Irvine Should Help Renters Impacted by COVID-19: Ban Evictions and Rental Increases, Prohibit Unconscionable Lease Termination Fees, and Create an Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The deadly COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 100,000 Americans, including nearly 5,000 deaths out of more than 125,000 cases in California and nearly 200 deaths out of more than 7,000 cases in Orange County.

In addition, the economic shock of the pandemic has been devastating, causing billions of dollars in business losses and an unemployment rate of 16.3% nationally and nearly 25% in California.

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As a result, our pre-existing California housing crisis has been exacerbated, with increases in our already much too high levels of homelessness and housing insecurity.

Faced with these tremendous COVID-19-related challenges regarding incomes, jobs, and housing, many of the residents of our City -– more than half of whom are renters — are pleading with the Irvine City Council to protect them. So far, we are failing them.

I have repeatedly asked my colleagues on the Irvine City Council to take action to help renters, but my requests for real help for our renters have been rejected. In March, not one other member of the City Council supported my motion to order an enforceable moratorium on evictions and rent increases.

More recently, my attempt to have the City Council order an enforceable moratorium on evictions and rent increases was rejected on a 3-2 vote, with each of my Republican colleagues voting No.

Mayor Christina Shea and her Republican majority on the City Council have claimed that our renter residents do not need these protections. But we know from thousands of emails, social media posts, and demonstrations in the streets, that our renter residents are pleading with us for help in this crisis.

We should stop ignoring their voices and enact meaningful protections for renters immediately.

First, we need to (1) approve the basic protections that I called for in March and to order an enforceable moratorium on evictions and rent increases. Our renters are entitled to peace of mind about not being forced out of their homes because of the COVID19 crisis.

We also need to (2) prohibit unconscionable, and likely unlawful, lease termination fees.  Many people in Irvine, including students, have lost their jobs, and therefore their incomes, as a result of the COVID19 crisis. Yet I have been told by residents that lease termination fees charged by the Irvine Company have exceeded $15,000.

In addition, we should (3) create an Emergency Rental Assistance Program.  Even with a moratorium on evictions, paying back rent for many of our residents is a very high mountain to climb.  We should direct our City staff to develop an Emergency Rental Assistance Program. These programs have been enacted in other cities, including our neighboring city of Anaheim, to help residents through this unprecedented public health and economic crisis.

As city officials, we have the power and ability to help protect our residents, including renters, both student and non-student. I believe we also have the moral obligation to do so. We should do it now without any further delay.

Roadmap to Recovery: Irvine Issues New Rules and Guidelines for Stage 2 Re-Opening!

As Orange County moves into the next part, Stage 2, of Gov. Newsom’s Resiliency Roadmap, the City of Irvine has prepared a guide for residents and visitors regarding what is now open in Irvine and what is required and recommended to maintain our safety during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. 

 In Stage Two, the County of Orange will be allowed to have the following businesses re-open with adaptations:

🥙 In-person dining reservations.

🛍 Retail shopping with social distancing and curbside pickup.

🔗 Manufacturing.

🏢 Offices (when telework not possible).

🏯 Outdoor Museums.

▶️ Limited Services.

🚫 What is NOT allowed in Stage 2 🚫:

– Personal services such as nail salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and fitness studios.

– Indoor museums, kids museums and gallery spaces, zoos and libraries.

– Community centers, including public pools, playgrounds, and picnic areas.

– Limited-capacity religious services and cultural ceremonies.

– Nightclubs.

– Concert venues.

– Live audience sports.

– Festivals.

– Theme parks.

– Hotels/lodging for leisure and tourism – non-essential travel.

– Higher Education.

Please be mindful that the pandemic is not over.  COVID-19 is still among us.  It is still highly contagious and potentially deadly.

Face masks are still required by customers and employees in retail businesses and are strongly recommended for everyone whenever going out in public. Social distancing and hand washing remain our most important lines of defense against the spread of COVID-19.

As we re-enter the social world, we need to take care of ourselves and be careful not to harm others.

We are getting through this together.

For more information visit, cityofirvine.org/reopenirvine

For links to resources and information, please see my COVID-19 Resources and information page.

 

The OC Board of Supervisors Should Increase COVID-19 Testing, Work with OC Cities to Distribute Federal CARES Act Funds, and Follow the Governor’s Guidelines to Re-Start Our Economy

As of Monday, May 18, 2020, there have been 4,434 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Orange County, with 88 deaths.  Over the past week, Orange County has averaged 125 new cases and 1.7 new deaths per day

Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued new, less retrictive guidelines for moving further into the four stages toward reopening our economy. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government passed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” or CARES Act, which created a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund to be used to help state, local, and tribal governments navigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

These federal funds were mean to help American cities remain fiscally responsible while organizing essential emergency actions such as food delivery to seniors, support for small businesses, personal protective equipment, and rental assistance to tenants.

Orange County received $554 million in CARES Act funding from the federal government, earmarked for local jurisdictions, in order to pay for services such as police and fire protection, as well as social services.  But none of these funds have been released to Orange County cities.

Orange County COVID-19 Tracker for Mon., May 18, 2020. Source: OC Register

In fact, although 31 out of Orange County’s 34 mayors recently requested that the county distribute the $554 million in CARES Act funding it received from the federal government, the Board of Supervisors has been silent on when, how or whether it intends to fulfill its obligation under the CARES Act to distribute this much needed funding so that our cities remain able to function..

In addition, while the Board of Supervisors has indicated that it plans soon to “re-open” Orange County, the County has not provided the COVID-19 testing and contact tracing needed to improve public confidence and sustain our economic recovery.

Therefore, I have joined with Sunny Park, Buena Park City Councilmember, and 19 other local Orange County elected leaders in writing a letter to the Board of Supervisors calling on them to increase testing, work with local cities to distribute federal CARES Act funds, and follow the Governor’s guidelines to keep OC residents safe from COVID-19 as we re-start our economy.

Here is the full text of our letter to the Board of Supervisors, as printed in the Voice of OC:

“Everyone wishes we could just go back to our old normal life of hugs, handshakes, restaurants and ball games. But we know we’re not going to achieve our “new normal” without a thoughtfully planned process that increases our understanding of the virus, reduces risk of exposure, and includes all responders in coordinated action.

A successful and sustained economic recovery requires that we avoid COVID-19 outbreaks. This is especially true for Orange County, because we depend on tourism, retail, restaurants and entertainment to fuel a significant portion of our economy. If customers do not feel safe in our county’s businesses, recovery will be much more difficult, if not impossible.

Orange County has been operating under a shelter-in-place order since March 19. Governor Newsom acted quickly and, in large part, the residents and businesses of Orange County have complied. As of May 13, there were 3,749 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Orange County, 80 deaths, and 248 were currently hospitalized. While those numbers represent immense human suffering, they certainly would have been much worse without the profound, selfless sacrifices made by our entire community to comply with the stay-at-home order.

New COVID-19 Cases in Orange County by Date Reported. Source: OC Health Care Agency.

We are moving toward carefully reopening the county. Governor Newsom is set to move into Phase 2 of his plan by reopening certain retail businesses in a matter of days, again with appropriate precautions. We support a thoughtful, incremental reopening that avoids the risk of an outbreak that would set back the substantial progress we have made at great cost.

More testing and contact tracing can improve public health and accelerate our economic recovery. More information could allow restrictions to be more narrowly tailored to those who are infected or at-risk.

We need the right kinds of tests to know who is currently infected with COVID-19, and who may have already recovered from it. This is why, as fellow elected officials committed to safely and effectively reopening Orange County, we respectfully requested that the Board of Supervisors aggressively increase antibody and antigen testing in each city that has a qualified testing facility.

Not only do we need the right kinds of tests, we need to consider who receives them. While the Board of Supervisors has taken new steps to allow teachers, essential workers, and senior citizens to receive tests whether they have symptoms or not, it won’t be enough to rebound our economy. We have encouraged the Board of Supervisors to expand this eligibility pool, allowing anyone who requests a test to receive one, regardless of symptoms.

Each city in Orange County has taken local emergency actions on COVID-19, but these actions have significant costs. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, set aside funds to help cities remain fiscally responsible while organizing essential emergency actions such as food delivery to seniors, support for small businesses, personal protective equipment, and rental assistance to tenants.

Thirty-one out of Orange County’s 34 mayors recently requested that the county distribute the $554 million in CARES Act funding it received from the federal government, which is earmarked for local jurisdictions. Unless the county begins to distribute these funds soon, our cities will be crippled, which could impact services such as police, fire, or social services.

