Democracy in Action: Public Outrage Leads Irvine City Council to Call on U.S. Postal Service to End and Rescind Actions that Impede Prompt Delivery of the Mail!

Following reports of postal boxes disappearing across Orange County, coupled with recent news stories that the Postmaster General of the United States was removing thousands of postal boxes and mail-sorting machines, eliminating overtime for mail carriers, and reducing post office hours, I joined with Irvine City Councilmember Farrah Khan in calling for the Irvine City Council to speak up on behalf of our residents to urge the Postmaster General to immediately end and rescind these changes.

Thanks to tremendous public support, we succeeded!

At the Irvine City Council meeting on September 8, 2020, the Council unanimously agreed to send an official letter to the U.S. Postmaster, on behalf of our residents, to cease and rescind any actions that undermine prompt delivery of the mail, including “expeditious action to re-store mail sorting equipment and remedy the recent changes to USPS polices and procedures that would result in reduced or delayed mail service levels.”

Here is the full text of the official letter sent to the U.S. Postmaster General:

Thank you to everyone who wrote to the Irvine City Council in support of the U.S. Postal Service! This letter is truly the result of democracy in action.

Now, we must keep the pressure on the federal government to ensure that the USPS “to provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and render postal services to all communities, without interruption.”

UPDATED! Tell the Irvine City Council to Oppose the Slow Down of the U.S. Postal Service!

I have received numerous reports of postal boxes suddenly disappearing across Orange County, including Irvine.  These reports are consistent with recent changes in policy by the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service, which have included removing thousands of postal boxes and mail-sorting machines, eliminating overtime for mail carriers, and reducing post office hours.

These changes in U.S. Postal Service policy have been faulted for slowing mail delivery — including the delivery of medicine and medical supplies veterans benefits, Social Security checks, census forms, and rent checks — and for making it more difficult for our residents to vote safely and with confidence that their ballots will be timely received during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For these reasons, Councilmember Farrah Khan and I will be asking our colleagues on the Irvine City Council to speak up on behalf of our residents and our businesses to urge the Postmaster General to immediately end and rescind these changes.

Here is the proposed Resolution:

RESOLUTION URGING THE U.S. POSTMASTER GENERAL TO CEASE AND RESCIND ALL ACTIONS THAT SLOW DOWN OR UNDERMINE THE PROMPT DELIVERY OF THE U.S. MAIL, ESPECIALLY DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.

WHEREAS, The United States Postal Service is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution “to bind the country together through the correspondence of the people”; and

WHEREAS, The Postal Service guarantees universal delivery to everyone, ensuring affordable and equitable communication and delivery as a basic right; and is indispensable, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the American people, especially veterans, seniors, and small businesses, delivering medications, stimulus checks, social security checks, census forms, rent checks, medical supplies, and election ballots;

WHEREAS, The Postal Service is one of the most important employers in the United States, providing family sustaining jobs, especially to veterans;

WHEREAS, By failing to seek regulatory approval on policy changes that have a nationwide impact, the United States Postmaster General has unilaterally implemented a series of revisions to the postal service’s protocols and procedures that threaten to undermine the timely delivery of mail across the country, including Irvine. These unilateral changes have included:

  • Removing mailbox locations around the country, including in Irvine and other cities in Orange County;
  • Decommissioning mail-sorting machines, with severe reductions in sorting capacity and the speed of delivery;
  • Severely limiting employees from working overtime, despite reported increases in demand and the need to compensate for employees who are out sick or at home quarantining; and
  • Instructing letter carriers to leave mail behind if it delays routes, running counter to the training postal workers traditionally receive to ensure prompt delivery of the mail;

WHEREAS, The USPS’s actions align with the President’s own recent assertion that he will prevent the postal service from being able to handle the expected surge in demand for voting by mail, and the USPS has warned several states, including California, that it could no longer guarantee timely compliance with all state election deadlines and delivery of all ballots cast by mail for the presidential election.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, THAT THE CITY OF IRVINE URGES THE UNITED STATES POSTMASTER GENERAL TO IMMEDIATELY CEASE AND RESCIND ALL ACTIONS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO REMOVAL OF POST BOXES, DECOMMISSIONING OF MAIL SORTING EQUIPMENT,  AND RESTRICTING MAIL CARRIER OVERTIME, THAT SLOW DOWN OR UNDERMINE THE PROMPT DELIVERY OF THE U.S. MAIL, ESPECIALLY DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.

PASSED AND ADOPTED by the City Council of Irvine at the meeting held on the 8th day of September 2020.

Please join us in urging the Irvine City Council to adopt this Resolution.

You can contact the other three members of the Irvine City Council to tell them to urge the Postmaster General to immediately cease and rescind that slow down or undermine the prompt delivery of the U.S. mail here:

Mayor Christina Shea:
christinashea@cityofirvine.org

Councilmember Anthony Kuo:
anthonykuo@cityofirvine.org

Councilmember Michael Carroll:
michaelcarroll@cityofirvine.org

You can also SIGN OUR PETITION here.

Thanks!

UPDATE: On August 27, 2020, the California Assembly voted 50-0 in favor of a Resolution that “urges the federal administration and the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate to cease and desist from all efforts to reduce the ability of voters to cast their ballots by mail or diminish public confidence in the vote by mail program as it relates to the November 3, 2020, general election” and that United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to immediately restore all mailboxes and mail sorters back to the communities from which they were removed in order to guarantee the timely and efficient delivery of vote by mail ballots in the November 3, 2020, general election.”

Of course, I would have voted in favor of this Resolution. Our current representative to Sacramento for the 68th AD, Steven Choi, again failed to show up to vote. In fact, Choi has one of the highest no-show rates in the CA legislature.  It’s time for us in AD68 to have a representative in Sacramento who cares about the people’s business and shows up to do the job he was elected to do.

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who wrote to the Irvine City Council in support of the Postal Service. As the result of your efforts, the Council at its meeting on September 8. 2020, unanimously agreed to send an official letter to the U.S. Postmaster, on behalf of our residents, to cease amd rescind any actions that undermine prompt delivery of the mail.

Tell the Irvine City Council to Implement Community Choice Energy (CCE) Now!

At our Irvine City Council meeting on July 14, 2020, we will be discussing Irvine’s next steps regarding implementation of a Community Choice Energy Plan.

Community Choice Energy (CCE) is a way for cities, counties or regions in California to look out for their own energy interests, a hybrid between regulated and deregulated electricity supply. CCE programs seek to provide energy that is cheaper and cleaner than energy provided by for-profit utility companies.

Nearly two years ago, on September 25, 2018, before a standing-room crowd, as Chair of Irvine’s Green Ribbon Committee, I joined with my colleagues on the Irvine City Council to vote to commission a feasibility study to determine the pros and cons of implementing a Community Choice Energy program in Irvine, including potential economic benefits for the community.

