Irvine History Happy Hour: Meet Irvine’s New City Manager John Russo!

So what exactly does a City Manager do anyway?

Come this Sunday, September 23 to the Irvine Historical Society’s Let’s Talk History Happy Hour and find out!

Irvine’s new City Manager John A. Russo will be on hand to introduce himself and to share his goals for the future of Irvine.

John A. Russo was hired by the Irvine City Council to be City Manager on July 10, 2018.

Russo began his career in public service as an elected official with the City of Oakland, first as a Councilmember from 1994-2000, and then City Attorney from 2000-2011. While in Oakland, he authored the open government law and the “Sunshine Ordinance” to ensure public transparency and full residential access to public information. He then moved to the City of Alameda, where he served as City Manager from 2011-2015.

The Brooklyn native, 59, graduated with honors in economics and political science from Yale University, and earned his law degree from New York University School of Law. He was a Legal Aid attorney in St. Louis before moving to Oakland in 1987, where he was president of Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, treasurer of the East Bay League of Conservation Voters, and pro bono attorney for neighborhood associations and nonprofits. In 2002, Russo served as League of California Cities president; he also was a Board member for the National League of Cities.

Russo is Irvine’s fifth City Manager.

Join us on Sunday, September 23 for this month’s “Let’s Talk History” Happy Hour.
We will meet at the Irvine Historical Museum from 3:00 -5:00 pm and learn how trains once played a pivotal role on the Irvine Ranch.

Light refreshments will be served.  A $5 donation is requested.

The Irvine Historical Society is located in the San Joaquin Ranch House, commissioned by James Irvine in 1868 and considered the oldest standing structure within the original boundaries of Irvine Ranch.

Standard hours of operation are Tuesday and Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 pm; closed holidays. Members are free; a $1.00 donation per non-member is appreciated.

One-hour walking tours of Old Town Irvine are available on the first Sunday of each month at 11:30 a.m. Free for members; $5 for non-members.

 

Play Ball! Join Me As We Officially Open Our New Great Park Baseball Stadium!

As Vice Chair of the Orange County Great Park, it is my pleasure to invite you to join me on Sunday, September 16, 2018, for free, family-friendly fun as we officially open our new 1200-seat Great Park Championship Baseball Stadium, and our new additional baseball and softball fields at the Orange County Great Park Sports Complex.

This event begins at 10:00 a.m., with an official opening ceremony at 1:00 p.m.

Enjoy exhibition games from local baseball and softball teams, and visit the new baseball stadium, softball stadium, and 10 surrounding ball fields.

Food trucks will be there for visitors to buy lunch, and city leaders will gather to throw out the first pitch in the Baseball Stadium.

At the Championship Stadium, four, two-inning baseball games will be played by the eight local high school teams. Portola and University will play the first game at 10:00 a.m. followed by Beckman vs. Irvine, Tustin vs. Northwood and Woodbridge vs. Foothill.

The members of these teams will join city officials on the field for the ribbon cutting ceremony at 1:00 p.m.

Parking is free!

The new Great Park Championship Baseball Stadium includes four batting cages, a meeting room and press box. On the field level, there are dressing rooms on both sides where the dugouts are, coaches offices, umpire rooms and training facilities. There is also an outfield berm area, which can hold 1,000 more fans sitting on the grass.

The Orange County Great Park is the largest public park project now underway. Several hundred acres of parkland are under development, and beginning summer 2018 and through year’s end, several more facilities and fields will be turned over to the City for community public use. These are the 1-mile long Great Park bike and pedestrian trails; seven baseball fields that include our new 1,000-seat baseball stadium; five softball fields that include a 500-seat stadium; six artificial turf soccer/lacrosse fields; four basketball courts; a Children’s Playground; and an 18-acre Flex Field in which up to four playing fields can be added for tournament use. In total, the above equals 130 acres.

Already open for one year within the 194-acre Sports Complex are a Soccer Stadium with seating for 5,000, six other soccer/lacrosse fields, 25 tennis courts, five sand volleyball courts, and a Children’s Play Area.

These all complement the long-opened features of the 1,300-acre Great Park, which include five soccer/lacrosse fields, two art galleries, the Great Park Balloon, and the Children’s Carousel.

In addition, the Anaheim Ducks Great Park Ice Complex – the largest in the state with four sheets of ice and one of the largest in the country at 270,000 square feet – will open by the end of 2018 at the Great Park. Ice time will include public skating, youth hockey games and tournaments, and figure skating.