Each of us can do our part to reduce COVID-19 by practicing social distancing and wearing protective face masks. In addition, we urge public support for more testing in Orange County, and the collaborative distribution of CARES Act funding to our local communities, each of which desperately needs it.”

The letter was signed by the following Orange County elected officials:

  • Sunny Park, Councilmember, City of Buena Park
  • Jordan Brandman, Councilmember, City of Anaheim
  • Jose Moreno, Councilmember, City of Anaheim
  • Glenn Parker, Councilmember, City of Brea
  • Art Brown, Councilmember, City of Buena Park
  • Katrina Foley, Mayor, City of Costa Mesa
  • John Stephens, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Andrea Marr, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Manuel Chavez, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Jan Florey, Mayor, City of Fullerton
  • Diedre Thu-Ha Nguyen, Councilmember, City of Garden Grove
  • Kim Carr, Councilmember, City of Huntington Beach
  • Melissa Fox, Councilmember, City of Irvine
  • Sergio Contreras, Councilmember, City of Westminster
  • Kerie Kropke, Board Clerk, Brea Orlina Unified School District
  • Ian J. Mcdonald, Boardmember, Centailia Elementary School District
  • Joanne Fawley, Boardmember, Fullerton Joint Union High School District
  • Cynthia Aguirre, La Habra Unified School District
  • John Polacio, Santa Ana Unified School District
  • Chris Brown, Board Vice President, Savanna Unified School District
  • Lorainne Prinsky, Board Vice President, Coast Community College District

If you agree with us that OC Board of Supervisors should increase COVID-19 testing and tracing, work with OC cities to distribute federal CARES Act funds, and follow the Governor’s guidelines to re-start our economy, please let the Orange County Board of Supervisors know by contacting them at (714) 834-3100 or sending them an email.

Thank you.

For more information and resources regarding COVID-19, please click here.

 

 

 

“ReOpen OC Safely” — Orange County Business Council Posts Guidelines for Safely Reopening Orange County Businesses

The Orange County Business Council (OCBC) has developed and published a set of guidelines called “ReOpen OC Safely: Requirements and Best Pratices for Reopening Your Business Safely and Within Current Guidelines” for safely reopening Orange County businesses as the county continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. 

ReOpen OC Safely was developed in collaboration with Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce, North Orange County Chamber of Commerce, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, and Visit Anaheim as a resource to prepare to safely reopen for business as the county continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. 

The State of California has issued “stay at home” emergency orders, but is slowly reopening business segments, subject to restrictions, with modified operations, click here to learn more.

The OCBC guidelines are intended to conform to the restrictions and recommendations of both the State of California and the federal government regarding COVID-19.

Regardless of your industry sector, OCBC recommends that businesses begin planning to reopen, consider guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), state, county and local guidelines (which may be more restrictive), and plan to ensure the safety and well-being of employees, customers and all those interacting with your business. Note: many draft guidelines will be changed as new information is obtained. Stay engaged. Some general guidelines for developing your plan may include:

  1. Social Distancing : Develop a plan that enables social distancing with current CDC guidance in mind. When possible, practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet apart from others, particularly for prolonged periods of 10 minutes or more. Develop a plan to manage customer density in queues, restaurants, retail environments or other business facilities.
  1. Cleanliness and Sanitation: Develop a plan that provides enhanced cleaning procedures including establishing frequency, products, and methods on all high touch areas.
  1. Screening and Prevention: Develop a plan that incorporates government/medical recommended screening procedures and preventative measures including personal protective equipment (masks or gloves). 
  1. Transactions: Develop and implement a plan to expedite transactions and where possible incorporate technology like online/mobile order pick up or touch-less transactions.
  1. Employee Training and Tools: Develop a plan that includes training for employees regarding  procedure and expectation changes related to COVID-19

The OCBC guidelines also include specific guidance for individual sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and logistics, professional and business services, global trade, utilities, construction, hospitality and tourism, retail, child care, communications infrastructure, hotels and lodging, life sciences, real estate, theme parks, convention centers, delivery services, agriculture and livestock, food packaging, public transportation, restaurants, and shopping centers.

The OCBC provides links to a checklist for what to do when an employee tests positive for COVID-19, as well as a link to a survey of California businesses regarding re-opening issues.

There are also links to many helpful resources from state, county, and federal agencies.

I strongly recommend that all businesses (and business patrons) in Orange County become familiar with these guidelines, and that they be followed in order to prevent a spike in COVID-19 infections as Orange County businesses begin to re-open to the public.

Thank you to the Orange County Business Council for developing these extremely helpful guidelines!

COVID-19 Notes

I’ve added a new “COVID-19 Community Resources and Information Page to my blog, with links to up-to-date and reliable resources and information from federal, state, and county sources, as well as the cities and public schools in the 68th Assembly District.

I have also decided to use my Assembly campaign phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need. Read the story in the O.C. Register.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.comSee our event page on Facebook HERE.

If you need help yourself or have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com or call me at 949-683-8855.

Watch Melissa Fox’s Town Hall on Small Business Assistance, Affordable Housing, and COVID-19 with California State Treasurer Fiona Ma and Small Business Majority’s Claudia Moreno

COVID-19 has impacted both small businesses and housing in California.

In this Town Hall held on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox , California State Treasurer Fiona Mam and Claudia Moreno of Small Business Majority discuss the impact of COVID-19 on California’s economy, small business assistance programs, and new opportunities for affordable housing.

Fiona Ma is California’s 34th State Treasurer. She was elected on November 6, 2018, with more votes (7,825,587) than any other candidate for treasurer in the state’s history. She is the first woman of color and the first woman Certified Public Accountant (CPA) elected to the position.

Claudia Moreno is an Southern California Outreach Director for Small Business Majority, a national small business advocacy organization. She previously worked at the White House during the Obama Administration in the Executive Office of Presidential Correspondence where she served as an intermediate between the President and the American people. She also took lead in the Office’s Spanish Analytical Department as an interpreter to support the President’s vision to serve all communities.

Melissa Fox is an Irvine City Councilmember and an attorney, and also serves as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, dedicated to building more affordable housing.

Watch the Town Hall here:

Note:

Join me for our next virtual Town Hall!

On Wednesday, May 5, 2020, at 4:00 p.m., I’ll be speaking with California State Controller Betty T. Yee about the COVOD-19 Crisis and the California Economy.

The title of the Town Hall is “The California Economy Challenged.”

The ZOOM Meeting ID is 951-321-0807.

Please contact my Chief City Council Aide Allison Binder at abinder@cityofirvine.org.

I hope you can join us!

 

Join Me for a Virtual Town Hall on Small Business Assistance and Affordable Housing with State Treasurer Fiona Ma!

Join me on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. for a Virtual Town Hall on Small Business Assistance and Affordable Housing with California State Treasurer Fiona Ma!

ZOOM Meeting ID is 951-321-0807

COVID-19 has impacted both small businesses and housing in California.

Join Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox and California State Treasurer Fiona Ma as they discuss the impact of COVID-19 on California’s economy, small business assistance programs, and new opportunities for affordable housing.

Fiona Ma is California’s 34th State Treasurer. She was elected on November 6, 2018 with more votes (7,825,587) than any other candidate for treasurer in the state’s history.

She is the first woman of color and the first woman Certified Public Accountant (CPA) elected to the position.

Melissa Fox is an Irvine City Councilmember and an attorney, and also serves as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, dedicated to building more affordable housing.

For more information, contact Allison Binder at abinder@cityofirvine.org.

To see the Facebook page for this event, click here.

UPDATE:

Melissa Fox will also be joined joined on the Virtual Town Hall by Claudia Moreno, Southern California Outreach Manager for Small Business Majority.

Claudia Moreno develops relationships with both business partners and small business owners across the region to discuss ways to best help small businesses thrive in their local economies. Claudia also works closely on statewide policy initiatives. The daughter of a small business owner, Claudia understands the importance of giving back to her community and intentionally working to empower under-served entrepreneurs.

She previously worked at the White House during the Obama Administration in the Executive Office of Presidential Correspondence where she served as an intermediate between the President and the American people. She also took lead in the Office’s Spanish Analytical Department as an interpreter to support the President’s vision to serve all communities.

Melissa Fox Tele-Town Hall on Pediatric Mental Health During COVID-19 with Dr. Ben Strack

Please join me for a ZOOM Tele-Town Hall on Pediatric Health During COVID-19. 

My very special guest is psychologist Dr. Ben Strack.

Dr. Strack is a licensed psychologist and certified sport psychology consultant (CMPC). Over the past 15 years he has consulted H.S./Collegiate athletes, professional athletes (MLB, MiLB, NHL, PGA, NBA, Professional Soccer/USL), and Olympic athletes (Women’s Indoor Volleyball, Speed Skating, Swimming, Fencing).

