Get an inside look at FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine before it opens Oct. 5

By Kelli Skye Fadroski

Orange County-based developer FivePoint and Los Angeles-based live events producer Live Nation have made good on their promise to keep live music in Irvine as the new FivePoint Amphitheatre will officially open on Thursday, Oct. 5 with performances by Irvine’s own Young the Giant and Southern California natives, Cold War Kids.

Though certainly nothing can replace the legacy and memories locals have of Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre – which was demolished after 36 years of performances immediately following two evenings with Gwen Stefani, Young the Giant and Save Ferris in October 2016 – FivePoint and Live Nation made it a priority to continue live music in Irvine and with the approval of the Irvine City Council constructed a 12,000-capacity venue which borders Irvine’s Great Park.
Continue reading at The Orange County Register…

Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register, SCNG

STUDY: Irvine is nation’s 3rd most-prosperous large city while Hemet ranks 8th most-distressed small town

By Jonathan Lanser

While thumbing through a new study tying limited regional economic success to diminished well-being across the nation, I stumbled upon this local nugget:

Irvine ranked as the third most-prosperous city among the nation’s 100 largest, according to the Economic Innovation Group’s math. Conversely, Hemet was ranked eighth-worst among small cities.

This think tank’s research combined federal government and U.S. Census Bureau economic and demographic benchmarks, through 2015, to show “place-based disparities in the American economic experience.”

High among economic winners was also Gilbert, Ariz. (No. 1), and Plano, Texas (No. 2). Two other California cities — San Francisco (5th) and San Jose (8th) — made the largest cities’ Top 10.

But the same scorecard saw Hemet as the eighth most-distressed small town nationwide and Stockton as the eighth worst large city.

These rankings were not just another “listicle” designed to titillate or celebrate success. The data-heavy yardstick meant to show disparate life in the nation, featuring a “distressed communities index” dividing ZIP codes nationwide into five ranked slices. The highest 20 percent were dubbed “prosperous” and the bottom “distressed.”

Irvine, for example, had 81 percent of its residents ranked as prosperous. And, by the way, California’s 45th congressional district, centered around Irvine, ranked sixth nationally for prosperity when the study was sliced by House of Representative communities.

Hemet got its low ranking because, among other factors, the study showed 100 percent of its residents in distressed conditions. Youngstown, Ohio, was the most-distressed small town.

As for big cities, California’s Stockton made the bottom 10 with 70 percent of its residents in distressed ZIP codes. Cleveland ranked last among the giants with a distress level of 90 percent.

By this metric, Southern California scored reasonably well at the county level. Orange County was ranked prosperous, Los Angeles and Riverside counties were second-tier “comfortable,” and San Bernardino County was in the third “mid-tier” rankings.
Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

Photo Credit: Nick Agro

Santana: OC Vets Cemetery in Irvine Stuck?

By Norberto Santana, Jr.

The effort to site a federal veterans cemetery in Irvine may have hit a snag.

And veteran leaders are livid.

Earlier this year, veterans agreed to swap a 125-acre parcel already dedicated as a veterans cemetery by the Irvine City Council, for a similar-sized lot near the 405 freeway, currently used as strawberry fields.

Or so they thought.

This week, as preparations began for next Tuesday’s Irvine City Council meeting to finalize the transaction, city staff apparently started communicating some heartburn over the details of the deal — which involves developer Five Points, 125 acres of land they own and $10 million to help fund the first phase of development for a veterans cemetery, which will utilize 25 acres.

So what happens to the other 100 acres over the next century while the cemetery is built out?

That, it seems, hasn’t been thought out.

Yet the answers could blow up the whole deal.

Now, as is usual in government circles, some city officials want to have this entire discussion next Tuesday behind closed doors.

That would be wrong.

First off, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal.

California’s open meetings laws only allow closed session discussion of public sector real estate deals when the discussion involves price and terms of the transaction.

That’s already been decided.

What’s up for debate now, it seems, is what happens to the rest of the idle public land as the veterans’ cemetery gets built out.

That’s a legitimate policy question council members should indeed explore and answer…in public.