Next on our Great Park agenda should be creating the real jewel of the Great Park: The Cultural Terrace, with botanical gardens and museums!

I have also joined with Irvine City Councilmember Cristina Shea in calling for the construction of a veteran’s cemetery within the Great Park.  This proposal is now going through an expedited evaluation process by our City staff.

For far too many years, the Great Park was a symbol of gross mismanagement and government gone very wrong, with allegations of corruption and massive waste, and with little to nothing to show for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of public dollars except a balloon, a carousel, and great expanses of dirt, dust, and debris.

HEADLINE HEREHowever, since I have joined the Irvine City Council — and been appointed Vice Chair of the Orange County Great Park by my colleagues — we have succeeded in making a tremendous, positive turn-around in the Great Park’s development.  Exciting progress has been made!

As the Orange County Register recently wrote, “If you haven’t visited the Orange County Great Park – where you see that big orange balloon from Interstate 5 – in the past few years, you may be surprised by the amount of construction going on and how quickly things are getting built there.”

We are now fulfilling the promise of a truly Great Park — Join us on Sunday, September 16 to celebrate!

Play Ball!

 

Join Me at Irvine’s Global Village Festival at the Great Park!

My favorite Irvine cultural event of the year is almost here!

Experience sights and sounds from around the world on Saturday, September 22, 2018, at the Irvine Global Village Festival!

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox at Irvine's Global Village Festival 2013

In Irvine, we are proud of saying that our city is not only among the most diverse cities in the nation, it is also the most fully integrated.

There are no ethnic, linguistic, religious, or cultural enclaves in Irvine: every neighborhood reflects Irvine’s harmonious ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity.

How diverse is Irvine?  A non-English language is spoken in a remarkable 58% of Irvine homes, with more than 70 different languages spoken in residences throughout Irvine.  Nearly 40 % of Irvine’s public school students have a primary language other than English.

Irvine is also home to more than 80 different churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship, serving Irvine’s wonderful cultural and religious diversity.

This year marks the 17th anniversary of the Irvine Global Village Festival – Irvine’s largest and most attended community event.

As Vice Chair of the Orange County Great Park, I am thrilled that, for the very first time, the Irvine Global Village Festival will be held at the Great Park!

Founded in 1998 by a group of Irvine residents to help promote understanding and build harmony within Irvine’s many diverse cultures, the day-long Global Village Festival is now Irvine’s signature event, featuring more than 100 performances on five stages; international cuisine and food from more than 50 restaurants; an international marketplace filled with unique crafts and textiles; interactive, educational and entertaining cultural displays, demonstrations, and performances; and an international village just for kids.

More than 40 local restaurants and gourmet food trucks serve up samples of regional and international specialties from boba smoothies, miso soup, falafel, Mexican fusion tacos and German pretzels to Japanese dumplings, Hawaiian shaved ice and the all-American bacon-wrapped hot dog. Please be prepared with cash for food and beverage purchases.

At the heart of the Festival is the Community Partners Pavilion, where nonprofit, local community groups and government agencies have an opportunity to showcase their programs and services to the community.

I’m looking forward to celebrating the many facets of Irvine’s diversity at the Global Village Festival – and I look forward to seeing you there!

Here are some important Festival details:

What: Irvine Global Village Festival

When: Saturday, September 22, 2018, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Where: Orange County Great Park, 8000 Great Park Boulevard, Irvine, CA 92618

Cost: Admission is FREE! Please be prepared with cash for food and beverage purchases.

Parking: Free parking is available on-site at the Orange County Great Park. Please enter at the intersection of Sand Canyon Avenue and Great Park Boulevard and follow event signage. Carpooling is encouraged. If you are being dropped off, taking a taxi or ride share service, have your driver follow the directions above and follow signage to the drop-off location: “Great Park Tennis Complex Parking Lot.” Disabled person parking is available. Please have the appropriate placard visible when following the directions above. Parking directors will route vehicles to disabled parking.

UCI Students and Staff: Anteater Express Shuttle service to and from the festival will be available for UCI students and staff.

Bike to the Festival:  The easiest way to get to the Festival is by bike. The City of Irvine has an extensive system of bike trails to get you to and from the event, and once inside, riders can safely and securely store their bikes at the Festival’s free Bike Valet area, hosted by the Bicycle Club of Irvine and the Orange County Bicycle Coalition. Use Irvine’s Bike Map to plan your trip.

Pets: Dogs are welcome at the Irvine Global Village Festival! However, owners must be responsible for their pets; dogs must be on leash, interact well in a large crowd and remain in the charge of a person competent to restrain them.

