The IBC Vision: No Longer 20/20
In 2010, a previous city council had the vision for a vibrant, mixed-use urban core called the Irvine Business Complex (IBC) to offset the villages and Great Park neighborhoods. One aspect of that vision has been executed upon with great success – the approval and building out of all IBC residential units. But after 8 years, one must ask: Why isn’t our current leadership delivering and following ALL the framework that was laid out? For example, the IBC is choked with bottlenecks and lack of progress in acquiring and building parks and open space.
According to the 2010 IBC Vision Plan, this regional urban center was to include “an interconnected system of streets, bikeways, trails, connecting parks and urban plazas”. This system was to make this high-density urban center livable and connected – not a cluster of tightly packed sterile buildings and cars. Where are the usable open spaces and people plazas today?
Despite recent claims the current Council has not approved any development, our planning commission and leaders have in recent months greenlighted some big-ticket items in the IBC. These items include a 15-story office building, a 15-story hotel, and a large 6 story parking structure for the 23,000 square foot retail and restaurant expansion at the Diamond Jamboree center. Bypassing alternatives that would have toned down the size of these projects. Also, what is conspicuously absent? Any of the bikeways, connecting parks, etc. mentioned above. Where is the balance?
Most residents agree our parks are highly coveted and a source of pride. In addition, in the IBC, the stipulation is that developers pay park in-lieu fees for 2 acres per 1,000 residents. While many of the new high-rise buildings offer wonderful private amenities like rooftop pools, fitness centers, outdoor pool tables or swing sets, etc., these are no substitute for public green space and community gathering areas. The build out of Irvine at exponential speed must include a pump of the brakes when the resident to acre ratio gets so out of sync.
The IBC was a laudable “out of the box” move approved by the city council in 2010 to transition the southwestern business district into a mixed-use residential/ industrial urban core. The goal was to have many of the residents who live in the IBC also work there (think of the traffic mitigation). It is truly a regional hub for all of Orange County and extends over 2,700 acres.
The Master Plan allows for 16,921 residential units to be built in the space. Consistent with that plan and developer interests, 98% of those residential units have been approved and/or built. The developer park fees have been paid. Yet, in contrast to the Master Plan and residents’ interests, no parks have been built.
Why hasn’t the city been able to acquire or build a new park in the IBC? Although this has been on the radar for many years, the already high – and escalating – cost of land is a real problem. In fact, the appraised value for land in the IBC is $4 million per acre, but in actuality is currently selling for over $6 million.
Still, the City has money reserved in the IBC Park funds. Rough estimates are $45,450,000 for Community Parks, and $12,800,000 for Neighborhood parks. City standards for the IBC require 1 Community park south of the 405 freeway and at least 6 new neighborhood parks. But by delaying, the cost of building them only rises.
This Spring, after years of discussion and approval of an IBC park master plan, the Council hired a real estate consultant to identify park sites and solutions. Apparently, creative ideas and partnerships are on the table as well as securing indoor space for recreation and community needs. We are anxious to see the results and report out.
Still, the Watchdog wonders why it is less of a priority today. Given the rapid greenlighting of all the residential units, why hasn’t this city council demanded the infrastructure and park development keep pace? It is likely due to a lack of accountability.
So, while the IBC vision was approved in 2010, the only piece executed upon to date has been the maxing out of residences. The rest apparently remains on “hold” in the Council chambers, including all of the park fees sitting in the bank, as real estate values keep climbing.
The City Council is scheduled to receive a status report on the General Plan update project on August 28th. This update will reevaluate the objectives and policies in the IBC Vision Plan. The IBC traffic study update is also underway, and a draft should be ready by the end of this year or early 2019. We encourage voters to pay attention to the results of these reports and studies and demand we get the comprehensive IBC vision back on track.
Jeanne Baran is an Irvine resident.
Karen JaffeAugust 13, 2018 at 7:15 am
One of the city council Candidates- Lauren Johnson-Norris is the community services commissioner and has actually shot down a project with a park over a Funder backed project with no community amenities. Think long and hard about tour vote in November. She was stewarded with this Community Services task. How has she done? Will she execute on council if she hasn’t on commission?