I’ve heard many different takes on the issue – which doesn’t seem as resolved as many thought.

There also apparently are significant challenges with the negotiations involving Five Points and city officials as well as issues regarding how the $10 million will be paid out.

Irvine has legitimate reasons to be cautious about how the land is transferred.

Note that the city is in the middle of a legal dispute with the County of Orange on a nearby 100-acre parcel – with county officials playing with all sorts of different uses – including a civic center, a water park, a homeless shelter and housing – for the land tract.

Continue reading at Voice of OC…

Best of Orange County 2017 winners celebrated at Anaheim gala

By Jonathan Winslow

ANAHEIM — Orange County’s finest places to eat, shop and play, as chosen by Orange County Register readers, were honored in a celebration Wednesday, Sept. 20 at the City National Grove of Anaheim.

Best of Orange County, an annual publication of the Register now in its 24th year, collected 120,000 votes in nearly 100 categories this year. Topics included the wide-reaching, such as the best city to live in or the hottest places to eat and shop, to the very specific – the best places to buy new blinds and shutters, for example.

BEST OF ORANGE COUNTY: See the full list of winners

The evening’s awards were presented by a host of local celebrities with close ties to Orange County – including Olympic swimming gold medalist Janet Evans; co-star of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop,” Christina El Moussa; star of Bravo TV’s “Real Estate Wars,” Joele “JoJo” Romeo-Watson; Irvine-based recording artist Skylar Stecker; renowned marine life artist Wyland and Chef Amar Santana.

Big winners of the night included the City of Irvine being voted the best city to live in, with Orange reigning as the king of downtowns.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG

No-growth NIMBYism comes to Irvine

This notion of “if you don’t build it, they won’t come” that has seemingly permeated local residents and their representatives is a fallacy. The state, and county, are in the midst of a housing crisis that NIMBYism won’t solve. They’re already here. We need housing.

But NIMBY no-growth measures continue to be pushed across Orange County. Irvine, a national model for meticulously planned development, is apparently not immune.

According to the Register, “Karen Jaffe and Arthur Strauss, on behalf of Irvine for Responsible Growth, recently submitted to the city ‘An initiative to give the people of Irvine control of their future.’”

“If this initiative passes, developers would have to get voter approval for any project that adds significant traffic, 40 or more housing units or 10,000 square feet of non-residential use and requires general plan or zoning changes,” the Register wrote.

To be sure, no one likes sitting in traffic and the peaceful enjoyment of your home is certainly something worth protecting. But initiatives like these don’t promote “responsible” growth. They promote no growth at all. They add months, if not years, to the development process, increase costs, add uncertainty and perhaps drive away new development — even where it is not opposed.

They are an excuse to make our housing crisis someone else’s problem, and many of the problems that the anti-development crowd hopes to solve by not building actually seem to exacerbate the issue. It artificially reduces housing stock and inflates prices, incentivizing building and density, and puts more cars on the road, and for longer, as people must buy homes farther and farther away from their places of employment.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG

Irresponsible Irvine

By Irvine City News Editor

On Aug. 14 the Irvine City Clerk stamped as “received” a proposed November 2018 ballot initiative that, if passed, many fear would bring progress to a halt in Irvine, ending an era of almost full employment and economic vitality in the city that has lasted since the Great Recession. 

As proposed, the ballot initiative would require new Irvine businesses, buildings and civic improvements of almost any size and importance to be voted on and approved by a majority of Irvine voters in the next scheduled election, or in a special election funded by the business owner.

Under the proposed anti-growth scheme, any project in the city that would include a change, modification or amendment to the zoning code, or to the city’s general plan, or a specific or overlay plan, could not be approved by the city’s elected representatives, but would have to be voted on by residents. 

If, that is, the project adds a mere 40 dwelling units, 10,000 square feet of non-residential space, or 200 additional daily car trips to the city’s housing and business centers. (Editor’s note: nearly every project of any size or significance in Irvine would be included in the voting requirement, as defined by the proposal.)

