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How Will the Orange County Great Park be Built without Redevelopment Money?

Posted: 06 Jun 2012 05:00 AM PDT

A while back I wrote about affordable housing in Irvine and the question came up: How will Irvine build affordable housing now that there will no longer be any redevelopment money? However, redevelopment funds are a relatively new invention in Irvine. The redevelopment district was built to aide with the development of the Orange County Great Park. Redevelopment money generated from this redevelopment district was to be used for the Great Park development. So this brings up two questions: Now that the $1.4 billion that Irvine had expected to receive from the redevelopment agency over the next 45 years will not be available, how will the Orange County Great Park be built? And since redevelopment money was not available for past affordable housing development, how was affordable housing in Irvine previously funded? Today I will focus on the effect that the lack of redevelopment funds will have on the build out of the Great Park.

Anyone who follows Irvine politics will not be surprised that a difference of opinion exists among city council members on what this means. Councilmember Lalloway has stated that without the redevelopment funds the current plans will need to be drastically scaled back. However, Mayor Pro Tem  Krom stated on a recent AirTalk interview that she is not willing to lower the high standards that have been set for the Great Park development.  “What we are not willing to do is lower the standards in how the project is developed.” And Krom was quoted in an Orange County Register article as stating that “We will continue to move the project forward by any means necessary. We have succeeded before, and we will succeed again.”

Councilmember Agran concurs with Krom. As quoted from a KCRW interview in another Orange County Register article, “We have faced obstacles before.” And Agran continues, “First, in defeating the proposed international airport; then in negotiating a deal with the U.S. Navy for the sale of the property and its redevelopment.”

Some of the ways that are proposed to continue the development of the Great Park at the same high standards as previously planned are:

  • Build out will take 20 to 30 years instead of 15 to 20 years.
  • More public-private partnerships will be pursued. For example, the Ducks are interested in building an ice rink at the Great Park.
  • Negotiations with Fivepoint Communities Management Inc. will continue.  Fivepoint wants to reduce the amount of commercial development and increase the number of homes that will be built to approximately 10,500 from 4,894. The thought is that in exchange for this concession additional money from Fivepoints is possible.
  • Lease agreements, such as the RV storage leases, will continue to bring in funds. Currently the Great Park receives about $10 million from land leasing.
  • Hosting events, such as Cirque du Soleil and the next Solar Decathlon, will bring in funds.
  • Irvine owns the Great Park land. Although both Agran and Krom state that this is not something that is currently being pursued and will not necessarily be pursued in the future, selling small parcels of land to fund development is an option.
  • Some planned features of the Great Park were contingent on Fivepoint putting in needed infrastructure. Due to the poor economy and Fivepoint therefore deciding to  delay the installation of some of this infrastructure, Irvine’s development of some public features at the Great Park have been delayed. As Fivepoint, a private partner in the Great Park development, puts in this infrastructure, more possibilities for installation of public features will become available.

Last year the Great Park had approximately 600,000 visitors. Some of the attractions that these visitors made use of were the numerous events held at the park (such as the summer music and dance concerts), the weekly farmers market, a monthly green market, the free tethered balloon ride that gives a view of Orange County from about 400 feet, the free carousel ride, picnic and multiuse lawn areas, and the farm and food lab.

A few interesting tidbits about some of these attractions: First, the carousel was once a feature at Fashion Island. After being put in storage, the carousel was refurbished with a Great Park theme and transported to the Great Park. Next, Second Harvest is located at the Great Park. Food from the Great Park agricultural land is donated to Second Harvest. Second Harvest distributes food to various programs that provide food to those in need, including the Sunday Supper program, a  program in which I am particularly interested. In addition, the Great Park owns some historic vintage aircraft including a N3N-3 Canary and SNJ-5. “The N3N-3 Canary is a 1942 World War II biplane used by the Navy and the Marine Corps to train pilots. The SNJ-5 is a 1944 World War II aircraft used to train fighter pilots for the Navy, Army Air Corps and the Royal Air Force.” These planes were obtained for display in the Museum of Heritage and Aviation.

The city council has recently allocated $22 million to build the next phase of the Great Park. Time will tell if the original expectations for the Great Park will be met, fall short, or be exceeded.



 “Great Park to fight on without $1.4 billion,” Brian Martinez

State denies $1.4 billion for O.C. Great Park,” Brian Martinez ()

 “Great Park Lands Two Vintage Aircraft,” PRNewswire

Great Park Seeks to Bring Carousel Back to OC,” PRNewswire

Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy


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