city plans to stream it live here.
What do you think about the proposed deal? Is it good or bad for residents?
Let us know in the comments.