At the direction of the Irvine City Council, EES Consulting completed a comprehensive analysis of the feasibility (including costs and benefits) of a Community Choice Energy program in Irvine.  For this work, the taxpayers of the City of Irvine paid EES Consulting over $180,000.  We received the EES Consulting Feasibility Study in June 2019.

Among the study’s crucial conclusions was the projection that a CCE in Irvine would result in savings of $7.7 million per year in citywide electricity cost savings for Irvine residents and businesses, and a $112,000 per year savings for the City itself in municipal energy costs, as well as driving additional local economic development benefits, such as new jobs and $10 million in annual economic output.

Despite the extremely positive results of the feasibility study (or perhaps precisely because of these very positive results), the Republicans on the Irvine City Council insisted that we undertake a second study to evaluate the results of the first study.

I believed at the time that this second study was unnecessary and feared that it was really a scheme to delay and ultimately derail implementation of CCE in Irvine.

These fears have been born out.

In this second study (a so-called “third-party peer review”), MRW & Associates reviewed the EES Consulting Feasibility Study and found that, while there were some quibbles about the EES Consulting Feasibility Study’s assumptions and analysis, (1) the analytical approach of the EES Consulting Feasibility Study was sound; (2) the rate savings projected by the EES Consulting Feasibility Study is consistent with what current CCE programs are offering, and (3) a CCE program in Irvine could be financially viable.

In addition, MRW & Associates found that (4) the EES Consulting Feasibility Study adequately addressed the four CCE governance options available to the City, and (5) agreed with EES Consulting Feasibility Study that the two most reasonable options are forming an Irvine-only CCE or developing a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) with other Orange County cities.

Nevertheless, according to the staff report, “Given the uncertainty of some variable inputs, MRW recommends that if the City pursues formation of a CCE, a more extensive and detailed pro forma analysis be required prior to implementation.”

In other words, despite overall agreement with the analytical approach and the positive conclusions of the EES Consulting Feasibility Study, the MSW report recommends that Irvine undertake (and pay for and wait for) yet another study, and of course, more paralysis by analysis.

Instead, the City Council should immediately implement the Community Choice Energy program that studies we have twice paid for show to be a tremendous benefit to both the City and the planet.

We also need to adopt and implement the stand-alone Climate Action Plan that the Irvine City Council unanimously voted to develop, with lots of public fanfare and self-congratulations, in July 2019.   Like the Community Choice Energy plan, I am concerned that the Republican majority on the Irvine City Council has no intention of adopting a stand-alone Climate Action Plan and is delaying implementation with no intention to move forward.

For all of these reasons, I call on all Irvine residents to sign the petition to “Tell Irvine’s City Council to Implement Community Choice Energy (CCE) Now.”

I also ask you to submit an e-comment to the Irvine City Council in support of implementing a CCE now, without further and unnecessary delay.

The Climate Action Campaign has created an engaging 10 minute video explaining the issue.

Watch it here:

 

 

Tell the Irvine City Council To Repeal Its Unconstitutional Anti-LGBTQ Law!

“If the broad light of day could be let in upon men’s actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects.” — Louis Brandeis, Justice of the United States Supreme Court

Please join us on July 14, 2020, when the Irvine City Council decides whether to approve the motion from Councilmembers Melissa Fox and Farrah N. Khan to repeal and remove a cruel and unconstitutional anti-LGBTQ ordinance that has been part of Irvine’s Municipal Code as Sec. 3-5-501 through 503 since 1989.

[UPDATE: Sign our Petition to Repeal and Remove Irvine’s Ant-LGBTQ Ordinance].

Most residents of Irvine do not know that our diverse and forward-thinking city has an ordinance on the books that specifically and explicitly denies anti-discrimination protection to people based on their sexual orientation.

In fact, most residents are shocked when they learn that the Irvine Municipal Code includes the following:

“Sec. 3-5-503. – City Council parameters.

Except as provided in section 3-5-502, the City Council shall not enact any City policy, law or ordinance that:

A.  Defines sexual orientation as a fundamental human right.

B.  Uses sexual orientation, in whole or in part, as the basis for determining an unlawful discriminatory practice and/or establishes a penalty or civil remedy for such practice.

C.  Provides preferential treatment or affirmative action for any person on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

We believe it is outrageous that this cruel and unconstitutional law is still on the books in Irvine! It’s long past time for it to be repealed and removed!

These provisions were added by Ord. No. 89-1, which was adopted as Measure N by 53% of the voters as an initiative on Nov. 7, 1989, overturning an Irvine Human Rights Ordinance enacted by the Council in July 1988 that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The main proponent of the Measure N ballot initiative and the subsequent anti-LGBTQ ordinance was a group calling itself the “Irvine Values Coalition,” led by carwash-developer Michael Shea and his then-wife (and later Irvine mayor) Christina Shea.

According to Christina Shea, the initiative was needed because the earlier Human Rights ordinance gave “special legislative protection to the homosexual, bisexual and lesbian communities” and “homosexuality is characterized by a wide range of sexual perversions, varying degrees of promiscuity and a disproportionate percentage of sexually transmitted diseases.”

Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance violates both the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.

In Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution prohibits a state from banning LGBTQ people from seeking “specific legal protection from injuries caused by discrimination.”

The facts of Romer v. Evans are as follows: after various cities and counties in Colorado enacted laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, the State of Colorado, through a ballot initiative, amended its state constitution to “prohibit[] all legislative, executive or judicial action at any level of state or local government designed to protect . . . homosexual persons or gays and lesbians.”  As the Supreme Court explained, under the amendment, “Homosexuals, by state decree, are put in a solitary class with respect to transactions and relations in both the private and governmental spheres. The amendment withdraws from homosexuals, but no others, specific legal protection from the injuries caused by discrimination, and it forbids reinstatement of these laws and policies.”

The Supreme Court declared that the Colorado constitutional amendment was based upon animosity toward homosexual people and lacked a rational relation to any legitimate governmental purpose.  Accordingly, the Court determined that Colorado’s constitutional amendment violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment.

Like the Colorado constitutional amendment that the Supreme Court invalidated in Romer v. Evans, Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance attempts to prohibit local government action “designed to protect . . . homosexual persons or gays and lesbians” [i.e., protects people based on “sexual orientation.”] and like the Colorado constitutional amendment invalidated in Romer v. Evans, Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance “withdraws from homosexuals, but no others, specific legal protection from the injuries caused by discrimination.” Accordingly, Romer v. Evans renders Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance unconstitutional.

Moreover, not only is Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance unconstitutional, it also clearly contradicts and is superseded by California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which explicitly prohibits discrimination against people based on “sexual orientation.”

