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O.C. grand jury report calls for new Great Park development plan

By Matt Morrison, Daily Pilot

The city of Irvine’s stewardship of the Great Park should include a comprehensive 10-year plan for strategic development, construction and funding feasibility, according to the most recent Orange County grand jury investigation into the project’s management.

The report, released Tuesday, is titled “‘Irvine’ Great Park: A Legacy of Hubris” and is the third grand jury investigation of Great Park procedures and operations since the project started more than a decade ago. The report of the first investigation, released in 2006, criticized Irvine officials’ lack of transparency in taking control of the project. The second report, issued in 2010, questioned the project’s financing structure.

With about $250 million in expenditures so far and little of the planned 1,347-acre park completed, the project has been the subject of residents’ discontent and a two-year city audit. The 2014-15 grand jury study was undertaken as an “objective investigation to inform the public as to where the money went, the current status of the park and plans for the future,” the new report states.

Several findings in the report echo those in the Great Park audit released in March. “From the outset, the project was poorly managed and did not follow conventional principles,” the grand jury states. “There was excessive political control, influence and interference.”

On the subject of questionable spending, the report states, “There seemingly was no effective oversight over invoices, contract compliance or quality control.”

Continue reading at the Daily Pilot…

Irvine Great Park plan gets planners’ OK

By Kimberly Pierceall

IRVINE – Developer FivePoint Communities’ earlier approved plan for sports fields, a golf course and trails for 688 acres at the Great Park was given the technical go-ahead Thursday with a 3-2 vote by Irvine’s Planning Commission.

The developer’s plan, approved late last year by the Irvine City Council, required the Great Park’s original master plan designed by New York landscape architect Ken Smith to be modified before the company could seek permits to start construction.

The approval prompted the usual devisive discussion of the Great Park’s development history and merits of Smith’s original master plan (or lack thereof).

Planning Commissioner Harvey Liss called the process of approving the master plan modification after the City Council’s approval of the plan late last year, a “sham” and FivePoint’s plan itself a “complete overthrow and destruction” of the original plan.

Commission Chair Anthony Kuo disagreed with the characterization.

“Frankly, what I call a sham, is calling what’s out there right now a Great Park,” Kuo said.

Planning Commissioner Mary Ann Gaido said Thursday’s approval was another example of helping developer FivePoint boost its home values at the expense of the public. Liss said it was tragic to see a public resource turned over to the needs and desires of a private developer.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…