Will county’s planned development south of the Great Park cause regional traffic jams? Cities think so.

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.”

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

O.C. will get interim amphitheater to replace shuttered Irvine Meadows

By Randy Lewis

Music fans in Orange County won’t have to miss a beat when it comes to live music in the great outdoors.

The Irvine City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a plan to build a temporary 12,000-seat amphitheater to pick up where Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre left off in the fall upon ending its 35-year run of major pop, rock and classical concerts.

Promoter Live Nation is partnering with FivePoint Communities Management Inc. to erect the interim facility in time to open for concerts this summer, project officials said Tuesday.

“The Irvine City Council is continuing a tradition that has brought hundreds of thousands of people together for more than three decades in our city,” Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner said after the vote, which elicited cheers from a crowd that had gathered for the meeting.

Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times…

BREAKING: Irvine approves temporary amphitheater near Great Park

By Tomoya Shimura

IRVINE – Orange County music fans will get to continue enjoying their local summer outdoor concert tradition in their own backyard at least for the next three years.

In an effort to replace the now-closed Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, the Irvine City Council on Tuesday, March 14, unanimously approved the building of a temporary 12,000-seat amphitheater adjacent the Orange County Great Park.

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“An amphitheater has been a part of this family fabric for years and years so it was a heartbreak when (Irvine Meadows) amphitheater was torn down for all those apartments,” Councilwoman Christina Shea said. “I drive by there and I see that devastation and it just breaks your heart. This is just so nice to see we’re resurrecting the amphitheater and we can bring all of Orange County to Irvine to celebrate live music and just become a family again.”

The temporary amphitheater could open in late summer, in time for the latter half of the concert season, said Steve Churm, spokesman for developer FivePoint, which proposed the project and is overseeing the development of thousands of homes around the Great Park.

“We’re going to have a couple surprises towards the end of the summer,” said Bret Gallagher, president of concert promoter Live Nation Southern California.

Supporters of the project, donning red “#SaveLiveMusicIrvine” T-shirts, packed the council chamber and the City Hall lobby. They included music fans, concert venue workers and local business and political leaders.

All 21 people who addressed the council spoke in favor of the project. They said the new amphitheater will fill the cultural gap left by the Irvine Meadows closure, create jobs in the area and help put Irvine on the map.

“We are excited for Irvine and Orange County that we will continue to see live music,” Churm said after the public hearing. “I think Irvine Meadows has been a destination for musicians for bands for fans. This will continue it. … (In Orange County) we’ll become a major destination for artists, both starting and very established artists. It’s exciting.”

Continue reading the Orange County Register…

VIDEO: Interim Amphitheater… We Need Your Support!

Irvine Cares Releases Cultural Terrace Poll Results

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Senator Dick Ackerman (ret.)
Monday, February 27, 2017
Phone: 949-207-3339 Ext. 1
dick@irvinecares.org

IRVINE, CA – During the past two weeks Irvine Cares, an educational non-profit has been conducting an on-line poll of Irvine voters to aid the city council with their community outreach effort for the Cultural Terrace area of the Great Park.

The Cultural Terrace is a 250-acre city owned parcel located near the Irvine train station. It is the last parcel of the closed Marine base that requires planning.

The community clearly wants a concert amphitheater with a lake complex (74%) to replace the closed Irvine Meadows facility and an Olympic swimming facility to host USA Water Polo (56%). There is some interest in a BMX/skate board park (31%), water park (26%) and botanical gardens (23%).

Respondents suggested that developers should pay for the amenities (51%). There was some support for a financing mechanism combining bonds, developers, property taxes increases, and a sales tax increase (39%).

At his recent State of the City Address Mayor Don Wagner committed to bringing the 14-year planning process to a conclusion this year with construction of amenities beginning as soon as possible. Since the County conveyed land use control of base to Irvine in 2003, prior city councils spent over $250 million on planning with little to show for the expenditure, including nearly $7 million on public outreach.

Irvine Cares chairman, retired State Senator Dick Ackerman said, “We hope the poll results assist the city council to quickly develop the plans and finally deliver the Cultural Terrace to Orange County’s residents. I believe this is an action-oriented city council that wants to deliver on the promise.”