Because state law supersedes any city law or local ordinance, the Unruh Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation anywhere in California means that Irvine lacks the power to declare that “the City Council shall not enact any City policy, law or ordinance that: Uses sexual orientation, in whole or in part, as the basis for determining an unlawful discriminatory practice and/or establishes a penalty or civil remedy for such practice.”

We would like the see the eyes of the world on Irvine. 

We believe that the three others on the Irvine City Council — Mayor Christina Shea and Councilmembers Anthony Kuo and Mike Carroll — are far more likely to vote to repeal and remove this cruel and unconstitutional ordinance from the Municipal Code if they know that PEOPLE ARE WATCHING!

You can read more about the origins of this anti-LGBTQ ordinance — how it was promoted by (now Mayor) Christina Shea and her then-husband Michael Shea out of animosity and fear toward LBGTQ people and as a launching pad for their right-wing political careers — at Melissa Fox’s blog post HERE.

The Irvine City Attorney, who is an ally of Mayor Christina Shea, has stated that because this anti-LGBTQ ordinance was made law by a ballot initiative, it can only be repealed and removed by another ballot initiative. Our argument against this assertion is that this ordinance is clearly unconstitutional under many United States Supreme Court cases, as well as in violation of federal and state law; for this reason, it’s repeal and removal does not change the law in a way that requires another ballot measure.

In fact, the California Legislature dealt with this very issue in its repeal of the unconstitutional sections of Prop 187 by Senate Bill 396 (2014) by a majority vote of the Legislature without a vote of the entire electorate.  As the Judicial Committee of the California Senate noted, “Under existing law, California’s Constitution only authorizes the Legislature to amend or repeal initiative statutes by way of another statute that becomes effective only when approved by the electors –unless the initiative statute permits amendment or repeal without their approval. (Cal. Const., art. II, Sec. 10, subd. (c).) This bill [SB 396] seeks to repeal several state statutes implemented upon voter approval of Proposition 187, which generally prohibited the provision of various benefits to undocumented aliens. That proposition did not authorize the Legislature to amend or repeal its provisions without voter approval.”

Nevertheless, the Judicial Committee found that the Legislature had authority to repeal the unconstitutional sections of Prop 187 without a vote of the entire electorate. It reasoned that because the bill did not modify or repeal any provisions of Prop 187 except those that are unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable, it did not make any change in existing law. Accordingly, “SB 396 would not impermissibly repeal or amend the initiative; rather, it would merely update California statutes to accurately reflect current law.” The bill passed the Assembly and the Senate with only a single No vote.

The same circumstances exist here. Keeping this discriminatory language on the books, “causes confusion and harmful outcomes . . . [Therefore], it is fitting that [we] expressly acknowledge the detrimental impact of the discriminatory [language] by removing its stain from the state’s statutes.”  That is precisely what our City Council needs to do now, and what the precedent of SB 396 gives us clear authority to do: “expressly acknowledge the detrimental impact of the discriminatory [language of Sec. 3-5.501-503] by removing its stain from the [City’s Code.]”

In addition to being unconstitutional and in violation of superseding state laws, Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance is a cruel and embarrassing relic of a more prejudiced time.

Does Irvine want to remain on record as being one of the very few cities in America, and  indeed the world, that still officially discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation?  We hope not!

Please watch the Irvine City Council Meeting online on July 14.

Please ask your friends and family to watch.

And, crucially, LET THE IRVINE CITY COUNCIL KNOW THAT YOU’RE WATCHING THEM!

You can WATCH the meeting live on ICTV, Cox Communications local access channel 30, and AT&T U-verse channel 99, and livestreamed online at cityofirvine.org/ictv.

You can CONTACT the other three members of the Irvine City Council to tell them to REPEAL AND REMOVE IRVINE’S ANTI-LGBTQ ORDINANCE here:

Mayor Christina Shea:
christinashea@cityofirvine.org

Councilmember Anthony Kuo:
anthonykuo@cityofirvine.org

Councilmember Michael Carroll:
michaelcarroll@cityofirvine.org

You can SIGN OUR PETITION to Repeal and Remove Irvine’s Ant-LGBTQ Ordinance.

Please see our Facebook event page, hosted by Melissa Fox, Farrah N. Khan, Tammy Kim, and Lauren Johnson-Norris.

Rally for Flying the Pride Flag in Irvine! Tues., June 23, 2020 Time: 3:30 pm at Irvine City Hall Plaza!

June is Pride Month, when the State of California, and nations and cities around the world, stand with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community as they declare their pride in who they are and who they love.

Show your support for flying the Pride Flag in Irvine by joining Irvine City Councilmembers Melissa Fox and Farrah N. Khan at a Rally at City Hall before Tuesday’s Irvine City Council Meeting! 

What: Rally for Flying the Pride Flag in Irvine
Where: Irvine City Hall, 1 Civic Center Plaza
Date: Tues., June 23, 2020
Time: 3:30 p.m. 

Click here to see the Facebook event page for the Rally.

Remember face coverings and social distancing is legally required in Irvine! Let’s keep each other safe while we make the world a better place!

Please also show your support for flying the Pride Flag in Irvine by contacting Mayor Christina Shea and the Irvine City Council to let them know. We need only one more vote! Contact the Irvine City Council: https://www.cityofirvine.org/city-council/contact-council

Note: At the following meeting on July 14th, we will be urging the Irvine City to repeal and remove its unconstitutional and cruel anti-LGBTQ ordinance!
https://melissafoxblog.com/2020/06/14/irvine-should-repeal-its-anti-lgbtq-ordinance-now/

Irvine Should Repeal Its Anti-LGBTQ Ordinance Now!

At the Tues., July 14, 2020, Irvine City Council meeting, I will move to repeal Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance [Sec. 3-5-501 through 503] as unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which explicitly prohibits discrimination against people based on “sexual orientation.”

Councilmember Farrah Khan has agreed to join me in putting this item on the July 14 Council agenda and in supporting this motion.

Most residents of Irvine do not know that our diverse and forward-thinking city has an ordinance on the books that specifically and explicitly denies anti-discrimination protection to people based on their sexual orientation.

In fact, most residents are shocked when they learn that the Irvine Municipal Code includes the following:

“Sec. 3-5-503. – City Council parameters.

Except as provided in section 3-5-502, the City Council shall not enact any City policy, law or ordinance that:

A.  Defines sexual orientation as a fundamental human right.

B.  Uses sexual orientation, in whole or in part, as the basis for determining an unlawful discriminatory practice and/or establishes a penalty or civil remedy for such practice.

C.  Provides preferential treatment or affirmative action for any person on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

These provisions were added by Ord. No. 89-1, which was adopted as Measure N by 53% of the voters as an initiative on Nov. 7, 1989, overturning an Irvine Human Rights Ordinance enacted by the Council in July 1988 that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The main proponent of the Measure N ballot initiative and the subsequent anti-LGBTQ ordinance was a group calling itself the “Irvine Values Coalition,” led by carwash-developer Michael Shea and his then-wife (and later Irvine mayor) Christina Shea.

