[Opinion] Woodbury and Cypress Village’s Density Going to Portola Springs. Will There Be a Public Benefit in Exchange?

The Irvine Company is seeking a zoning change allowing the transfer of housing density from Woodbury (Planning Area 9) and Cypress Village (Planning Area 50) to Portola Springs (Planning Area 5) at the Tuesday, April  27, 2021 City Council meeting, agenda item 4.2.

Density transfers involve ensuring that the transfers are consistent with General Plan requirements, such as:

  • housing units must represent all income levels;
  • the exchange must be consistent with the village character;
  • the exchange must provide adequate community commercial centers;
  • meets requirements for number of school classrooms, parkland, with bicycle and pedestrian trails;
  • and the exchange must not have a significant impact on traffic circulation.

The staff report indicates that these requirements have been met by the Irvine Company’s proposal.

Extend affordability terms from about 40 years to 99 years as a public benefit in exchange for transferring density between planning areas

The Planning Commission recently voted 5-0 to recommend to the City Council that the zoning change be approved in exchange for a public benefit. The affordability terms of many of Irvine’s affordable housing units are set to expire soon and revert to market rate.

During a recent Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Jong Lim is reported to have passionately suggested that the zoning change be conditioned upon extending affordability terms to 99 years. This is a great idea! Extending affordability terms would serve to provide a much needed public benefit as it would provide our residents living in affordable housing with much needed security in the years ahead while also benefiting the petitioning developer.

Policy changes need to be made:

Irvine’s infrastructure and amenities are aging and need to be renovated, residents and businesses are undergoing economic uncertainties, and there is a growing need for affordable housing and support services.  These issues could be addressed by requiring developers to provide public benefits in exchange for approving development applications and requests.


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