He is a former division I college baseball player and founding partner of Proball Inc., private baseball academy. During the 1999 and 2000 MLB seasons, he was the batting practice pitcher for the Anaheim Angels. From 1999 to 2004, he was hand-picked to pitch in the MLB Players’ Association and ESPN’s Big League Challenge Home Run Contests where he was the personal pitcher for Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Raphael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, Shawn Green, Magglio Ordonez, Andruw Jones, and Troy Glaus.

Dr. Ben Strack is a United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Sport Psychology Registry Member, board member of the Orange County Psychological Association and a co-chairperson for the Optimal Performance/Functioning division of the Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. He is also an active member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP).

As an adjunct professor at California State University Long Beach and Argosy University, Dr. Ben Strack taught sport psychology classes in the undergraduate and graduate programs. He is also a frequent speaker at workshops and conferences throughout the country. His work with athletes has appeared in various media including ESPN, The New York Times, and on local television shows in Southern California.

The video of our Tele-Town Hall is below:

Child Care is Now Available for Essential Workers in Orange County!

Early Childhood OC is working with agencies across Orange County to compile a searchable database of currently open child care centers and family child care homes serving children aged birth – 12.

This database will be updated every Friday.

To find available child care, click here.

Governor Newsom’s executive order allows essential workers to access child care payment assistance, regardless of their income, while schools are closed because of COVID-19.

Children’s Home Society of California (CHS) has three Child Care Payment Programs that provide subsidized child care services to eligible families: Alternative Payment, CalWORKs, and Family Child Care Home Education Network programs.

Through these programs, in Fiscal Year 2018, CHS provided services to over 9,700 children and over 5,500 families. In all, more than 2,099,000 days of care were provided to children across California.

To find out more about child care payment assistance, click here.

If you operate a child care facility, are currently open, and would like it listed in the data base, click here.

The City of Irvine also has several hundred child care spots available for essential workers.  To find out more, click here.

COVID-19 Notes

I’ve added a new “COVID-19 Community Resources and Information Page to my blog, with links to up-to-date and reliable resources and information from federal, state, and county sources, as well as the cities and public schools in the 68th Assembly District.

I have also decided to use my Assembly campaign phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need. Read the story in the O.C. Register.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.comSee our event page on Facebook HERE.

If you need help yourself or have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com or call me at 949-683-8855.

Irvine Child Care Spots Available for Essential Workers!

I am pleased to announce that Irvine has several hundred spots now open for child care for essential workers.

I currently serve as the Irvine City Council’s representative on the board of directors of the Irvine Child Care Project, along with other representatives from the City of Irvine and Irvine Unified School District. 

Established in 1984, the Irvine Child Care Project (ICCP) is a Joint Powers Agreement between the Irvine Unified School District and the City of Irvine, overseen by the Irvine Child Care Project Board of Directors. It is a unique partnership in which the City of Irvine and the Irvine Unified School District collaborate to accommodate more affordable and quality child care in the City.

On Thursday, April 9, 2020, the ICCP Board had a virtual meeting to discuss some of the critical needs of the ICCP during the COVID-19 crisis.  We made several important decisions at this meeting to help facilitate and increase the availability of child care for essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Crucially,  we voted to waive rental payments from ICC providers for April, May, and June.  Waiving the rent for these providers means that essential child care services will remain accessible to families in need of child care during this crisis. 

Currently, 10 out of the 28 ICCP programs are open to serve children of essential critical infrastructure workers. The sites that are open are located on the following campuses: Canyon View Elementary, Deerfield Elementary, Oak Creek Elementary, Plaza Vista Elementary, Springbrook Elementary, Stonegate Elementary, Turtle Rock Elementary, University Park Elementary, Vista Verde Elementary, and Woodbury Elementary.

These 10 sites currently have the space to enroll approximately 200 additional children. 

If you are an essential critical infrastructure worker and need child care, please click here to access a searchable database of currently open child care centers and family child care homes serving children aged birth –1 2 compiled by Early Childhood OC.  This database will be updated every Friday. The Countywide list linked above lists all open programs in Orange County including, ICCP locations.  In addition, each ICCP location below is identified as OPEN or CLOSED.

Kiddie Academy of Irvine, Prestige Preschool Academy and several family child care providers are open and able to serve school age children, including non-residents.  These programs would be able to serve at least 100 additional children (combined capacity), even with the new guidance from the state regarding decreased capacities for best health and safety practices.  Contact information for each of these programs is available in the searchable database of currently open child care centers and family child care homes compiled by Early Childhood OC. This database is updated weekly.  I anticipate the number of providers on this list to increase as programs re-open to provide emergency child care to essential workers.   Several providers have contacted child care coordination this week to discuss their plans to re-open.

ICCP sites (10 open operated by Child Development Incorporated) are only able to serve Irvine residents and/or children enrolled in the IUSD school district. This is based on the Joint Powers Agreement between the City of Irvine and the Irvine Unified School District.  The ICCP Board has the authority to waive this stipulation, if that is something that the Board would be interested in considering at the May meeting.

You can find more information about these sites and enrollment here

View a directory of ICCP sites here.

Please note: Essential workers include those who work in the following fields: healthcare and public health, emergency services, food and agriculture, energy, water and waste water, transportation and logistics, communications and information technology, government services, critical manufacturing, hazardous materials, financial services, chemicals, and defense/industrial base.  For more details, click here.

COVID-19 Notes

I’ve added a new “COVID-19 Community Resources and Information Page to my blog, with links to up-to-date and reliable resources and information from federal, state, and county sources, as well as the cities and public schools in the 68th Assembly District.

I have also decided to use my Assembly campaign phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need. Read the story in the O.C. Register.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.comSee our event page on Facebook HERE.

If you need help yourself or have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com or call me at 949-683-8855.

Tell the Orange County Board of Supervisors to Require Face Coverings for All Food Service, Grocery, and Other Essential Workers!

Did you know that every neighboring county of Orange County requires face coverings for all food service, grocery store, and other essential workers except Orange County?

Did you know that many of these workers are under the age of 18?

In order to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to protect both workers and customers, every neighboring county of Orange County — including San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties — now require face coverings for all food service, grocery store, and other essential workers.

Only Orange County does not. I believe this failure to protect public health is unacceptable and unconscionable.

My friend, Gina Clayton-Tarvin, President of the Board of Trustees at the Ocean View School District, who has also been a classroom teacher in Orange County for 25 years, has started a petition to address this very serious problem.

The petition calls on Michelle Steel, Chair of Orange County Board of Supervisors, to “allow a vote to order face coverings for all food service, grocery store, and other essential workers, many of whom are children under the age of 18, to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Orange County.”

I have signed this petition because I believe that all workers who are providing us with food, groceries, and other essential goods and services during this pandemic deserve to be as protected from this deadly virus as possible.

As customers of these businesses and as residents of Orange County, we also deserve to be protected.

The protection of public health is an essential responsibility — and must be a top priority — of any government.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I have already voted to require all retail workers in Irvine to wear face coverings.

Our Orange County Supervisors need to step up now and do the same, and stop putting our food, grocery and other essential workers — and ourselves — in unnecessary danger of contagion and death.

Please sign the petition HERE.

Thank you.

* * * *

COVID-19 Notes

I’ve added a new “COVID-19 Community Resources and Information Page to my blog, with links to up-to-date and reliable resources and information from federal, state, and county sources, as well as the cities and public schools in the 68th Assembly District.

I have also decided to use my Assembly campaign phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need. Read the story in the O.C. Register.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.comSee our event page on Facebook HERE.

If you need help yourself or have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com or call me at 949-683-8855.

Irvine Orders All Retail Personnel to Wear Face Coverings

Irvine.FaceMasks.01Effective Wednesday, April 8, 2020, by order of the City Manager in his capacity as Director of Emergency Services,  all retail personnel in the City of Irvine will be required to wear face coverings.

This executive order applies to all retail businesses in Irvine, including, but not limited to:face-mask-480x240

  • Grocery stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Restaurants providing take-out or delivery services
  • Banks, Savings and Loans, and Credit Unions
  • Home Improvement stores
  • Gas Stations
  • Convenience stores

The use of cloth face coverings could reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by individuals who do not have symptoms and may reinforce social distancing. Face coverings can include items such as bandanas, fabric masks, and neck gaiters.

It is important to note face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing and hand washing, which remain our most important line of defense against the spread of COVID-19.

Read the full order here.

For more information about the use of face coverings or to find a provider, visit cityofirvine.org/covid19.