According to Christina Shea, the initiative was needed because the earlier Human Rights ordinance gave “special legislative protection to the homosexual, bisexual and lesbian communities” and “homosexuality is characterized by a wide range of sexual perversions, varying degrees of promiscuity and a disproportionate percentage of sexually transmitted diseases.”

This anti-LGBTQ ordinance violates both the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.

In Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution prohibits a state from banning LGBTQ people from seeking “specific legal protection from injuries caused by discrimination.”

The facts of Romer v. Evans are as follows: after various cities and counties in Colorado enacted laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, the State of Colorado, through a ballot initiative, amended its state constitution to “prohibit[] all legislative, executive or judicial action at any level of state or local government designed to protect . . . homosexual persons or gays and lesbians.”  As the Supreme Court explained, under the amendment, “Homosexuals, by state decree, are put in a solitary class with respect to transactions and relations in both the private and governmental spheres. The amendment withdraws from homosexuals, but no others, specific legal protection from the injuries caused by discrimination, and it forbids reinstatement of these laws and policies.”

The Supreme Court declared that the Colorado constitutional amendment was based upon animosity toward homosexual people and lacked a rational relation to any legitimate governmental purpose.  Accordingly, the Court determined that Colorado’s constitutional amendment violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment.

Like the Colorado constitutional amendment that the Supreme Court invalidated in Romer v. Evans, Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance attempts to prohibit local government action “designed to protect . . . homosexual persons or gays and lesbians” [i.e., protects people based on “sexual orientation.”] and like the Colorado constitutional amendment invalidated in Romer v. Evans, Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance “withdraws from homosexuals, but no others, specific legal protection from the injuries caused by discrimination.”

Accordingly, Romer v. Evans renders Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance unconstitutional.

Moreover, not only is Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance unconstitutional, it also clearly contradicts and is superseded by California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which explicitly prohibits discrimination against people based on “sexual orientation.”

Because state law supersedes any city law or local ordinance, the Unruh Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation anywhere in California means that Irvine lacks the power to declare that “the City Council shall not enact any City policy, law or ordinance that: Uses sexual orientation, in whole or in part, as the basis for determining an unlawful discriminatory practice and/or establishes a penalty or civil remedy for such practice.”

Irvine anti-LBGTQ initiative was one of several ballot measures across the nation in the late 1980s and early 1990s not only to seek to repeal existing anti-discrimination ordinances, but to proactively prohibit any local unit of government from ever passing such ordinances in the future.

Hence, the Irvine anti-LGBTQ ordinance includes provisions that purport to make it extremely difficult for a future Irvine City Council  to repeal it.  According to the ordinance, “Any law or ordinance pertaining to Section 3-5-503 may only be enacted by obtaining the approval of a majority of the voters of the City of Irvine voting on the measure at a regular or special election. Such a measure may only be placed on the ballot by citizen’s initiative or a two-thirds majority vote by the City Council.” [Sec. 3-5-502.].

The Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans made clear that it is an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause to single out LGBTQ people for special burdens. including burdening them with special difficulties in enacting anti-discriminatory laws.  According, it is clear that the procedural provisions of Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance — requiring a 2/3 vote of the Council and then a ballot initiative for repeal — is again a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 5th and 14th Amendments because it is designed to make passage of protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation especially burdensome and difficult.

The California Legislature dealt with this very issue in its repeal of the unconstitutional sections of Prop 187 by Senate Bill 396 (2014) by a majority vote of the Legislature without a vote of the entire electorate.

As the Judicial Committee of the California Senate noted, “Under existing law, California’s Constitution only authorizes the Legislature to amend or repeal initiative statutes by way of another statute that becomes effective only when approved by the electors –unless the initiative statute permits amendment or repeal without their approval. (Cal. Const., art. II, Sec. 10, subd. (c).) This bill [SB 396] seeks to repeal several state statutes implemented upon voter approval of Proposition 187, which generally prohibited the provision of various benefits to undocumented aliens. That proposition did not authorize the Legislature to amend or repeal its provisions without voter approval.”

Nevertheless, the Judicial Committee found that the Legislature had authority to repeal the unconstitutional sections of Prop 187 without a vote of the entire electorate. It reasoned that because the bill did not modify or repeal any provisions of Prop 187 except those that are unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable, it did not make any change in existing law. Accordingly, “SB 396 would not impermissibly repeal or amend the initiative; rather, it would merely update California statutes to accurately reflect current law.” The bill passed the Assembly and the Senate with only a single No vote.

The same circumstances exist here.

Like the parts of Prop 187 repealed by a simple majority vote of the Legislature in 2014, the anti-LGBTQ ordinance is unconstitutional and enforceable. Like the unconstitutional parts of Prop 187, although Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance is unconstitutional and unenforceable, its language remains on the books. Keeping this discriminatory language on the books, “causes confusion and harmful outcomes . . . [Therefore], it is fitting that [we] expressly acknowledge the detrimental impact of the discriminatory [language] by removing its stain from the state’s statutes.”

That is what our City Council needs to do now, and what the precedent of SB 396 gives us clear authority to do: “expressly acknowledge the detrimental impact of the discriminatory [language of Sec. 3-5.501-503] by removing its stain from the [City’s Code.]”

In addition to being unconstitutional and in violation of superseding state laws, Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance is a cruel and embarrassing relic of a more prejudiced time.

Does Irvine want to remain on record as being one of the very few cities in America, and  indeed the world, that still officially discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation?  I hope not.

For all of these reasons, I will move to repeal Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance.  

As noted above, Councilmember Farrah Khan has agreed to join me in putting this item on the next Council agenda for Tues., July 14, 2020, and in supporting this motion.

If you agree with us, please tell Mayor Christina Shea and the rest of the Irvine City Council that Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance [Sec. 3-5-501 through 503] needs to be repealed NOW.

Contact the Mayor and the Irvine City Council by email here.

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.

,

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.

June is Pride Month: Support Flying the Pride Flag at Irvine City Hall!

June is Pride Month, when the State of California, and nations and cities around the world, stand with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community as they declare their pride in who they are and who they love.

June holds historic significance for the LGBT community.  In 1969, the Stonewall Riots occurred in the New York City as a protest against the police department’s unfair targeting of the LGBT community. The Stonewall Riots led to political organizing that is considered to be the beginning of the modern LGBT civil rights movement. The following year, the first LGBT Pride Parade was held in New York City on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Today, California has the largest LGBT population in the nation and is home to over forty LGBT Pride celebrations. 

