Posted: 20 Nov 2013 04:00 AM PST
At the November 12 Irvine City Council meeting, a marathon discussion occurred concerning whether or not the City Council should sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Great Park developer Five Point. The MOU would put legal requirements on the City that could lead to lawsuits if these requirements were not fulfilled. The discussion on this issue at this council meeting lasted about five hours. And, yes, I watched the whole thing.
Councilmember Christina Shea was the driving force for a yes vote, at least on most of the items presented. Major Steven Choi was close behind her in the yes category. Councilmember Lalloway wanted to be able to vote yes, but felt that too many legal issues had not been adequately vetted in the documents. And it does seem that vetting the agreement presented by Five Points and negotiating terms that would be agreeable for the City in the time allowed necessitated a rush job for City staff. In fact, it had the City staff working long hours and through the recent holiday. When City Manager Sean Joyce was asked by Mayor Choi how much of the vetting his staff was able to complete in the time allotted, Joyce stated about 90%. Mayor Choi was fine with this percentage. Both he and Five Points seemed to think that is was a reasonable enough percentage to allow for a yes vote. But Lalloway stated that does not meet Irvine’s high standards; he expected 100%.
Councilmember Larry Agran also expected 100%. And he had an even stronger reaction. He held up part of the document that they were all expected to vote on that evening and that had just been delivered that day to the council members. Lalloway said that he hadn’t even seen that document. To which the City Manager replied that the document was emailed to him that day and, therefore, it was understandable that Lalloway would not have seen it yet. In spite of the late notice of changes to the document, Agran managed to read the recently delivered document. He held it up with his many sticky notes that marked areas about which he had questions or concerns. Agran stated that, if the documents were signed as is, it would mean lawsuits for the City waiting to happen. Councilmember Beth Krom also expressed her concerns and opposition to signing the agreement that night (or by that time, it was early morning).
A brief description of the changes that Five Point was asking for that night is as follows: replace the current zoning that allows for commercial development to zoning that would allow for 4,600 additional new homes, do away with some of the area set aside for outdoor use, move the Farm and Agriculture area from its current location to another location, and change the plans which provide for an extensive sports development area to an even more uber sports development area. Five Points is looking for this sports park to draw international sports competitions. This change to the sports park along with the zone change for part of the Great Park from commercial to residential seem to be the heart of Five Point’s desired plan. In exchange for much of this, Five Point would take over many expenses related to development of the Great Park land that currently are the City’s responsibility.
Of the over fifty citizens that gave their opinion in the two minutes allowed to each commenter, they mostly fall, of course, into two groups—pro and con.
The pro group seems to be mostly sports enthusiast and many belonged to sports groups or clubs associated with “Build the Great Park Now.” Some from the business community also spoke for the proposal. Their comments mostly fall into one of these categories:
The con group seemed to be mostly residents without the above mentioned sports connections (and by my impression, there were more of these con commenters than pro commenters). Some of their comments were:
So there are some of the basics. There is always more that could be said, but this will have to do for now. The crux of the matter seems to be, as City Manager Joyce stressed repeatedly, this would be a “paradigm shift” in the way Irvine does business and oversees development.
The City Council will take this matter up again on November 26. Pro or con, if this is a matter that is of importance to you, I suggest you get involved—and soon. Call the City Manager’s office and get the latest documents and details (they seem to be updated daily) on where this matter stands. Call and write your council members and let them know what you think. Tell your friends and neighborhoods about these changes to the Great Park master plan and the possible “paradigm shift” in how Irvine will do business and oversee development. Currently, many in Irvine don’t seem to be aware of these possible changes. And then show up to the November 26 meeting, and let your opinion be known.
Pro or con, take a stand.
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