Note: I’ve added a new “COVID-19 Community Resources and Information Page to my blog, with links to up-to-date and reliable resources and information from federal, state, and county sources, as well as the cities and public schools in the 68th Assembly District.

I have also decided to use my Assembly campaign phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.com. See our event page on Facebook HERE.

If you need help yourself or have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com or call me at 949-683-8855.

 

Irvine Community Land Trust Continues Mission of Providing Affordable Housing During COVID-19 Crisis

Last week, my colleagues on the Board of Directors of the Irvine Community Land Trust (ICLT) unanimously elected me to serve another year as Chair.  I am grateful for their support and for the opportunity to continue to lead the important work of the Land Trust in this difficult time.

As we fight this deadly outbreak, secure and affordable housing has never been more important.

I’m very happy that California Governor Newsom has issued an Executive Order halting evictions due to non-payment of rent due to medical or financial consequences of COVID-19.  Adding to California’s already far too high 150.000 homeless population would make it even more difficult for us to stop the spread of the virus.

At our next meeting, which will be conducted electronically and to which the public is invited, we will be adopting new measures to help our tenants deal with the COVID-19 emergency, including rent deferments and other forms of assistance.

Our Executive Director of the Irvine Community Land Trust, Mark Asturias, has released the following statement in regard to ICLT’s response to COVID-19:

“Greetings,

There’s no shortage of uncertainly in the world lately, so I’d like to take a moment to tell you exactly how the Irvine Community Land Trust is navigating the post-COVID world.

As an affordable housing nonprofit, our communities are comprised of some of Irvine’s most vulnerable populations, even when there isn’t a global crisis weighing on them. No matter the circumstances, we remain steadfast in our commitment to our residents and to ensuring they have a place they can be proud to call “home.”

We will not falter, but we are doing things a little differently to best protect the health and safety of our staff, board members, residents and partners in the community.

For starters, we’re observing social distancing by moving our regular public board meetings online. Earlier this week, we held the ICLT’s first online board meeting, utilizing both Zoom and a public phone line to great effect. Information on joining our future digital meetings will be posted as available at http://www.irvineclt.org/agenda.

At each of our properties – Parc Derian, Alegre and Doria – we’re working with property managers to ensure residents are equipped with the knowledge and resources they need to navigate these trying times.

Through a series of special government protocols, we’re continuing construction on our new community, Salerno. Out of concern for our construction workers, we’re also undertaking extraordinary measures to ensure they stay safe and healthy while on the job. And, in cooperation with our community partners, we’re continuing our work to make Irvine the best it can be, no matter the challenges we face.

In the coming weeks, the next edition of our newsletter will be delivered as usual, packed with the latest and greatest from the ICLT. For now, rest assured that our commitment to our mission burns stronger than ever as we rise to face this unprecedented situation.

Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy – we’re all in this together.

Sincerely,

Mark Asturias
Executive Director
Irvine Community Land Trust”

For links to up-to-date COVID-19 Resources and Information, click HERE.

 

 

Join Our “Supporting Seniors” Virtual Phone-Bank!

Governor Gavin Newsom has urged all Californians to check in on their older neighbors with a call, text or physically-distanced door knock to make sure they’re okay during this COVID-19 outbreak and stay-at-home order.

Our campaign — Melissa Fox for California Assembly (AD68) — has decided to use our phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.com.

You can also sign-up on our campaign website at https://www.votemelissafox.com/callseniors

See our event page on Facebook HERE.

Thanks!

See also: COVID-19 Resources and Information

California Governor Orders Halt in All Evictions Due to COVID19

Today California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a new Executive Order halting all evictions statewide for those affected by COVID19.

The measure prevents the evictions of renters over the nonpayment of rent through May 31.

It covers those who have lost work because of the pandemic, have become sick or have had to take care of family members with COVID19. Law enforcement and the court system also would be prohibited from executing evictions while the order is in effect.  Renters are required to eventually pay all the rent they owe, and must notify their landlords in writing within seven days of their nonpayment.

In an earlier Executive Order, Governor Newcom had given authority to local governments to ban evictions due to COVID19 for 60 days.  Many cities had exercised this power to halt evictions, including Anaheim and Costa Mesa in Orange County, as well as San Diego, Long Beach, San JoseLos AngelesLong BeachEl MonteFresnoSan Francisco,  CamarilloOjaiOxnardThousand OaksMoorpark, and Santa Monica.

The Governor’s new order is especially welcome in cities like Irvine, where this week, by a 4-1 vote, the Irvine City Council refused even to vote on my motion to order a legal moratorium on evictions due to the COVID19 crisis, opting instead to “strongly encourage” landlords not to seek evictions by passing a non-binding resolution with no legal force. I voted No because Irvine renters need real protection but the resolution passed by the Council has absolutely no legal force or effect. 

Now, renters in all California cities — including Irvine — are protected from eviction due to COVID19.

Thank you, Governor Newsom!

 

“Irvine Neighbors Helping Irvine Neighbors” — City of Irvine and Families Forward Host Food Collection Event on Sat., March 28

City of Irvine staff has coordinated with Families Forward, an Irvine-based non-profit dedicated to helping low income & homeless families, for an “Irvine Neighbors Helping Irvine Neighbors” Food Collection event this Saturday, March 28 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The event will be held at two locations — the Irvine Civic Center (north parking lot next to the Child Care Center) and at the Orange County Great Park (Lot 2, Festival Lot).

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, food assistance requests to Families Forward have increased 500%.

They are in most need of the following items:

  • Cereal
  • Peanut Butter
  • Canned Chicken
  • Canned Tuna
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Dried Pasta
  • Baby Wipes

Familes Forward.donate-page-with-familyThe event will be staffed by Families Forward volunteers as a “drop-and-go” with items being removed from the trunk of vehicles to adhere to social distancing requirements. Participants are required to remain in their vehicles.

A traffic safety plan has been developed for both sites with the assistance of Irvine Public Works & Transportation, Public Safety, and Community Services staff to facilitate anticipated traffic.

Families Forward is an Orange County, California, non-profit that exists to help families that are homeless or at-risk of homelessness achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through housing, food, counseling, education, and other support services. It assists families in financial crisis to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency. As Families Forward explains, “We do not just provide support; we supply the tools for families to once again become independent, productive residents of the community.”

To make a financial donation to Families Forward, click here.

At one time or another, any family may find itself in need of some form of support. If you are in need of support, please contact Families Forward at (949) 552-2727 or info@families-forward.org.

The Irvine City Council Refuses To Order Moratorium On Evictions. Instead, Council “Encourages” Landlords Not To Evict. Tell Them To Order That Irvine Residents And Businesses Be Protected From Eviction Due to the COVID-19 Crisis.

At tonight’s Irvine City Council meeting, Mayor Christina Shea and three City Councilmembers refused to order a legal moratorium on evictions due to the COVID19 crisis, and instead adopted a non-binding resolution to “strongly encourage . . . residential and commercial landlords, and all utility providers, in the City of lrvine to abide by the provisions of the Governor’s Executive Order, and to specifically refrain from evictions, foreclosures, rent increases, or service and utility disconnections during the period of the COVID-19 emergency.”

Photo: Tomoya Shimura, Orange County Register.

I voted No because the resolution passed by the Council has absolutely no legal force or effect. 

I am extremely disappointed in the Mayor and my Irvine City Council colleagues, who have failed to use the authority granted to us by the Governor to fully protect our residents and businesses by legally ensuring that they will able to remain their in homes and shops during this crisis — as has been done in many other California cities, including San Jose, Los Angeles, Long Beach, El Monte, Fresno, San Francisco,  Camarillo, Ojai, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, and Santa Monica.

The Council also claimed that it had no authority to halt evictions due to foreclosure, although the Governor’s Executive Order explicitly states that local governments like the City of Irvine are empowered to halt evictions where “The basis for the eviction is nonpayment or rent, or a foreclosure” due economic loss because of COVID19.

Our residents and businesses deserve a legally binding order halting evictions due to COVID19.

Corporations are always asking for certainty and clarity in laws and regulations. Don’t the people also deserve certainty and clarity?

If the Mayor and the rest of the City Council choose to attack me personally because I stand for real protections for our residents and local businesses, so be it.

See the Voice of OC story HERE.

However, I have not given up on the people getting the Irvine City Council to do the right thing and use the our authority to order a legally binding moratorium on all COVID-9 related evictions.

Please continue to contact the Mayor and the members of the Irvine City Council and ask them to exercise their full power to protect Irvine residents and businesses from eviction.

If you are personally in danger of eviction, or in the process of eviction, please let them (and me) know.