As Governor Newsom stated recently in his Pride Month Proclamation, “The LGBTQ community has worked tirelessly for respect, equality and their very right to exist. Their battles have been fought in the courts, from marriage equality to demanding equal protection under the law.  While there has been remarkable progress towards acceptance and equality in recent years, members of the LGBTQ community in the United States and around the world still face an unacceptable level of discrimination and violence. This includes LGBTQ people who aren’t safe at home and those who do not have a home in which to stay.  We must push back against those who threaten the safety of LGBTQ Californians and challenge our progress. And we must continue to make the case that all human beings share something fundamental in common – all of us want to be loved, and all of us want to love. We cannot march in a parade this June, but we can and will stand with our LGBTQ family, friends and neighbors. Pride celebrations may look different this year, but in California, no matter the circumstances, we are proud to support our LGBTQ community’s right to live their lives out loud. As we celebrate Pride across the state, we must continue to demand equal rights for all to create a California for all.”

Last year, I asked the Irvine City Council to fly the Pride Flag from our Civic Center. In doing so, we would be joining many other cities, including Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, and Fullerton, as well as the Orange County Fairgrounds, in flying the Pride Flag to recognize Pride Month by making it clear to all that our community is a place where LGBT people are visible, accepted, and welcome.

Unfortunately, although dozens of residents spoke at the meeting in support of flying the Pride Flag, the Council defeated the proposal and I was the only Councilmember to speak in favor of it. Councilmember Mike Carroll even called the Pride Flag “a spectacle of divisiveness.” 

In fact, in direct response to my motion to fly the Pride Flag, 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.  As the Orange County Register correctly stated in a powerful editorial opposing the Council’s action, “the transparent goal [was] to shut down the views of the political minority.”

Following the City Council’s rejection of my Pride Flag motion, I joined with numerous other Irvine residents in our own Pride Flag event in front of City Hall, celebrating LGBTQ Pride and diversity in Irvine.  I also placed a Pride Flag in front of my office at City Hall.

I said at the time that I had no intention of being silent.  Therefore, I will again bring a motion to the Irvine City Council to fly the Pride Flag from our Civic Center as a visible and prominent expression of our City’s commitment to equal rights for all and to ensure that our LGBTQ community can live their lives out loud.

Under the new rules imposed by the City Council majority in response to my Pride Flag motion last year, I asked Councilmember Farrah Khan to join me in placing this motion on the City Council agenda.  She told me she was working with other, Republican, councilmembers on a Pride-related agenda item.  When I asked her specifically whether the item included flying the Pride Flag, she did not respond.

I have now seen the agenda item, a proclamation, and it does not call for flying the Pride Flag from the Civic Center as a clear symbol of Irvine’s commitment. 

Accordingly, this year I will again bring a motion to fly the Pride Flag from our Irvine Civic Center.

Please show your support for flying the Pride Flag in Irvine by contacting Mayor Christina Shea and the Irvine City Council to let them know.  Click here for their email addresses.

Click here for a link to e-comment of the agenda item. Your comment is supposed to be read aloud by the clerk during the City Council meeting.

As Harvey Milk told us, “Hope will never be silent.”

UPDATE: Tues., June 9, 2020

I am deeply disappointed that no other member of the Council supported my motion to fly the Pride flag in Irvine during Pride. Not Mayor Christina Shea. Not Councilmembers Farrah Khan, Anthony Kuo, or Mike Carroll. What an embarrassment for our City. 

 

Happy Earth Day 2020!

Today, Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day.

Nearly 50 years ago, on April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the US and around the world, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

The global ecological awareness was growing, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly.  In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

Earth Day is now a global event each year, and more than 1 billion people in 193 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.

The City of Irvine has been a leader in earth-friendly environmental policies, green technology, and environmental awareness.  Irvine’s environmental programs have been on the leading edge of advances in green building and construction, environmental education, recycling, water conservation, waste disposal, and energy-saving.

Under Irvine Mayors Larry Agran, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang, Irvine was indeed a world leader in environmental programs and innovation. One of the highlights of Irvine’s environmental engagement was presence of the U.S. Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. The Solar Decathlon is an international competition held every two years that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The houses are assembled at a central location for display, evaluation, and awards. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The Solar Decathlon was held at the Great Park in 2013 and 2015.

Another highlight of Irvine’s environmental leadership was the creation of the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee in 2012.  The Green Ribbon Committee was charged with the crucial task of developing and recommending environmental policy initiatives and programs, including sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

Unfortunately, when Steven Choi became mayor of Irvine in November 2014, both the Great Park Solar Decathlon and the Green Ribbon Committee became victims of Choi’s climate change denial and hostility to environmental action.

As I’ve detailed in How Orange County Lost the U.S. Solar Decathlon, Steven Choi was hostile to the very premises of the Solar Decathlon — the need for replacing burning fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy.  In sharp contrast to the previous three Irvine mayors who championed environmental and climate concerns, Choi “completely question[ed] the idea of global warming being caused by human intervention.”  Rather than recognizing the importance of environmental action,  both as an opportunity for technological innovation and as an existential imperative, Choi saw all environmental concerns as anti-business and climate change as wholly unconnected to human activity. You can read the full story of the Solar Decathlon here.

Similarly, Choi sabotaged the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee. In fact, when I was elected to the Irvine City Council in November 2016, the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee had been inoperative for several years because Mayor Steven Choi and his allies on the Irvine City Council did not appoint sufficient members to constitute a quorum. In fact, the Committee did not meet during all of 2014 and 2016, cancelling every scheduled meeting. The words “climate change” and “global warming” were not permitted to be used in official City of Irvine publications or staff reports. Choi didn’t even allow the City of Irvine to participate in the Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by the Irvine-based Wyland Foundation.

As a longtime environmental activist, I wasn’t going to allow the City of Irvine to continue to ignore environmental issues and global warming. I convinced newly elected Mayor Donald P. Wagner, who replaced Steven Choi, to re-invigorate the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee and appoint me to the Committee as the City Council’s representative.  I then appointed Krishna Hammond, a young progressive scientist, as my representative to the Committee and encouraged the other Councilmembers to make appointments.  At our first meeting, I was elected Chair of the Committee and Krishna was elected Vice Chair. The Green Ribbon Environmental Committee was out of Choi-imposed exile and was off and running.

 

 

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A crucial environmental issue facing Irvine in the near future is whether to switch from purchasing energy from SoCal Edison to utilizing a Community Choice Energy provider.

Community Choice Energy (CCE) is a program that brings local control and freedom of choice and competition into the electricity marketplace. Community Choice allows cities and counties to purchase power on behalf of their residents and businesses to provide cleaner power options at a competitive price.

We’ve made progress since the days when Steven Choi drove the U.S. Solar Decathlon out of town, shut down the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, refused to participate in the Wyland Foundation’s Water Challenge, and banned the words “climate change” and “global warning.”

But there is still much to be done. In particular, the current Irvine City Council leadership needs to show that its professed concern for action on climate change and protecting the environment isn’t just lip service and a public relations smokescreen.