Susan SayreAugust 14, 2018 at 12:39 pm
Irvine’s General Plan states that each village or planning area is to provide supportive infrastructure for the members of it’s community,including parks, and community recreational facilities to be enjoyed by the immediate and surrounding communities. IBC is lacking community parks and recreational facilities that would serve to encourage community interaction within IBC, As IBC is a mixed use community, both residential and commercial, parks and recreational facilities would not only benefit the IBC residential community; it would also benefit the commercial community as well. It is the job of the Planning Department, the Planning Commission, and the City Council to ensure that the provisions of the General Plan are complied with. People move to Irvine for the exceptional quality of life that exists in every community. The funds are available; so let’s give the IBC an exceptional quality of life and build them the community parks and recreational facilities that they deserve.
Bill CookAugust 15, 2018 at 12:01 pm
How many golf courses can Irvine use or need? More than FIVE? (Rancho San Joaquin, Strawberry Farms, Oak Creek, Shady Canyon, Tiny Tees) Build the Veterans Cemetery actually in the Great Park now! On what was to be yet another redundant Irvine Golf course.
• What traffic? No corresponding FivePoint development to further congest Irvine streets!
• What land-grab-give-away? It’s already city land, no nasty swap scheme or back-room deals with FivePoint!
• What freeway noise? Tucked in the tranquil heart of the Great Park! Where we wanted it in the first place.
• What greedy developer profits? FivePoint won’t make a dirty dime while they continue to build the Great Park, per agreement.
• Without all the grossly expensive problems of ARDA! Happy residents! Happy taxpayers! Happy Veterans!
Ex-30 year mayor and councilman pseudo-czar Larry Agran says in his CityWatch (August 2018 Fishwrapper, page 3): “Certainly, the Veterans Cemetery is more important than the $25 million golf course ….”
Any reasonable Watchdog must agree.
KarenAugust 15, 2018 at 8:14 pm
The issue with the golf course is a) it was a part of the amenities for 4500 homes swap with 5 Point. so if they are relieved of their duties of developing an amenity for Irvine, then they need to give back the value of the 4500 entitlements that they received in return otherwise it’s just another gift to them. Alternatively, they can agree to develop the ARDA site into another amenity in return. I don’t get anything for free, why do they? b) per government documents, the golf course was meant to generate over $5.4m annually in revenue, how is this going to be replaced.
There seems to be a lot of protection around the ARDA site for the benefit of 5 Point. Must be really valuable to them for the city to go through all of these machinations.
Bill CookAugust 16, 2018 at 11:21 am
What is the value of ARDA, that 125 acre site by unhappy residences and schools, severed by Cadence Blvd, with capped toxic dumps and an immovable FAA antenna array, and NOT in the great park (as the Judge ruled)?
Why would Larry Pope, lame-duck Lalloway, and McGill demand that you throw away $78M (for starters) from Irvine’s “Great Park fund 108” (not Irvine money, it’s state money we are told) to “immediately begin construction’’ on a sub-standard non-approved “great park cemetery” site NOT even IN the great park?
Just to keep FivePoint away? FivePoint, the firm that would have caught the huge mitigation bill (and saved taxpayer money) had Strawberry Field swap – which asked for zero city funding – gone forward?
What is ARDA worth to you Watchdogs? We don’t get it.
KarenAugust 16, 2018 at 5:12 pm
The recent appraisal stated that the best use of the ARDA land was a hotel. So, that means the land should be worth much much much more than the $4m that Shea Fox and Wagner were going to give it away for and much much more than $78m!!! Further the $78 included construction. The demo was only $30m. Whatever it costs to build on ARDA it would cost the same anywhere else give or take. Per the Owen report and ARDA, heritage fields was always on the hook for demolition so now they have successfully transferred that back to the city!! None of this makes any sense and all we can count on is continued obfuscation and rhetoric and name calling from the dais. Not helpful at all.
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