You can contact all of us on the Irvine City Council at citycouncil@cityofirvine.org

Thank you.

We’re all in this together.

Melissa

 

 

California Apartment Association Calls for Halt on Evictions, Rent Freeze, and Property Tax Relief

Last week I called for the Irvine City Council to use the power specifically granted to us by the Governor to order a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for those people who are unable to pay their mortgage, due to reasons related to COVID-19.

Irvine City Hall (Tomoya Shimura, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Today, I received an email from the California Apartment Association (CAA), the nation’s largest statewide trade group representing owners, investors, managers and suppliers of apartments, which has adopted a program it calls the Safe at Home Guidelines, asking its every California rental housing provider to commit to the following through May 31, 2020:

  • Freeze rents on all residents & pledge to not issue any rent increases.
  • Halt evictions on renters affected by COVID-19, absent extraordinary circumstances.
  • Waive late fees for residents who pay rent after the rent due date because they have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related government actions.
  • Offer flexible payment plans for residents who cannot pay rent by the due date.
  • Direct renters to available resources to assist with food, health, and financial assistance.
  • Communicate with residents proactively that you are available to assist them and want to work with them to ensure they remain housed.

The CAA further noted that “As our members continue serving residents, they continue to incur expenses such as mortgages, taxes, insurance, maintenance, and payroll. Therefore, we are seeking your support in advocating for property tax and additional mortgage relief beyond those that are backed by federal programs. Temporary relief will benefit California renters, homeowners, and housing providers who are all struggling from the COVID-19 virus.”

I applaud the CAA for stepping up in this crisis. 

I also strongly agree that state and local property tax and mortgage relief measures are necessary to help property owners through this difficult time.

Accordingly, it is even more important that the Irvine City Council, at its meeting on Tues., March 24, order a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for all those people who are unable to pay mortgage, due to reasons related to COVID-19, in addition to property tax relief measures.

If you believe, as I do, that the currently agendized proposal is inadequate in the face of the crisis, and that, instead, the City of Irvine should  use the power specifically granted to it by the Governor to order a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for those people who are unable to pay their mortgage, due to reasons related to COVID-19, please email the Mayor and the Irvine City Council to let them know.

Send emails to: citycouncil@cityofirvine.org

Also, because the March 24, 2020, Irvine City Council meeting will be held online, you may make a comment opposing the proposed resolution (Item 5.2) and supporting an order for a moratorium on evictions. Your comments will be read into the record. 

Submit your comment at: E-Comment Link

Thank you.

We’re all in this together.

Melissa

UPDATE:  The Irvine City Council Refuses To Order Moratorium On Evictions. Instead, Council “Encourages” Landlords Not To Evict. Tell Them To Order That Irvine Residents And Businesses Be Protected From Eviction Due to the COVID-19 Crisis.

 

 

THE IRVINE CITY COUNCIL SHOULD ORDER A 60-DAY BAN ON ALL EVICTIONS DUE TO THE COVID-19 CRISIS

During California’s housing crisis, we now face a pandemic of exponential growth and danger. This public health emergency would be made worse by adding to our homeless and unsheltered population.

Amid layoffs, job losses, business closures, and wage and stock market losses, families are struggling to stay housed and obtain food, medicine, and other staples. Every local Irvine business is experiencing stress from the impacts of this pandemic. Most of those who will become ill from this virus will go through it at home, cared for by family, friends and neighbors.

In response to the need to keep people sheltered and financially secure during this epidemic, the Governor of California issued an Executive Order on March 16, 2020, that specifically authorizes local governments such as the City of Irvine to halt evictions for both renters and homeowners.

Irvine City Hall (Tomoya Shimura, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The Governor stated, “Californians are experiencing substantial loss of hours or wages, or layoffs related to COVID-19, affecting their ability to keep up with their rents, mortgages, and utility bills. People shouldn’t lose or be forced out of their home because of the spread of COVID-19. Over the next few weeks, everyone will have to make sacrifices – but a place to live shouldn’t be one of them. I strongly encourage cities and counties take up this authority to protect Californians.”

At this time of unprecedented stress and vulnerability to our residents and businesses, we cannot add to our homeless and unsheltered population. It is a matter of conscience as well as public health and safety.

We must also help our business community survive.  Therefore, I am calling for a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for mortgagees, who are unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to reasons related to COVID-19 (as spelled out in detail in the Governor’s Executive Order).

Any meaningful relief from eviction during this crisis must include mortgagees as well as renters.  The power of local governments like the City of Irvine to order a moratorium on evictions due to foreclosure is specifically included in the Governor’s Executive Order. The critical importance of this protection during our present crisis has been acknowledged by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which, along with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, have already suspended foreclosures and evictions of homeowners behind on their mortgages.

Based on the above, I believe that the proposal by Mayor Shea and Councilmember Khan that is now agendized as Item 5.2 for the March 24, 2020, Irvine City Council meeting is inadequate to deal with the current crisis.

According to the memo submitted by Mayor Shea and Councilmember Khan, rather than enacting an order declaring a moratorium on all evictions, it is proposed instead that the Irvine City Council would “memorialize” a commitment between the City and major landlords/developers The Irvine Company and FivePoint Holdings that they are “both committed to honoring the spirit and intent of the Governor’s executive order.” The memo further stated that “If, despite our best intentions, we see a need to enact a local ordinance to limit evictions, we will immediately do so.”

The currently agendized proposal is inadequate for the following reasons:

  • It does not protect homeowners paying a mortgage who are in danger of foreclosure.
  • It does not protect tenants of any landlords other than The Irvine Company and FivePoint.
  • It does not protect subtenants.
  • It does not offer full legal protection, affording no real security or peace of mind.

Therefore, I recommend that the Irvine City Council order a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for all those people who are unable to pay mortgage, due to reasons related to COVID-19.

If you believe, as I do, that the currently agendized proposal is inadequate in the face of the crisis, and that, instead, the City of Irvine should  use the power specifically granted to it by the Governor to order a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for those people who are unable to pay their mortgage, due to reasons related to COVID-19, please email the Mayor and the Irvine City Council to let them know.

Send emails to: citycouncil@cityofirvine.org

Also, because the March 24, 2020, Irvine City Council meeting will be held online, you may make a comment opposing the proposed resolution (Item 5.2) and supporting an order for a moratorium on evictions. Your comments will be read into the record. 

Submit your comment at: Ecomment on Agenda Item 5.2

Thank you.

We’re all in this together.

Melissa

UPDATE:

See The Irvine City Council Refuses To Order Moratorium On Evictions. Instead, Council “Encourages” Landlords Not To Evict. Tell Them To Order That Irvine Residents And Businesses Be Protected From Eviction Due to the COVID-19 Crisis.

 

 

OC Register Editorial: Democracy Cannot be Stage-Managed by the Majority for their Own Convenience and Political Advantage

The Orange County Register’s editorial of July 17, 2019, correctly calls out and condemns the recent move by the Irvine City Council to prevent a Council Member from putting an item on the agenda unless two other members agree to do so.

As the Register states, “The transparent goal is to shut down the views of the political minority. Irvine officials said they want to stop ‘grandstanding,’ but one person’s grandstanding is another’s chance to raise vital concerns.”

The Register also recognizes that while the new rule was adopted specifically to silence me, the effect of the rule will be to silence all disagreement and dissent:

“Fox has previously discussed supposedly ‘divisive’ issues ranging from flying the LGBTQ flag at City Hall to creating a veterans’ cemetery near the Great Park. But this fracas isn’t about the particular issues any member might want to discuss, but about whether a duly elected official has the right to publicly discuss them. Councils are not private clubs . . . These are the public’s meetings and all officials, even minority voices, represent their constituencies. All elected bodies need to encourage wide-ranging discussions so the public can be part of the self-government process – and not just observers of a carefully crafted script. That’s the essence of representative democracy.”

Thank you to the OC Register for recognizing that public meetings in a real democracy cannot be stage-managed by the majority for their own convenience and political advantage.

As I’ve said before, Irvine’s current pro-Trump Council majority, again aided by its ostensibly Democratic ally, has made it clear that they are following in Irvine the very same playbook of obstruction and bullying used in Washington by Trump and Mitch McConnell, and with the same goal: to silence opposing voices.

But I have no intention of being silent.

And neither do you.

As with Trump and McConnell, we must persist and resist every day, and throw them out decisively in November 2020.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to raise my voice to speak for progressive policies and values — like respect for LGBTQ people, a state cemetery for our veterans, implementation of a serious plan to tackle climate change, more accessible child care, ending sexual violence and discrimination in the workplace, building affordable housing, and ensuring greater government transparency — as I was elected to do.