Instead, the City Council needs to adopt a stand-alone Climate Action Plan that we’ve been promised and implement the Community Choice Energy program that we’ve shown to be a tremendous benefit to both the City and the planet.

 

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.

 

 

Why I Voted “No” on a Zoning Change to Permit 1,000 More Million Dollar Single Family Houses in Irvine. Tell the Irvine City Council What You Think!

Recently, I voted “No” on continuing the second reading of a re-zoning proposal that would allow the addition of 1,000 single family million dollar houses to be built by the Irvine Company in the area of Portola Springs/Orchard Hills in Irvine.

This vote could have been the end of the issue, since on the first reading both Mayor Christina Shea and Councilmember Mike Carroll voted against the re-zoning.

However, Councilmember Mike Carroll now voted with the supporters of adding 1,000 new homes (Councilmembers Anthony Kuo and Farrah N. Khan) to continue the item to January 2020.

Carroll, Kuo and Khan won the vote to continue, 3-2. This means that these additional 1,000 million dollar single family houses will again come before the Council.

As a longtime advocate for local communities to permit more housing to alleviate our statewide affordable housing crisis, I was initially disposed to vote in favor of this re-zoning proposal.

But on further reflection, it became apparent to me that this proposed housing development would be built without the necessary infrastructure, including new schools and a local retail center, which are needed and have long been promised to residents.

I am a strong advocate for action on the local and state level addressing the housing crisis, but not at the cost of overcrowded schools and the abandonment of Irvine’s renowned village model and our Master Plan balancing housing with schools, retail centers, and open space.

In particular, I am a strong supporter of Irvine’s village concept, which is intended to reduce sprawl and traffic congestion, and create walkable neighborhoods and a sense of community, by locating housing, at several different levels of purchase price or rental cost, around both local schools and a local retail center.  This village model — an essential part of Irvine’s Master Plan long promoted by the Irvine Company — has been enormously successful.  As the Irvine Chamber of Commerce has boasted, Irvine is a “City of Villages.”

You can see a video promoting the Irvine Master Plan, with specific reference to the Irvine village model as an integral part of the Master Plan, here:

For this reason, I was very concerned — shocked, actually — when a representative of the Irvine Company responded to my questioning by stating that the Irvine Company had no plans to build a retail center near these new homes and were no longer committed to the village model.

In other words, I came to see that voting in favor of this zoning change is tantamount to voting for Irvine to no longer be a “City of Villages.”

On the issue of whether these proposed 1,000 million dollar homes would help alleviate the affordable housing crisis, here are the facts:

This week’s OC Register reports on an analysis by the Southern California News Group that graded every jurisdiction in California on its progress on state-mandated housing goals (the Regional Housing Needs Assessment or RHNA).

According to the article, Irvine is supposed to permit 12,149 homes between 2013 and 2021. Housing units are mandated in each of four categories: (1) very low income, (2) low income, (3) moderate income, and (4) above moderate income.

The number show that Irvine has done exceptionally well in providing housing in the moderate and (especially) above moderate income categories, but is not doing nearly as well in the low income and very low income categories, where it is seriously off track in meetings its RHNA goals.

Very Low Income Units: Irvine has permitted 907 very low income units, needs 1,761 to be on track, 2,817 for final goal.  In sum, very low income units are not on track, and are far from the final goal.

Low Income Units: Irvine has permitted 3 units, needs 271 to be on track, 2,034 for final goal. In sum, low income units are not on track, and are far from final goal.

Moderate Income Units: Irvine has permitted 12,973 units, needs 1,399 to be on track, 2,239 for final goal. In sum, moderate income units are more than on track, and are already in excess of the final goal.

Above Moderate Income Units: Irvine has permitted 12,137 units, needs 3,162 to be on track, 5,059 for final goal. In sum, above moderate income units are far more than on track, and are already far in excess of the final goal.

These numbers demonstrate what everyone knows: Irvine’s housing is overwhelmingly skewed toward the “Above Moderate Income” market.

The 1,000 housing units that would be added to Portola Springs/Orchid Hills under the re-zoning proposed by the Irvine Company are single family homes costing above $1,000,000.  These 1,000 “Above Moderate Income” units would not help Irvine meet its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals.

On the contrary, they would exacerbate Irvine’s school over-crowding and traffic congestion problems while doing little or nothing to ease our affordable housing crisis.

That’s why I voted No.

It is my belief that only saying No to these projects that provide housing only for the well-to-do, will we encourage developers to build more environmentally responsible and affordable housing projects.

I hope Irvine residents will make their views on this proposal for an additional 1,000 million dollar single family houses clear to all members of the Council between now and then.

Contact information for all members of the Irvine City Council can be found here.

Defend Democracy. Tell the Irvine City Council: These are the Public’s Meetings!

City Councils are not private clubs. Public meetings in a real democracy should not be stage-managed by the political majority to prevent public discussion of issues that they want to avoid for their own political advantage.

Last July, while I was on a long-planned vacation to visit my son in Alaska, the Irvine City Council adopted a new anti-democratic policy that prohibits an item from being placed on the agenda unless the mayor or two city council members agree to do so.

As the Orange County Register correctly stated in a powerful editorial opposing the Council’s action, “the transparent goal is to shut down the views of the political minority.”

The new policy was in direct response to my proposal in June to fly the Gay Pride Flag from City Hall during Gay Pride Month. Although dozens of residents spoke at the meeting in support of flying the Pride Flag, the Council defeated the proposal and I was the only Councilmember to speak in favor of it.

In opposing this restrictive and anti-democratic agenda policy, the Register observed that “Public-meetings laws have a vital purpose in a free society. The public is supposed to be privy to the inner workings of government so they can witness the sausage-making legislative process in action, ugly and unappetizing as it can be. Unfortunately, many local officials act as if hearings are a show – a way to put their best foot forward before the citizenry.”

The Register also recognized 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.”

At this Tuesday’s Irvine City Council meeting, the political majority will propose to extend this anti-democratic policy to the Great Park Board (composed of the members of the Irvine City Council) as well as to all City Commissions.

The public should not tolerate this extension of the current majority’s attack on representative democracy.

Please attend the Tuesday, September 10, 2019, Irvine City Council meeting and let them know that your City Council is not a private club. The meetings of the City Council, the Orange County Great Park, and Irvine City Commissions belong to the public and cannot be staged managed for political advantage. 

As the O.C. Register eloquently stated, “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.”

As I stated in July, I have no intention of being silent.

And neither do you.

Tell the Irvine City Council to Agendize the Proposal to Educate Residents and Law Enforcement about California’s Red Flag Law and Gun Violence Restraining Orders

California has a “red flag law” that allows family members or police to seek a court order to temporarily remove guns from mentally unstable people, but too few are aware of it. I have asked the mayor to place my proposal that Irvine educate our residents and police about California’s red flag law and its appropriate use on the City Council agenda. 

