Irvine dedicates, showcases site for Orange County’s first veterans cemetery

By Tomoya Shimura

Military veterans finally will have a resting place right here in Orange County, at the former El Toro Marine base.

That’s the message nearly 300 people, many of whom were veterans, received at the dedication ceremony on Friday, Oct. 27 of a 125-acre parcel near the I-5 and I-405 interchange that Irvine plans to donate to the state for a veterans cemetery.

“This is an acknowledgment of our service,” said Bill Cook, a Vietnam War veteran who heads the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation and has advocated for the cemetery since 1999.

He was among dozens donning yellow “Southern California Veterans Cemetery 2017” caps at the ceremony held in the middle of what is currently strawberry fields but at one time was the end of a runway of the El Toro base.

Continue reading at The Orange Country Register…
Photo Credit: Michael Ares, Contributing Photographer

Irvine ponders development of Cultural Terrace — the last big piece of Orange County Great Park

By Tomoya Shimura

The City Council is trying to figure out how to develop the 233-acre Cultural Terrace, the final major piece of the Orange County Great Park where the city’s considering an amphitheater, a lake, a library, museums and most recently a water park.

Many entities — such as children’s and fire museums and a rafting and kayaking white water park — are lobbying to get their share of space at the 1,300-acre park, which could match the size of Balboa Park in San Diego. The council is tasked with deciding which of those entities should get how much space and what types of land deals to offer, while figuring out how to pay for the development and maintenance of the park.

Continue reading at The Orange Country Register…

Photo Credit: Tomoya Shimura, Orange County Register, SCNG

OC REGISTER: Young the Giant successfully christens the new FivePoint Amphitheatre in its hometown

Thursday night was a big deal for Irvine-based indie rock band Young the Giant, as well as for concert promoter Live Nation, Orange County real estate developer FivePoint and the city as a whole.

Last year, after the demolition of the beloved Irvine Meadows, which hosted 36 seasons of live music, Live Nation and FivePoint made a promise to the community that they would fight to keep live music in Irvine. With some quick thinking, the support of thousands of music fans and the blessing of the Irvine City Council, they were able to keep that promise in the form of the temporary 12,000-capacity FivePoint Amphitheatre, erected just outside of the Orange County Great Park.

Irvine’s mayor Don Wagner excitedly took the stage early Thursday evening alongside Live Nation’s Southern California/Las Vegas president Bret Gallagher and FivePoint CEO Emile Haddad, clearly proud of all they had accomplished.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

OC REGISTER: Irvine veterans cemetery politicking should end now

Can the politicking over the Great Park veterans cemetery end now? The land swap with developer FivePoint that the Irvine City Council approved Sept. 26 offers the best chance for properly honoring our nation’s veterans.

It should be a cause for celebration, but so long as political hay can be made from where to inter our fallen men and women in uniform, you can count on politicians to make it an issue.

Much has been made of it already. The council split over dueling sites after the previous one garnered controversy due to its proximity to homes.

And, just prior to last week’s vote, news broke that “Irvine officials considered giving the cemetery site in phases so the city could use some of it for other purposes, such as hotels and housing,” the Register reported.

Luckily, the council vetoed that absurd idea, and it intends to immediately hand the land over to the state. But the vote remained split, with Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott and Councilman Jeff Lalloway opposing the swap.

But this site has the support of neighbors, veterans, the developer and a majority of the City Council. That is why the politics must end now. And it shouldn’t have been made a political issue or an election year issue in first place. It is about local veterans deserving an appropriate final resting place — and this is the place.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

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…