 

No, We Won’t Back Down

At its last meeting, the Irvine City Council took the unprecedented step of voting to prohibit a council member from placing an item on the agenda without two other council members’ approval.

Now, only the mayor will be allow to put an item on the agenda — a power that until last week had for decades belonged to every individual member of the City Council.

There have been many shifting majorities on the City Council over the years, but no other Council has gone so far to silence dissenting voices and points of view.

You can read about what took place in this excellent article in Voice of OC, including how this new rule is directed squarely at me in retaliation for proposing that Irvine fly the Pride Flag at City Hall, and how they made sure to propose the new rule — and then quickly enact it —  while I was on a long-planned trip to Alaska.

The truth is that Irvine’s Republican, pro-Trump Council majority — created by appointment in a back-room deal with its ostensibly Democratic ally and the developer FivePoint — has made it clear that they are following in Irvine the very same playbook of obstruction and bullying used in Washington by Trump and Mitch McConnell, and with the same goal: to silence opposing voices.

But I have no intention of being silent.

And neither do you.

As with Trump and McConnell, we must persist and resist every day.

And throw them out decisively in November 2020.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to raise my voice to speak for progressive policies and values — like respect for LGBTQ people, a state cemetery for our veterans, implementation of a serious plan to tackle climate change, more accessible child care, ending sexual violence and discrimination in the workplace, building affordable housing, and ensuring greater government transparency — as I was elected to do.

 

Democracy Requires an Election to Fill the Vacancy on the Irvine City Council

When Irvine Mayor Donald Wagner took office as an Orange County Supervisor, Mayor Pro Tem Christina Shea automatically took his place as Mayor.

As a result, there is now a vacancy on the Irvine City Council.

Democracy requires an election rather than an appointment to fill this vacancy.

According to law, a vacancy on the Irvine City Council can be filled by appointment by the remaining four members of the Council or by election by the vote of all the residents of Irvine.

Even if the City Council appoints a new member, the people can still override that appointment and demand an election by filling a petition signed by seven percent of the voters of the City.

Some argue that precedent and financial concerns support appointing the third-place runner-up in the previous election to the open seat on the Irvine City Council, rather than holding an election in which the people will choose the person to serve as their representative.

In fact, neither precedent nor principle support an appointment over the people’s choice as determined by an election.

Since the incorporation of Irvine as a City in 1971, there have been three times that a vacancy needed to be filled for a councilmember.

In the first instance, on October 15, 1985, Ralph A. “Ray” Catalano, a professor at UCI and a former planning commissioner, was appointed to serve the remaining three years of Councilmember David Sills term when Sills resigned from the Council to become a superior court judge.

Significantly, Catalano was not the next highest vote-getter in the previous election.  Catalano was not even a candidate in that election and had never run for office. The person who was the next highest vote-getter in the previous election, Mary Ann Gaido, was not appointed to the open seat. Catalano later explained that he was a political compromise choice and was picked by Sills as his successor.

That is the only time that the Irvine City Council has used an appointment by Councilmembers rather than an election by the people to fill a vacancy on the Council.  In every other case of a vacancy on the City Council, the seat has been filled by a vote of the people in a special election.

Our very first Irvine City Council election was a special election, held on December 21, 1971, when Irvine residents approved the City charter.

On November 6. 1990, a special election was held to fill the vacancy on the City Council when Councilmember Sally Anne Sheridan was elected Mayor the previous June. The next highest vote-getter from the previous election – again it was Mary Ann Gaido – was not appointed.  Bill Vardoulis, who had not run in the prior election, entered that race and won that special election.

On November 3, 1992, a special election was held to fill the vacancy on the City Council when Councilmember Art Bloomer resigned with two years remaining in his term.  The next highest vote getter from the year of Bloomer’s election – and it was again Mary Ann Gaido — was not appointed. Greg Smith won that special election.

Additional special elections have also been called numerous other times for various reasons, such as voting on charter amendments, measures and ordinances.

In fact, in the history of municipal elections in Irvine, special elections seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

Third-place candidates have been elected to the City Council under Measure A, which was adopted by the voters in 1991.

Measure A provides in that in City Council elections where one of the sitting Councilmembers is running for Mayor, the voters can cast three ballots for candidates for the office of City Council, so that “if a council member whose term of office has not yet expired is elected to the office of Mayor, the vacancy in the office of that Councilmember shall be filled by the candidate for Councilmember receiving the third highest number of votes.”

So far, this situation has happened four times.

On June 7, 1988, third-place City Council candidate Cameron Cosgrove was elected when Larry Agran was elected Mayor.

On November 7, 2000, third-place City Council candidate Beth Krom was elected when Larry Agran was elected Mayor.

On November 2, 2004, third-place City Council candidate Sukhee Kang was elected when Beth Krom was elected Mayor.

On November 4, 2008, third-place City Council candidate Larry Agran was elected when Sukhee Kang was elected Mayor.

Our current situation is very different from those cases.

In those cases, the voters were given the explicit opportunity to vote for three candidates for City Council.

As a result, the third-place candidate gained his or her seat on the City Council directly and democratically through the knowing vote of the people, not by appointment based on coming in third when the voters only had the choice of two.

Indeed, as I have shown, our City has NEVER appointed a Councilmember based on a third-place or next-highest finish in a previous election.

Some have argued that we should use this method of appointment – which we’ve never used before – simply in order to save the money that would need to be spent on an election.

First, it should be noted that other local cities are conducting special elections for councilmembers that could easily be coordinated by the Orange County Registrar with our own, thereby reducing the cost of the election.

Most importantly, however, I believe that democracy is worth the cost.

Democracy is far from perfect.

Many of us are convinced that we could pick better officials than those the people elect.

But that is not what our nation is about.

We elect our officials as our representatives; they are not appointed over us.

Democracy is messy, inefficient, and, yes, sometimes expensive.

In the words of Winston Churchill, “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

I agree.

We should fill the vacant seat on the City Council with the choice of the people as determined by an election.

UPDATE:

On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, the Irvine City Council officially declared a vacancy on the Council.

I have been informed by the city’s attorney and the city manager this declaration “starts the clock” regarding the process of filling the vacant council seat. We now have 60 days from April 3, 2019, to come to an agreement on the appointment of a new Councilmember or there will be an election.

Residents have 30 days from April 3, 2019, to file a petition signed by seven percent of Irvine’s registered voters to require an election regardless of what the council does.

UPDATE:

There is now a Republican proposal to circumvent this voting process by using an arbitrary ‘point proposal,’ under which “each Councilmember shall list three (3) applicants [candidates] in order of preference.” The candidates will be assigned the following point values: Top candidate 3 points, second candidate 2 points, and third candidate, 1 point.

Under this proposed procedure, the applicant receiving the most points will be appointed.

This proposed “point ” procedure:

(1) has never been used by the Irvine City Council to decide how to fill a council vacancy or to make any other appointment;
(2) violates the most crucial principle of a representative democracy — that the people’s representatives are selected by majority rule.

Arbitrarily assigning points to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice applicants, and then saying the applicant with the “most points” wins, is simply a way to avoid majority rule. It undermines the basic legitimacy of Irvine’s government.

Please attend the next Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 9, at approximately 3:00 p.m. to make sure your voices are heard.

UPDATE:

While the so-called “point” procedure was defeated at the last meeting, the question of whether to appoint or have an election is still not settled.

Please attend the next Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 23, where the Council will likely decide either on a process for appointment of the 5th council member to the vacant seat or deadlock to cause an election.

Closed session starts at 4:00 p.m. and the open meeting begins at 5:00 p.m. The agenda is packed so this may run late.

Let the voters have their say!

 

What I’m Listening for in the Mayor’s 2019 State of the City Address

Irvine Mayor Don Wagner will give his “State of the City” address at the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 26, 2019.

The Mayor will have many positive things to talk about, including the tremendous progress that we’ve made on fulfilling the promise of the Great Park — a new 80,000 square-foot ice arena, a 1200-seat Great Park Championship Baseball Stadium and new additional baseball and softball fields, a 5,000-seat Championship Soccer Stadium, a 2.5 mile nature corridor, plus an agreement with Wild Rivers to build a new water park and an exclusive negotiating agreement with Pretend City Children’s Museum to relocate in the Great Park

He will remind us that Irvine remains America’s safest city and was recently declared one of the safest cities in the world.

He will also note that Irvine was rated the number one city in the nation in fiscal strength.

He can also speak positively about the advances that our City Council has made in providing for greater openness and transparency in our budget process, pointing to our new two-year budget cycle, our new five-year planning program and our new Irvine Sunshine Ordinance that expands public notice of agenda items to four times longer than California law requires.