Here is the memo that I sent to the mayor:

“​Re: Reducing Gun Violence and California’s Red Flag Law

After the May 2014 mass shooting in Isla Vista in which a mentally unstable young man killed six people and injured fourteen others before killing himself, California passed a ‘red flag law’ that empowers family members and law enforcement officers to petition a court to obtain a “Gun Violence Restraining Order” (GVRO) to temporarily limit a person’s access to guns if they are an immediate and present danger of harming themselves or others.

Red flags laws have now been passed in 17 states and several more states are considering such laws. Red flag laws have been supported by both Republicans and Democrats. In the aftermath of the recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, President Trump declared that ‘We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process. . . That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders.’

Red flag laws are not just meant to prevent mass shootings. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Nearly two-thirds of the gun deaths in the United States — over 22,000 per year — are suicides. Eighty-three percent of suicide attempts by gun succeed; suicide attempts by other means are fatal only 5% of the time. A GRVO can save lives by temporarily preventing a loved one from accessing the most lethal form of suicide until the crisis passes, giving them a chance to get the help they need.

But for red flag laws to be effective, it is important that members of the public and local police officers are aware of the law and encouraged to obtain Gun Violence Restraining Orders when appropriate. Unfortunately, awareness of our red flag law is not nearly as widespread as it should be.

​I am proposing that the Irvine City Council work with City Staff and the Irvine Police Department to devise and implement a public awareness program regarding California’s red flag law, hold training sessions on the red flag law for members of the Irvine Police Department, and direct our law enforcement officers to use GVRO’s when appropriate.

I am requesting that this item be placed on the agenda for the Irvine City Council.”

Due to the City Council’s new restrictive agenda policy, which prohibits an item from being placed on the agenda unless the mayor or two city council members agree to do so, I can not place this item on the agenda without the support of the mayor or other councilmembers.  Accordingly, I have asked Irvine Mayor Christina Shea to agree to put this proposal on the Irvine City Council agenda.

Red flag laws save lives.

A recent study by the U.C. Davis School of Medicine found that California’s red flag law has significantly reduced gun violence. According to Laura Cutilletta, legal director of the Giffords Law Center, California’s red flag law acts as a sort of timeout, so someone in psychological distress can get counseling while their fitness to possess a gun is evaluated.  “It’s a way to allow for temporary removal of firearms in a situation just like this: where somebody has made threats, where they have been expelled from school because of those threats, they’re in counseling, and parents or the school or whoever it is understands that this person poses a threat,” she explained.

OC Sheriff’s deputies in Mission Viejo successfully petitioned the court for a Gun Violence Restraining Order and temporarily removed over 22 firearms and 3,000 rounds of ammunition from the home. All the firearms were legally obtained by the suspect who was arrested for domestic violence.

However, the effectiveness of the red flag law has been limited by the lack of awareness of the law on the part of both the public and the police.  Too often, neither the public nor the local police are aware of or encouraged to obtain Gun Violence Restraining Orders.

A national organization, Speak for Safety, has formed for the specific purpose of raising awareness of the Gun Violence Restraining Order as a tool to remove firearms and ammunition from people who are an immediate danger to themselves or others.

Recently, deputies from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department  a domestic violence victim in Mission Viejo who feared for her family’s safety. Deputies petitioned the courts for a Gun Violence Restraining Order and an Emergency Protective Order. They temporarily removed over 22 firearms and 3,000 rounds of ammunition from the home. All the firearms were legally obtained by the suspect who was arrested for domestic violence.

But too often, neither family members nor law enforcement personnel know that such a gun violence prevention tool exists, even in states, like California, that have very effective GVRO laws on the books.

This the reason I have proposed  that the Irvine City Council work with City Staff and the Irvine Police Department to devise and implement a public awareness and education program regarding California’s red flag law, hold training sessions on the red flag law for members of the Irvine Police Department, and direct our law enforcement officers to use GVROs whenever appropriate.

Please join me in this effort by contacting the Mayor and the Irvine City Council and urging them to support this common sense proposal to use California’s existing red flag law to prevent gun violence and save lives in Irvine.

Yes, Let’s Create a Gun Violence Task Force — And Let’s Also Have a Real Discussion about How to Prevent Mass Shootings and Gun Violence

Based on her recent social media post, it appears that in the wake of three recent mass shootings (in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio) leaving at least 45 people dead and many dozens more injured, Irvine Mayor Christina Shea intends to create a task force to discuss what we can do in Irvine to prevent gun violence.

Significantly, Mayor Shea asks that we not turn this discussion into a “partisan” issue, and that we not hold local, state, or national politicians responsible for their actions, or lack of action, leading to the proliferation of mass shootings and gun violence.

I fully support a discussion of how our City Council can help prevent Irvine from becoming the site of the next gun violence atrocity. This discussion is long overdue. Our nation is suffering from a gun violence emergency.

But the discussion must not be a sham, and not be muzzled from the very beginning by preventing mention of the fact that Republican politicians — at every level of government — have sided with gun dealers and the NRA over the safety of our communities and families, and have stubbornly blocked Congress from enacting meaningful, common sense federal gun regulation.

We must also be willing to acknowledge the fact that President Donald Trump has incited violence and manipulated racial hatred in ways that many of us had hoped belonged to our tragic past. And we must explicitly reject and condemn Trump’s racist rhetoric.

As President Obama recently said, as elected officials and community leaders, we must reject the rhetoric of those “who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.” Such language “has no place in our politics and our public life” and it is time “for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.”

Let’s have a real discussion of mass shootings and gun violence — without any attempts at mirco-management by the Mayor or self-serving limitations on that discussion being imposed in advance by local politicians who are afraid that the public is fed up with the Republican Party’s spinelessness in the face of the NRA and the racist rhetoric of Trumpism, and their policy of creating diversions after each mass shooting rather than enacting real, common sense, gun control regulation.

I also ask that this Task Force be comprised of and led by real experts in the field of gun violence prevention. We have many such experts here in Irvine on the faculty of UCI and the UCI School of Law.  Our task force should not be solely composed of — or led by — politicians with an interest in self-promotion or self-protection, or protecting their political allies from justified and necessary criticism.

In addition, I suggest that the Irvine City Council immediately direct our Irvine Police Department to promote awareness of California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) law, which allows family members and law enforcement to seek the temporary removal of firearms from someone they believe poses a danger to themselves or others.

While GVROs have been called “the best tool in the state of California for responding to a threat of gun violence,” they are rarely used because residents and law enforcement remain largely unaware of the law and its potential to help stop a crime before it has been committed.

You can see a video presentation of California GVROs here:

I also propose that the City of Irvine and the Irvine Police Department remind residents about California’s safe storage laws requiring that guns be locked away from minors and anyone who should not have access to them.