See you there!

My Response to the Grand Jury Report on Housing Orange County’s Homeless: Irvine Offers Leadership in Providing Real Solutions for the Homelessness Crisis

Finding solutions to the homelessness crisis has been a priority for me, both as a member of the Irvine City Council and as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust.

At our recent Irvine City Council meeting on August 26, 2018, the City Council was presented with our city staff’s response to the Orange County Grand Jury Report “Where There’s Will, There’s a Way — Housing Orange County’s Chronically Homeless.”

Councilmember Melissa Fox preparing to lead a meeting of the Irvine Community Land Trust.

Following the staff presentation, I made the following remarks, which I’d like to share with you here:

“Thank you very much for a terrific response.

I did feel that there needs to be some additional information in the response, however, and Mayor Wagner touched on much of it, in particular the $29.2 million that we’re putting aside, as well as land, and the additional permanent supportive housing, potentially as many as 80 units, which we are set to break ground on in the very near future with the Irvine Community Land Trust.

In addition, there’s another project stacked right behind the first project for the Land Trust, which will be unique in that it will provide an ownership for affordable housing, and all of this backed by services, so we will be creating permanent, supportive housing.

Irvine has been a model in this area, and what I think the Grand Jury, and even our own response misses, is that the Land Trust concept is something that Irvine has pioneered.

No other city has a Land Trust like we have, and other cities are working to copy ours. Our executive director is a national leader, and we have a great deal of experience in the Land Trust area, so I think what we have best to contribute to the ACC-OC (Association of California Cities – Orange County) and a potential Joint Powers Agreement is leadership.

In Irvine, we don’t need an additional Land Trust.  We already have one, and we paved the way, and we already have a vehicle to receive the funds that are ready to come forward from the State. The reason that the Joint Powers Agreement for a Land Trust for the County needed to be created is that the County didn’t have one.  In Irvine, we already did.

And so I would notify, and let the Grand Jury know, that we could be of assistance and leadership in this area.  Our executive director for the Irvine Community Land Trust, Mark Asturias, is an executive director of the national Land Trust Alliance, and so he’s leading the way.

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox speaking with homeless people at the former Riverbed encampment with Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva, Huntington Beach Councilmember Billy O’Connell, and Santa Ana Councilmember Michele Martinez.

I also want to comment on the allegation of NIMBYism in Irvine, which I thought was very pejorative and unfair.

Irvine has never said we don’t want to help homeless people in our community. Rather, we’ve said we’ll be the first to form this Land Trust and move forward with it.

So just last year, Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris and I traveled with ACC-OC to San Antonio to look at what was really an exceptional program (Haven for Hope) helping the homeless community in San Antonio that has been held up as a model.  We went with many other stakeholders. One thing we learned on that trip was that neighbors are important.  And it was very important for the success of this homeless shelter in San Antonio to be located in a community that their services also served, to prevent the community members from becoming homeless.  So the shelter has to be located in an area where the neighborhood is receptive, and sees it as a benefit because they’re providing social services to the neighborhood, they’re providing schooling, they’re providing medical clinics, they’re providing dental services, and so on.

Location is very important, and what we heard our residents in Irvine saying is that there was a problem with placing homeless people in tents adjacent to the Great Park as proposed by the Board of Supervisors.  And, in addition, what Irvine residents and the Irvine City Council said is that human beings should not be housed in tents with no water, no electricity, and no transportation.

So, I think to denigrate Irvine and the residents who came together as not compassionate and full of NIMBY sentiment is absolutely incorrect, and we need to put forward that our residents came together, not only to say that they were opposed to the County’s tent city plan for a homeless shelter, but they literally hired their own attorneys to put together solution packages, and they came to the same conclusions that the experts did, that you must have permanent supportive services that go along with the housing.

They weren’t just saying we don’t want it here, they said we want to help fix this program, and I think we can reach out to that same group to work with us on this issue.

I have also traveled to Sacramento and worked with many of our legislators to increase the number of units that we can move forward with under the Land Trust by creating legislation (Senate Bill 1056) that would give us favorable tax treatment.

And so I think we have a lot to teach the cities that haven’t done this kind of work.  We blazed that path, and I’d like this report to make that clear, especially the work that the Irvine Community Land Trust has done, that prior city councils have invested in this, and that the Mayor himself has expended countless hours in looking forward to a solution, and I think that at the very least, the Mayor’s comments should be incorporated as a preface to our response.”

