By Jordan Graham
Orange County’s plan to develop 108 acres just south of the Great Park into a massive commercial and residential complex has drawn concerns from officials with several local cities and transportation agencies, who believe the project could clog roads and spawn gridlock not only in Irvine but in communities and freeways bordering the project.
The cities of Tustin, Laguna Beach, Lake Forest and Irvine – as well as the Orange County Transportation Authority and CalTrans – lodged traffic-related complaints or comments in their official responses to the county’s plan to construct 1.9 million square feet of office space, 2,103 housing units, 220,000 square feet of commercial space and a 242-room hotel on its Great Park-adjacent land. Those official comments were submitted late last year and reviewed recently by the Register.
When the county released its plan in November, revealing that its development would add as many as 47,000 average daily vehicle trips to the region, Irvine City Councilman Jeff Lalloway threatened that his city might sue the county over the proposal, saying the project was a detriment to his city’s residents and roads.
But according to representatives from nearby cities, those traffic impacts might be felt beyond just Irvine.
OCTA and CalTrans stated in their responses that the additional traffic generated choke the I-5 freeway’s Sand Canyon Avenue on-ramps and off-ramps, jamming nearby intersections and the freeway itself. CalTrans asked the county to coordinate with the agency to find a fix for the perceived problem.
Tustin officials worried that the city’s surface streets might become popular shortcuts for people trying to avoid backups on the interstate. They pointed out that under the county’s plan, physical improvements to I-5 freeway ramps could be completed as late as 2035 – likely long after the development is constructed.
Lake Forest representatives said the project would put some of the city’s intersections in near constant traffic jams.
And Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig said the development’s new residents and hotel tourists would take a toll on his city’s beaches, parking and roads when they visited the complex’s nearest beach city.
“The (county’s plan) does not describe the overall impacts to recreation, public services and recreational weekend traffic that will occur as a result of adding approximately thousands of residential units to the Great Park with increasingly limited public recreation facilities in the area to serve them,” Pietig wrote. “The County Board of Supervisors may not approve the project until an adequate revised (plan) is prepared and is re-circulated for public review and comment.”