These are indeed wonderful accomplishments that the Mayor, the entire City Council, and all residents of Irvine should be proud of.

But much more remains to be done and problems remain to be solved.

Here is what I would like to hear the Mayor address:

Climate and the Environment

Irvine must become ever more environmentally responsible and should be a national leader in meeting the existential ecological demands of the future.

As Chair of the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, I have helped guide Irvine toward greener policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

But more must be done.

I would like to hear the Mayor commit to establishing a Climate Action Plan for Irvine, with the goal of eliminating half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city and aiming for all electricity used in the city to be from renewable sources by 2035.

Climate Action Plans make it easy for the public to see what cities plan to do to meet state targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sprinkling such actions throughout the General Plan is not as transparent and is not in the best interest of the public.

Other cities, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Seattle, Baltimore, Phoenix and Houston already have Climate Action Plans.  As the self-proclaimed City of Innovation, Irvine should be a leader in this national effort.

An Irvine Climate Action Plan would benefit both the environment and the regional economy, creating new jobs in the renewable energy industry, improve public health and air quality, conserve water, more efficiently use existing resources, increase clean energy production, improve the quality of life, and save taxpayer money.

Most importantly, a Climate Action Plan would fulfill our obligation to ensure that Irvine remains a beautiful green city for future generations.

Traffic Congestion and Traffic Safety

We have made significant progress in alleviating Irvine’s traffic congestion.  We expanded the iShuttle to provide more transportation.  We’ve enabled left-hand turns in some intersections to allow traffic to move faster and more efficiently.  We’ve widened roads and made other improvements.

But we need to do more.

I would like to hear the Mayor announce a plan to create a greener, smarter, and more efficient transportation future by further expanding our iShuttle.  For example, a route that would take people from UCI to the Spectrum would be good for both Irvine traffic reduction, Irvine’s air quality, as well as for UCI students and Spectrum businesses.

Our roads are not only too often congested, they are also becoming too dangerous, as people fail to obey stop signs and follow the rules of the road.

I have been working with residents and the Irvine Police Department on improving the safety of our pedestrians and bicyclists, especially our children, and I held a Town Hall Meeting on Traffic Safety with the Chief of Police, but more must be done.

I would like to hear the Mayor propose a major comprehensive traffic safety project, focusing on ensuring motorists come to a full stop at stop signs.  This project would involve education, increased enforcement and deploying more advanced stop sign technology.

Many cities have lighted stop signs.  Irvine should have them as well.  Our Irvine Police should also receive a clear mandate from the Mayor and the City Council to take whatever enforcement actions are necessary to make our streets safer for our residents.

The Great Park

Irvine has made tremendous progress on fulfilling the promise of the Great Park and all of us should be proud of what we’ve accomplished.

I am looking forward to the Grand Opening of the new 270,000-square-foot Great Park Ice Area — the largest ice-skating facility in California and one of the largest in the United States.

I am also looking forward to the announcement of further progress on the return of Wild Rivers Water Park.

I also continue to support a veterans cemetery within the hallowed grounds of the former Marine Air Station El Toro, where so many brave men and women flew to Vietnam and other war zones, some never to come back.  My proposal (along with Christina Shea) to locate the veterans cemetery on land that had been intended as a golf course has been through the Commission process and will soon come before the City Council.

What I would like to hear the Mayor speak about tonight is a vision and a plan for completing the next crucial phase of the park – the Cultural Terrace.

The City Council entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement to bring Pretend City Children’s Museum to the Cultural Terrace.  When the relocation of Pretend City to the Great Park Cultural Terrace initially came before the City Council in 2017, I strongly supported it and was disappointed when we did not have the votes to act at that time.  I am extremely pleased that we have moved forward this year.

But much more needs to be done to truly create the Cultural Terrace as the jewel of the Great Park.

I believe the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace would be the ideal location for a natural history museum, showcasing the natural history of our area.

Importantly, the history of the Juaneno/Acjachemen and Gabrielino/Tongva — our County’s indigenous people — needs to be told!

In fact, while Orange County is the only county in Southern California that does not have a natural history museum, Orange County is already home to a fabulous collection of fossils and artifacts in the Dr. John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center, now located in several warehouses in Santa Ana.  This rich history of fossils and artifacts, perhaps one of the most important fossil-bearing areas in North America, if not the world, needs to be curated and displayed.

Our county’s rich store of fossils and artifacts ought to be open to all in a magnificent museum – a new Orange County Natural History Museum in the Great Park!

I have also made clear my support for the California Fire Museum and Safety Learning Center, and for preserving the heritage of our California firefighters in a permanent facility in the Great Park.

I have also long been a strong advocate for botanical gardens in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace.  In fact, every survey we’ve done has shown that gardens are among amenities that people most want in the Great Park.

I agree with the Great Park Garden Coalition that “We need places where children can experience nature and explore, where all can find refuge from the ever-increasing urban density and traffic, where people of all ages and abilities can experience beautiful outdoor spaces. All great urban parks have great garden spaces: Golden Gate Park, Central Park, Balboa Park.”

The Great Park in Irvine should, too.

Homelessness and Attainable Housing

As we all know, Irvine is among the most expensive real estate markets in the nation; for this reason, there is a tremendous need for, and tremendous obstacles to, affordable housing.

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

Irvine has been a model in this area and the Land Trust concept, now being adopted by Orange County and many other cities, is something that Irvine has pioneered.  No other city has a Land Trust like we have, and other cities are working to copy ours.

I’m proud of what the Irvine Land Trust has accomplished in the past year.

In 2018, we opened Parc Derian, which brings 80 new units of housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine.  We also began work on Salerno, a new 80-unit rental community. Like Parc Derian, Salerno will provide permanent affordable housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine.

Significantly, we have begun to develop our first homes for ownership with help from a new partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. This new Irvine community, called Chelsea on Native Spring, located north of Irvine Boulevard, will include 68 affordable home for sale to income-eligible veterans, working families, and young professionals.

In all, that’s 466 households, and more than a thousand people, who can comfortably live, work and raise families in Irvine directly because of the work of the Irvine Community Land Trust.

In addition to my work on the Irvine Land Trust, I have traveled to Pittsburgh and San Antonio to see what other cities have done to successfully combat homelessness, and I have traveled to Sacramento to encourage the legislature to revise regulations and the tax code to make it easier to build affordable housing.

I would like to hear the Mayor reaffirm Irvine’s commitment to support the Irvine Community Land Trust as successful model for other cities to emulate in providing housing for diverse income levels.

I would also like to hear the Mayor present his vision for alleviating the homelessness crisis, and especially what role he envisions Irvine should play in providing shelter and services, especially in light of the case in federal court.

How will he work with the federal court and Board of Supervisors to tackle this crisis on a truly regional basis, and how will he get the Board of Supervisors to spend the money and resources that they have been given specifically to deal with homelessness on an actual solution?

Working Together in an Inclusive Democracy  

Our City Council is no longer gridlocked in the partisan bickering that prevented progress for so many years; we have seen that we need to work together to improve the lives of all of Irvine’s residents.

I would like to see our city leaders display the truly democratic spirit that united all decent people in our community in condemning religious and racial bigotry, and not the divisiveness that is created when wedge issues, outside our jurisdiction and purview, are brought before the City Council.  Focusing on these wedge issues does not produce positive policies that bring our city together, but instead a theatrical politics of division that can only drive us apart.

I would like to hear the Mayor reach out to those of us on the other side of the aisle, as he has often done, recognizing that it is best for our city and our residents when we work for the common good by looking for common ground.

A Vision for our Great City of Irvine

Our great City of Irvine is truly blessed with wonderful people, a beautiful natural environment, thriving businesses, and remarkable schools.

What Irvine needs is a vision for the future that focuses and energizes our continued quest for being the very best place in the world to live, work and raise a family.

The event begins with a reception at 5:00 p.m., followed by the Mayor’s address at 6:00 p.m.

Both the “State of the City” address and the reception are open to the public. No RSVP is necessary to attend.

The Civic Center is located at 1 Civic Center Drive, Irvine CA 92606-5207.  Call 949-724-6077 for more information.

I hope to see you there!

What I’m Listening for in the Mayor’s 2018 State of the City Address

On Tuesday, February 27, Irvine Mayor Don Wagner will present his second “State of the City” address at the City Council chambers.

Mayor Wagner and I are members of different political parties and have very different views on many state and national issues. Yet in the year that we have served together on the Irvine City Council, we have been able to work in cooperation and with mutual respect to improve the lives of the residents of our City.