You can read the Orange County Grand Jury Report “Where There’s Will, There’s a Way — Housing Orange County’s Chronically Homeless,” and the original proposed response of the City of Irvine here.

 

Irvine History Happy Hour: Trains on the Irvine Ranch!

Long before the Irvine Metrolink Station, trains were an important part of the history of the Irvine Ranch.

Irvine can trace its train heritage back to 1887, when the Santa Fe was given right of way across the ranch. Soon a shipping center was established near the tracks and the town center that is now Old Town Irvine was born!

This month, longtime resident Clifford Prather will share his collection of rare photos of the days when trains stopped at the packing houses all along the Venta Spur.

Join us on Sunday, August 26th for this month’s “Let’s Talk History” Happy Hour.

We will meet at the Irvine Historical Museum from 3:00 -5:00 pm and learn how trains once played a pivotal role on the Irvine Ranch.

Light refreshments will be served. A $5 donation is requested.

All Aboard!

The Irvine Historical Society is located in the San Joaquin Ranch House, commissioned by James Irvine in 1868 and considered the oldest standing structure within the original boundaries of Irvine Ranch.

Standard hours of operation are Tuesday and Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 pm; closed holidays. Members are free; a $1.00 donation per non-member is appreciated.

One-hour walking tours of Old Town Irvine are available on the first Sunday of each month at 11:30 a.m. Free for members; $5 for non-members.

Clear the Shelters: All Adoptions $20 on August 18!

The Irvine Animal Care Center is participating in the annual Clear the Shelters, a nationwide pet adoption event hosted locally by NBC4 and Telemundo52.

On Saturday, Aug. 18, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., all adoptions will be just $20.

Clear the Shelters was created to raise awareness about the benefits of adopting from a local shelter.

Last year’s event was the largest single-day pet adoption drive in Southern California, with 11,500 animals adopted in Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

Nationwide, more than 80,000 pets were adopted from 1,000 shelters.

Since the program’s inception in 2015, more than 166,000 animals have found their forever homes.

Visit cleartheshelters.org for more information.

The Irvine Animal Care Center is a progressive and innovative municipal animal shelter that continually strives to strengthen the human-animal bond and improve the welfare of animals by promoting their humane care and treatment.

The Center’s 3.73 acre, park-like facility cares for thousands of homeless, neglected and abused animals every year.  All animals in their care receive veterinary care, high-quality food, soft bedding and daily socialization.

Your support helps the Center fulfill its mission of placing all adoptable animals into permanent, loving, responsible pet homes and reuniting owner-identified animals with their owners; providing a safe, clean, caring and enriching environment that meets the high standards of our community and provides the community a resource of trained and knowledgeable staff and volunteers; and promoting human responsibility for companion animals.

We are so fortunate to have the Irvine Animal Center in our community!

To learn more about the Irvine Animal Care Center, visit irvineanimals.org, or call 949-724-7740.

Irvine Seniors: Take Control of your Health and Fitness at the Irvine Senior Fitness Expo!

We all know that young families are attracted to Irvine because of our superior public schools, our vibrant economy, and our numerous sports facilities and recreational opportunities.

But children, youth, and young families are not the complete picture of Irvine.

Irvine is for seniors, too.  Irvine’s strategic plan addresses the needs of all our community members — children, youth, families — and seniors.

One of Irvine’s most anticipated events for seniors is the annual Senior Fitness Expo.

This year the 10th Annual Senior Fitness Expo will be held at Rancho Senior Center from 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon, on Friday, Aug. 31.

This free event is geared toward adults 50 and older who want to take control of their health and fitness, and will feature health screenings, nutrition information, demonstrations and a wide variety of the latest health and fitness products.

Guests will learn how to improve their well-being through fitness demonstrations including yoga, balance and stretching, circuit training, and more.

Exhibitors will include:

  • Anthem Blue Cross
  • Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi
  • City of Irvine, Environmental Services
  • Coury & Buehler Physical Therapy
  • Friends of Outreach
  • Greater Newport Physicians
  • Hoag
  • Irvine Adult Day Health Services
  • Irvine Senior Services
  • Irvine Senior Travelers
  • Irvine Valley College
  • Lee Chiropractic
  • NexMed Care Centers
  • Orange County Registrar of Voters
  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UCI
  • Parkview Optometry
  • Seniors Helping Seniors
  • Voitenko Wellness

The Senior Fitness Expo will also feature an opportunity drawing.

Rancho Senior Center is located at 3 Ethel Coplen Way in Irvine, CA 92612.

For more information, see Irvine’s Senior Expo website or or call 949-724-6800.