The result could be skyrocketing rents, loss of jobs and development-based business, loss of proposed affordable housing projects, lawsuits with the city as defendant, and the potential loss of previously agreed future donations of open space that are linked to development entitlements. 

And for those who think the election season is complicated enough as it is, with mail boxes filled with candidate slates and initiatives, imagine if Irvine residents had to study and vote on a dozen or more proposed new businesses and other developments?

The proposed initiative has other troubling elements hidden in the details. For purposes of counting trips towards the 200 additional trips threshold triggering a public vote, those who drive SUVs and other large vehicles are counted twice: “Any vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating greater than 6,000 pounds shall be counted as generating two trips for every trip attributed to this sized vehicle.” 

While encouraging more economical and sustainable methods of travel may be admirable, it’s hard to see how a planner or business owner looking to build and expand in Irvine could know how many customers or tenants might have big families or otherwise need larger vehicles.

The proposed ordinance kindly excludes new hospitals and schools from its draconian limits, but what about churches, museums, nonprofits, community centers and the like? 

The ordinance also excludes “affordable housing requirements required by state or federal law,” but doesn’t take into account the reality that almost all affordable housing being built or proposed in the city is linked to and incentivized by the approval of market-rate housing.

The proposal also notes that “this ordinance shall not be applied in a manner that would result in an unconstitutional taking of private property.” Without adopting the arguments of those who think any zoning or land-use restrictions are a form of taking, if landowners are prohibiting from a reasonable use of their property, resulting in an inevitable diminution in value, isn’t that a taking?

Continue reading at Irvine City News…

FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine postpones its opening until October

By Kelli Skye Fadroski

Mega live-events company Live Nation announced Wednesday that it will postpone the grand opening of its FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine.

Originally scheduled to kick off on Saturday, Aug. 26 with Irvine’s own Young the Giant and Cold War Kids, which also formed in Orange County, the show has been moved to Thursday, Oct. 5.

Aside from the date change, the debut performance will still feature Young the Giant and Cold War Kids. Tickets issued for the original date will be honored for the rescheduled date. However, those who prefer to get a refund for their tickets may do so at point of purchase.

Other previously announced shows – including 95.9/FM’s The Fish Family Night on Friday, Oct. 6 and JACK 93.1/FM’s 12th Show on Saturday, Oct. 7 – are unaffected by the push back and will still go on as scheduled.

“Providing artists and attendees with a premier event experience is paramount to FivePoint Amphitheatre and the venue has chosen to shift the opening to accommodate unforeseen construction needs,” a press release issued Wednesday afternoon explained.

“It was always intended for 2017 to be a shortened season,” a spokesperson for Live Nation added. “In 2018, fans can expect a full season of concerts.”

Since local music fans were instrumental in getting the 12,000-capacity temporary venue unanimously approved by the Irvine City Council back in March via the Save Live Music Irvine campaign, Live Nation continues to see that support from the public through FivePointe Amphitheatre’s various social media platforms.

Since Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre was demolished last October, the new venue is slated to serve as a temporary solution for the lack of an outdoor concert venue while permitting and details for a larger, permanent structure within the Orange County Great Park are being worked out. Currently, FivePoint Amphitheatre will be located at 14800 Chinon in Irvine, next to the Great Park.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

Irvine’s Great Park sports park with soccer stadium and fields, tennis and volleyball courts opens Aug. 5

By Tomoya Shimura

IRVINE — The Orange County Great Park, which some mockingly have called “not-so-great park” for its limited amenities, will soon get a huge boost.

The city on Aug. 5 will host a grand opening of the first phase of the 194-acre Great Park Sports Park. The public will be able to enjoy activities at new facilities including a 2,506-seat soccer stadium (with berm seating for additional 2,500 spectators), six soccer fields, 25 tennis courts and five sand volleyball courts on 53 acres opening that day.

Watch the aerial view video of the latest Great Park development.

When completed, the sports park will also feature six additional soccer fields, 12 baseball and softball fields and lawn areas large enough to accommodate five more soccer fields.

The sports park is the first major facility to open at the Great Park since a newly elected City Council in 2013 decided to change the course of the park development.

