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?