IRVINE’S BATTLE FOR TRANSPARENCY
The Irvine Community Land Trust (CLT) recently approved sweeping changes to its corporation bylaws, drastically changing how they will operate- including no longer following the legal requirements of the Brown Act. The purpose of the Brown Act is to avoid secrecy in government. Our Irvine Community Land Trust was established by the City of Irvine in 2006 and receives the majority of its funding (2.2M+/yr) from the City. The Irvine CLT is important to Irvine because it’s the key entity that creates permanent affordable homeownership & rental housing opportunities. Current Board members are Chair Melissa Fox, Christina Shea, Patrick Strader, Bryan Starr, Leon Napper, Mary Ann Gaido and Nancy Donnelly.
We’ve written to the Acting City Manager asking her to please review these Bylaw changes to confirm that they would provide the proper governance and benefit for the city and it’s affordable housing goals as stated in the General Plan Housing Element. After 12 years of existence, why the sudden movement to distance this very important Land Trust from the City? Where is the discussion with the taxpayers in the community? At this time, it remains our hope that the Land Trust will continue to operate with transparency and in partnership with its founder and funder- the City of Irvine. The City has significant financial transactions and land transfers with this nonprofit public benefit entity as reported on in the City budget. In addition, this Board must file a Conflict of Interest state form yearly with the City Clerks office. We’re also not sure if they will be required under the new Bylaws to disclose to the public their individual financial interests, but given that they manage public investments they should.
Several Bylaw amendments that have our attention have to do with excluding the public from attending Board meetings, and the public right to access public records. Until now, any member of the public could attend the monthly Board meeting and speak during public comment. Future Board meetings will be private and “invitation only”.
Earlier, this Board approved separating the Land Trust’s administrative support and services from the City and redefined the role of city directors. A city director is a City Council member who’s appointed to serve on the Board from the City Council members. The City has always appointed 2 members of the City Council to serve. Last summer the Board revised the process and basically diluted the authority of City. Now the City can only “nominate” vs appoint two members to the Board and the Board may select to fill the positions with members who were not nominated at all by the City of Irvine. It is now possible that the City Council could have no representation on the Board serving on behalf of its residents.
There are also two other Bylaw changes that pose a red flag for the public – this Board eliminated the City’s right to inspect financial statements, documents, records etc, and stripped the City from all project reviews and approvals. You can find the new Bylaws and Budget in this link:
In these times of renewed emphasis on affordable housing, the Land Trust is critically important for Irvine. Given that reality, we think it is important to share these new Bylaws with everyone and voice our concerns.