Councilwoman Christina Shea said the Aug. 5 opening marks the beginning of many more features that will come to the Great Park in the next few years.

“It’s a big park,” Shea said. “It takes time to grow. … Now that all that infrastructure is in there, we are starting to see the fruit of the development.”

The city has so far developed 200 acres of the land. Amenities include the Great Park balloon, a carousel, visitor center, kids rock play area, walkable historical timeline, a Hangar 244 event center, an arts complex, horticulture area and sports fields.

The 1,300-acre former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro site owned by the city could match the size of San Diego’s Balboa Park when fully developed.

The new sports park is part of the 713 acres developer FivePoint is building for the city in exchange for approval to build more than 4,600 homes adjacent to the park. That portion will also include an 18-hole golf course, trails, agricultural fields, playgrounds, open space and a wildlife corridor.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

Irvine will hold exclusive talks with Wild Rivers to open at Great Park

By Lou Ponsi

IRVINE — A 30-acre water park, complete with an uphill water coaster, water slides and lazy river, is a step closer to making a monumental splash at the Orange County Great Park.

The Irvine City Council, acting as the Orange County Great Park board, on Tuesday, June 27, approved an exclusive negotiating agreement with Wild Rivers, LLC, to build and operate the water park at the Great Park. Wild Rivers would be in the 250-acre Cultural Terrace, in the southeast portion of the park.

Once a popular summer attraction in Irvine, Wild Rivers closed in 2011 after 25 years in the city, when the lease with the Irvine Co. ran out, giving way to the Los Olivos apartment complex.

Exclusive negotiating agreements are common in partnerships involving significant projects, a staff report noted, and a first step in moving negotiations forward for major projects. Mayor Donald Wagner and council members Melissa Fox and Christina Shea voted in favor of the agreement. Lynn Schott and Jeffrey Lalloway were absent.

The next step, due to be completed in the fall, involves preliminary site planning and first draft of a lease. That phase, which could be completed by summer 2018, involves an environmental review of the site and final lease agreement.

Construction could also begin by summer 2018 and the water park could be open by summer 2019, the staff report said.
Wild Rivers CEO Mike Riedel first approached city officials about moving to the Great Park the year Wild Rivers closed. Last year, rather than granting Wild Rivers a no-bid contract, the council decided to seek more proposals.

Two proposals were submitted, including one that consisted of three separate water parks.The parks would have been: Wild Rivers; a 20- to 25-acre rafting and kayaking whitewater park by Western Whitewater Works and S20 Design and Engineering; and a 15-acre surfing lake by Surfloch.

After the second proposal didn’t meet the city’s requirements, the council approved a motion to go forward with the Wild Rivers proposal.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…
PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Krauss

OC REGISTER: A ‘win-win-win’ for veterans cemetery

By Editorial Board

The Irvine City Council made the right call last week when it voted 3-2 to go with developer FivePoint’s proposal for a veterans cemetery that offers the best chance for properly honoring our nation’s veterans.

Or, as Peter Katz, an Army veteran and member of the Orange County Memorial Park Committee, told the council, “The costs are cheaper. The access is easier.”

The FivePoint proposal, for which the company has volunteered to fund the first phase, is spread across as much as 125 acres, fittingly straddles Marine Way and contains a host of proposed amenities for honoring our fallen men and women in uniform. The site would include a veterans memorial on the side facing the I-5 freeway. Its proximity to the freeway allows ease of access for visitors and a solemn reminder of the price of freedom to those passing by.

The previous site was controversial because of its proximity to homes. This alternative site has the support of both residents and the veterans group formed to push for a cemetery.

It makes better financial sense, too. The state announced late last month that it would only contribute $30 million for the project at the other site, leaving Irvine residents to cover a $50 million difference.

“The Irvine council’s decision is a win-win-win for the city at large, our communities and, most importantly, our veterans who deserve a special place to honor their own that is worthy of the service they have given this country,” Emile Haddad, chairman and CEO of FivePoint, said in a statement.

But critics have pointed to unknowns in the plan, and repeated the tired notion that the council is “giving away” the Great Park.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…