We have accomplished a lot in this past year. Since last year’s State of the City, Irvine has been rated:

• No. 1 Major American City in Fiscal Strength.
• No. 1 FBI’s Safest American City. Lowest rate of violent crime among cities with a population of 250,000 or more (12th consecutive year that City of Irvine has earned the Safest City accolade).
• No. 2 Safest Big City, based on categories that go beyond violent crime rates, including motor vehicle safety.
• No. 3 Most Prosperous City.
• No. 3 Happiest Residents.
• No. 6 Least Stressed American City
• No. 8 Best Public Parks.
• No. 8 Best City to Raise a Family, based on crime rate, vehicle safety, air quality, and educational attainment.
• No. 9 Healthiest Lifestyles.
• No. 15 Best Places to Buy a Forever Home.
• One of 20 Western Dream Towns.

While I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, much more remains to be done and problems remain to be solved. We have moved past the partisan bickering and gridlock that prevented progress for so many years, but we need to continue to work together to improve the lives of all of Irvine’s residents.

Here’s what I will be listening for in this year’s State of the City Address:

More plans to solve Irvine’s traffic and transportation problems.

Every person who ran for Mayor or City Council in 2016 – including myself and Mayor Wagner – promised to take bold and meaningful action to reduce traffic congestion.

In fact, in our first year, we have already accomplished a great deal:

• The City Council did not approve a single new entitlement for housing or offices in 2017.
• Reinstated Irvine Transportation/Traffic Commission (with my appointee, Ken Montgomery, as Chair).
• Created and filled new City of Irvine staff position of Director of Transportation.
• Curtailed traffic in and out of Concordia University.
• Approved $19 million plan to reduce traffic congestion throughout Irvine.
• Approved plan to widen University between MacArthur and Campus, adding a lane in each direction and upgrading traffic signals.
• Working with CalTrans to upgrade and improve timing on 40 traffic signals near freeway ramps.
• Moved forward the construction of a pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Jamboree at Michelson.
• Defeated proposed 1,960-unit “Travel Land” apartment complex at the 5 and Sand Canyon, based on negative impact on traffic congestion.

But more needs to be done.

Irvine still needs to increase the safe, effective, and efficient transportation choices available in the City (including public transportation, bicycle routes, and active transportation) and will need to continue to hold developers accountable for resolving traffic issues before any entitlements and building permits are issued.

I look forward to hearing more detailed and concrete plans for resolving our traffic and transportation issues, and for increasing the transportation alternatives that are needed to reduce automobile congestion in our streets. In addition, I would like to hear about working with our school board to offer transportation to students to and from school to reduce congestion in the mornings and afternoon rush.

Building the Cultural Terrace at the Great Park.

For far too long, the residents of Irvine and Orange County were given nothing but empty promises about building our Great Park on the grounds of the old El Toro Marine Base.

This year we have finally succeeded in creating a Great Park that residents can enjoy.

• We opened the temporary 12,000-seat live music FivePoint Amphitheatre while planning the permanent Great Park Amphitheatre.
• We broke ground on and will soon open a new ice skating facility in the Great Park (largest public ice skating facility in the West).
• We opened our 5,000-seat Championship Soccer Stadium and numerous other sports fields and facilities in the first phase of 194-acre Great Park Sports Park, the largest of its kind in Orange County – larger than Disneyland and Disney California Adventure combined.
• Our Great Park Sports Complex was presented with the Orange County Business Council’s Turning Red Tape into Red Carpet Award for Public-Private Partnership.
• The Great Park Championship Stadium opens its second season as the home of the Orange County Soccer Club, Orange County’s only professional soccer team.
• We reached an agreement with Wild Rivers for a new 30-acre water park in the Great Park.

This year, I will be listening for details of even more progress on the Great Park.

I will be listening for details of the opening this year of the “bosque” (tree-lined walking and biking trail area), as well as further development of the Great Park Sports Complex, including additional soccer and softball fields and a baseball stadium.

I want to hear about more specific plans and dates for the reopening of Wild Rivers. I will also be paying careful attention to the Mayor’s plans for the Cultural Terrace. I have advocated for the City Council to make commitments regarding placing museums, a library, and world-class botanical gardens so that we will have a truly Great Park.

Education and childcare.

It is time to squarely address the shortage of childcare for families in Irvine.

Nearly 2,500 Irvine families do not have adequate child care, with the most acute shortage for children under 2 years-old and children 6 to 12 years-old. Churches and other houses of worship traditionally provide a third of childcare. Our Irvine City Council and the Planning Commission must zone sufficient areas for churches and houses of worship, as well as take other steps, to meet our growing child care needs. I have been working with City staff, my Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson Norris, developers, childcare providers, and the business community to increase childcare through an overall city childcare development plan. I will be listening for the Mayor’s plans to help us in this important area.

Commitment to building the Veterans Cemetery and Memorial.

One of my proudest moments as an Irvine resident was when the City Council in 2014 voted unanimously to set aside 125 acres for an Orange County Veterans Cemetery. Since that time, we learned that the cost of building a veterans’ cemetery on the originally designated site would be more than $77 million – in other words, prohibitively expensive. For this reason, I support the land exchange according to which the Great Park developer will build the cemetery in another, close-by, location known as the “strawberry fields.”

This strawberry fields site, overwhelmingly preferred by veterans and all veterans’ groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, saves at a minimum $77.5 million in city, state, and national tax dollars, does not require the substantial remediation and decontamination of the original site, and reduces traffic through the City. The land exchange to build the veterans cemetery is also officially supported by the Democratic and the Republican parties.

Despite this near unanimous and bipartisan recognition that the strawberry field site is the better location and that land exchange is the only way to build the veterans’ cemetery, a deceptive and cynical campaign with paid signature gatherers placed the land exchange on the ballot on June 5.  If these nay-sayers prevail, there will never be a final resting place for veterans in Orange County, and certainly not in Irvine.  A “YES” vote on the cemetery referendum means there will be a veterans cemetery.  A “NO” means our promise to Orange County veterans will be broken.

I look forward to hearing the Mayor make a clear call to all who are grateful for our veterans’ service to vote YES on the referendum on June 5.

Affordable housing and county-wide help for the homeless.

Our state has a severe housing crisis that is getting worse. Our supply of housing has not kept pace with the growth of jobs and population.  As a result, housing prices continue to rise, and rents are skyrocketing. As housing costs rise, more people are being pushed into poverty and even homelessness.

Many students in Irvine’s public schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Too many of the jobs created in recent years do not pay a middle-class or even a living wage. We don’t have enough places to live, and too many people can’t afford the places that do exist.  Millennials and working families have a tough time finding places they can afford to live in our City.

Our lack of affordable and workforce housing has also been a significant cause of our traffic problems. As an economically  successful city and an expanding regional job center, Irvine is inundated by commuter traffic because so many people who work in Irvine cannot afford to live here.

I have advocated for more affordable housing and for additional municipal affordable housing requirements.  I would like to hear the Mayor say he agrees and will be offer proposals to increase affordable housing.

In addition, our local region has a severe homelessness crisis that our city, along with other cities and Orange County, must pitch in together to solve. I want to hear the Mayor commit to meaningful steps that Irvine can take now to help the homeless find both the shelter and the full range of services that they need to transition into permanent housing.

Innovative and Responsible Leadership.

I want to hear an inspiring vision for Irvine’s future as a world leader in education, smart planning, environmental awareness and responsibility and technological innovation.

This past year, Irvine has made tremendous progress in environmental awareness and responsibility. We have reinstated the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Commission, which I am honored to Chair.  We have received the Organic Landscape Leadership Award from Pepperdine Center for Sustainability for Irvine’s exclusive use of organic non-toxic materials in its gardens, parks, and grounds-keeping. We were named Sustainable Government of the Year for recycling and waste reduction from Sustain OC and received the 2017 Eco-Award from U.S. Green Building Council.

I want to hear the Mayor commit to continuing to ensure that all City of Irvine pest pressure is maintained organically, and that our public gardens and fields are not only beautiful, they are safe.

In addition, Irvine needs to move forward with state-of-the-art communications and smart transportation systems, as well as environmental protections for its residents and incentives for entrepreneurs and innovators.

Our great City of Irvine is blessed with the tools and resources needed to continue to be among the best cities in the world. I look forward to hearing Mayor Wagner’s vision for Irvine that continues our quest for being the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family.

The event begins with a reception at 5:00 pm, followed by the Mayor’s address at 6:00 pm.

Both the “State of the City” address and the reception are open to the public. No RSVP is necessary to attend.

The Civic Center is located at 1 Civic Center Drive. Call 949-724-6077 for more information.

I hope to see you there!