Over 1,100 replied to our on-line poll that offered respondents multiple options for potential Cultural Terrace amenities including;

  • Concert venue to replace the closed Irvine Meadows Amphitheater
  • Lake and family picnic area near the concert venue
  • Children’s Museum
  • World class Olympic swimming facility to host USA Water Polo
  • Botanical gardens
  • Skateboard and BMX facility
  • Library
  • Golf course
  • Water Park
  • Other (unaided with option to name self-identified use)

After reviewing the results Mayor Wagner said, “I appreciate the good work of Irvine Cares and Sen. Ackerman to provide this valuable community input. The council and I take it to heart. We expect to consider an interim temporary concert amphitheater near the Irvine train station at our March 14th meeting and continue to meet with multiple representatives from different Olympic sports to bring them to Irvine.”

SURVEY RESULTS BELOW

GRAPH: Cultural Terrace Community Survey Results

Respondents could choose multiple uses and offer amenities that were not listed.

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GRAPH: Financing Cultural Terrace Amenities Results

Further respondents were encouraged to suggest a method of financing the projects.
graph_greatpark_survey_results_v3

Irvine is Top Ranked City in Nation for Financial Health

By Tomoya Shimura

Known across the country and even the world for its public schools and safety, Irvine has another item on the list of things to boast about: Financial health.

The city finished fiscal 2015-16 with a $12.3 million general fund surplus, according to a year-end report presented to the City Council on Tuesday. The city has about $41 million in its reserves, or 21.7 percent of the budget.

As a result, Irvine was recently ranked No. 1 in fiscal strength among 116 American cities with a population of more than 200,000, according to the Fiscal Health Index compiled by Marc Joffe, director of policy research for the California Policy Center.

“The obvious thing is, we’re in a very good shape,” newly elected Mayor Don Wagner said. “Our job is to responsibly manage what the previous council and the staff left for us.”

Joffe ranked the cities based on the ratio of a city’s general fund balance to its expenditures; the ratio of its long-term obligations to revenues; the ratio of pension contributions to revenues; change in local unemployment rate; and change in property values.

The top six cities – Irvine, Fontana, Moreno Valley, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana and Glendale – are all in California, followed by Boston, Fayetteville, N.C., Washington, D.C. and Boise, Idaho.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

PHOTO CREDIT: Tomoya Shimura / Orange County Register

LiveNation and FivePoint Propose Temporary Amphitheater

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Gwen Stefani Closes Irvine Meadows

By Kelli Skye Fadroski

IRVINE – Gwen Stefani took the Irvine Meadows stage Sunday night as the concert venue’s final performer, 26 years after her band, No Doubt, first played there as an opening act for reggae artist Ziggy Marley.

“Can you imagine? Tonight is one of the most special nights for all of us,” she said. “We, together, will be closing down Irvine Meadows. This is it, right here … I’m so honored to be from Orange County, and I’m so honored to be with you here tonight to celebrate music. Let’s have some fun tonight. Do you want to?”

And with that, Orange County’s first large-scale concert venue began its swan song. The 16,000-capacity amphitheater, which opened in 1981, will be razed soon to make way for the second phase of the Irvine Co.’s Los Olivos apartment community. The amphitheater, which opened in 1981, sits on land leased by the Irvine Co., with the last of those leases expiring this year.

Annette Galindo of Huntington Beach has worked at Irvine Meadows for eight years, first at the front podium and then at the backstage entrance. She has spent those years saying “hello” and “goodbye” to a slew of artists, employees and stagehands. Sunday night she said goodbye for a final time as the venue hosted its last concert.

“It’s heartbreaking that we’re closing,” she said. “I’ve been saying goodbye all year and realizing that it is literally goodbye. I’m looking at the trees and looking around here and knowing it’s going to be torn down. When I worked out front, I watched Wild Rivers go down, so I know the reality of what’s going to happen here, and it’s breaking my heart.”

Fans turned out early Sunday for the final show.

“We just happened to stumble upon tickets to the last show at Irvine Meadows,” Marty Reichman of Fullerton said.

He was tailgating out in the bed of his truck in the parking lot with his wife, Keely. Reichman added that he usually attended multiple shows each season and that his first show at the venue was Rush in 1982.

“It’s quite the dichotomy between Rush and Gwen, but we’re also just happy to be at the last show.”

Others in attendance Sunday also said that being part of the final show was the big draw.

“We’re here because this is history,” Erin Koury of Dove Canyon said. She showed up with a handful of girlfriends who agreed they would have come to the venue to support keeping live music in Irvine, no matter who was performing.

Continue reading at he Orange County Register…

Photo by Ana Venegas, Orange County Registe/SCNG