Opinion: Great Park Planning – More Participation and Data Needed
Green dot = On schedule
Yellow dot = Under review
The Cultural Terrace is 223 acres of undeveloped city land located in the southern section of the Great Park that is intended for a variety of cultural attractions.
The five Great Park Board members act as both the principal developers and decision makers for this land use. They have the authority to decide not only what will be built, but also the where, when, and how for every project. They also personally select the development partners for each project. Guiding the Board is the City-FivePoint Joint Study Committee, as well as public input dating from 2005 to 2017.
Today, the City has the extra burden of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on planning. Specifically, for the Great Park, planning must now include rethinking how we use our open spaces by brainstorming new options to maximize “safe” public interaction.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, planning officials believe that access to open space is going to be even more important. Our parks and trails are community assets that have significantly risen in popularity and usage since the spring.
The 1,300 acre Great Park is massive in scale and opportunity. Responsible planning requires community-wide engagement and the use of data as the way to drive the planning process. Here are three suggestions that would increase the community’s ability to see and learn what is going on with the Great Park, as well as provide data for planning decisions:
- Establish a Great Park Citizens Advisory Committee
- Reactivate the Cultural Terrace Joint Studies Committee
- Initiate another phase of public outreach
Great Park Citizens Advisory Committee
This Committee would work on Board-directed tasks with the goal of assisting the Board and broadening the base of citizen participation. Using expertise from our community, the Committee would have specific objectives and deliverables in specified time frames, and would provide much needed transparency.
Cultural Terrace Study
Why hasn’t the Cultural Terrace Study Committee met since January 2018?
The Cultural Terrace Study is a joint study by the City and FivePoint. Under contract terms, FivePoint pledged up to $2 million dollars for the “planning, feasibility and related technical studies for the Cultural Terrace or other Great Park areas outside of the Sports Park Complex.” This working committee includes a range of subject matter experts – city planning staff, FivePoint representatives, and subject matter consultants. However, it has been two and a half years since the Study Committee met and provided a report to the Board at a public meeting.
Refresh community data and our residents’ spirits! A silver lining to our “new normal” is an opportunity to implement a community driven process that would boost community spirit around the development of this exceptional park land.
The last phase of community outreach took place in 2016- 2017 when the City held a series of community and county-wide outreach events and administered telephone and email surveys. One of the questions asked the residents to identify and rank five main features contemplated for the Cultural Terrace. The five features of greatest interest were: amphitheater, lake, museums, library, and a water park. Interest in passive features such as botanical gardens, trails, and open park space was a recurring theme as well as having areas to hold special events such as outdoor movies and workshops. No doubt this list may have changed since the arrival of the coronavirus, and the passage of 3+ years since the community was last engaged.
The Great Park Board will meet again on Tuesday, September 22 at 2 p.m.
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Susan SayreAugust 25, 2020 at 8:33 am
There has been a noticeable lack of transparency with regards to Great Park Development. Establishing an active Great Park Citizen’s Advisory Committee (which should include representatives of the Great Park Neighborhood community), the Cultural Terrace Study Committee and requiring public outreach regarding proposed Great Park venue development projects would not only promote more transparency, but would increase public participation in the Great Park development process. Irvine’s General Plan calls for “robust” public participation in the City’s decision making process. Thus, “robust” public participation should be a goal for the Great Park decision making process.
The Great Park Board members act as developers, decision makers and as commissioners. For the most part, Great Park development projects bypass review, input and decisions by the city commissions (Planning Commission, Transportation Commission, Finance Commission, Community Services Commission) thus expecting board members to be experts in all of these areas.
If the Great Park projects are to continue to bypass review by city commissions, Both the Cultural Terrace Study Committee and the Great Park Citizen’s Advisory Committee should have the ability to request and receive input from the city Community Development, Financial Management and Strategic Planning and the Public Works and Transportation departments.
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