I look forward to a lively, positive and open-minded discussion of what we can do in Irvine to prevent mass shootings and gun violence, including an awareness and educational campaign about GVROs, issuing official statements from our City Council calling on President Trump to stop his inflammatory rhetoric demonizing immigrants, Muslims, and people of color, and calling on Congress to pass common sense gun regulations relating to universal background checks, military-style assault rifles, and high capacity magazines.

 

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.

 

Happy Earth Day 2019!

Today, Monday, April 22, is Earth Day.

Nearly 50 years ago, on April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the US and around the world, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

The global ecological awareness was growing, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly.  In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

Earth Day is now a global event each year, and more than 1 billion people in 193 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.

The City of Irvine has been a leader in earth-friendly environmental policies, green technology, and environmental awareness.  Irvine’s environmental programs have been on the leading edge of advances in green building and construction, environmental education, recycling, water conservation, waste disposal, and energy-saving.

Irvine’s San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Geoff Fox.

Unfortunately, when Steven Choi was Irvine’s mayor, our city took several steps backwards. The term “climate change” was banned from all city documents and not enough Councilmembers made appointments to the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee to enable a quorum.

Mayor Steven Choi even refused to participate in the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by Irvine’s own Wyland Foundation.

When I joined the Irvine City Council, I successfully pushed for revitalization of the Committee, which has now resumed its work of serving as the official environmental advisory committee, increasing public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, and helping the city serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs.

I am delighted that the Committee now has the full support of the entire City Council, and both Mayor Don Wagner and Mayor Christina Shea have joined with other mayors across the country in asking residents to make a commitment to conserve water and protect this vital resource by taking part in annual Wyland Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, through the month of April.

One of the best — and most distinctive — qualities of Irvine is our commitment to preserving open space. The City of Irvine has more than 16,000 acres of permanently preserved parkland and open space – remarkable for a city of our size.

“The Sinks” — Irvine’s own Grand Canyon.

In 1974, early in our city’s history, voters approved multi-million dollar measures to fund public parks and recreational facilities, and for the acquisition and development of bicycle trail and hiking trail improvements.

In 1989, the City negotiated an historic agreement with the Irvine Company that set aside more than 9,500 acres as permanent open space marshlands, bike trails, parks, nature conservancies and agricultural areas, protecting fully one-third of the city from development.

In addition, in 2006, nearly 37,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch were selected as a National Natural Landmark, a designation which reflects the outstanding condition, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education of the natural resources on the land.

As our Irvine Open Space Preserve website explains, “Since its incorporation in 1971, Irvine has had a strong desire to balance the built and natural environment. As this incredible master-planned community has grown, each phase of development has been accompanied by the preservation and enhancement of natural open spaces, creating the network of parks, trails, and wildlands that residents and visitors may enjoy today and for generations to come.”

Bommer Canyon. Photo by Sanjay B. Dalal.

A crucial environmental issue facing Irvine in the near future is whether to switch from purchasing energy from SoCal Edison to utilizing a Community Choice Energy provider.

Community Choice Energy (CCE) is a program that brings local control and freedom of choice and competition into the electricity marketplace. Community Choice allows cities and counties to purchase power on behalf of their residents and businesses to provide cleaner power options at a competitive price.

It has been operating in California since 2002 following passage of Assembly Bill 117.

On September 25, 2018, the Irvine City Council approved conducting a feasibility study to determine the pros and cons of implementing a CCE program, including potential economic benefits for the community.

Community Choice programs enable local government control over energy procurement to purchase power, set competitive rates, and collect revenue. The local utility still maintains the electricity grid, deliver energy, and bill customers.

Community Choice Energy programs offer automatic enrollment to businesses and residences in its jurisdiction, with the ability for the customer to opt out and continue to purchase electricity from the utility. Customers have the option of choosing increased percentages of renewable energy.

Councilmember Melissa Fox with the artist Wyland at his studio in Irvine.

CCE programs in California generally procure and resell a power mix between 50 percent and 100 percent renewable energy to their customers.

Community Choice Energy can be one of the most powerful ways to accelerate the transition from fossil to cleaner renewable energy.

Community Choice introduces competition and consumer choice into the electricity sector with a focus on local, renewable energy to stimulate rapid innovations in clean energy systems.

By the mid 2020s, as much as 85% of Californians will be served by a Community Choice Energy program.

When our feasibility study is completed, I hope Community Choice Energy will soon be available in Irvine and throughout Orange County.

At our best, the City of Irvine has striven to be simultaneously people-friendly, business-friendly, and earth-friendly.

We must continue to insist that each phase of our City’s development be informed by science, accompanied by careful planning, and prioritize the preservation and enhancement of our environment.

Join Me at the ASUCI Housing Security Town Hall on April 4 at UCI’s Crystal Cove Auditorium!

Please join me and leaders from the Associated Students of the University of California, Irvine (ASUCI) on Thursday, April 4, 2019, at 5:30 PM for the presentation of a groundbreaking report on student housing issues at UC Irvine.

Despite opposition from many community members and UCI student leaders, the Irvine City Council recently voted 4–1 to tighten restrictions on “boarding houses” and to ramp up code enforcement of housemate arrangements that are not the “functional equivalent of a family.”

As the UCI student newspaper New University has reported, “Housing insecurity has been an increasing burden on UCI’s student population due to rising tuition prices and the growing Irvine housing market. Irvine Company, which owns several apartment complexes near campus as well as throughout the affluent city of Irvine, raises rent prices for students alongside prices for renters throughout the city. Housing insecurity has become such a problem that students are sometimes living in their cars because they are unable to find an affordable apartment.”

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I voted against this proposed ordinance.  I believe that preserving neighborhood character is important, as is preventing excessive noise and improper home modifications. But these goals can best be achieved by enforcing regulations we already have on the books, not by prohibiting living arrangements that are financially necessary to students and young people.

I also have serious concerns about the constitutionality of the proposed ordinance, its intrusion into residents’ private lives, as well as its conflict with state law regarding housing.

Indeed, the California Department of Housing and Community Development contacted the City of Irvine immediately after the vote, expressing their concern that the ordinance violated state law.

As a result, the ordinance is being re-worked by City staff and will not move forward in its current form.

But those of us concerned about student housing insecurity and homelessness can’t let down our guard.

Brought to you by ASUCI Office of the President’s Housing Security Commission, the ASUCI Housing Security Town Hall will feature a groundbreaking report on student homelessness and housing insecurity presented by Izzak Mireles, a UCI Masters of Urban and Regional Planning graduate student.

In addition, I will be making some remarks and engaging in a question and answer session.

I hope you will join us alongside experts and leaders from across the Irvine community.

What: ASCUI Housing Security Town Hall 

When: Thursday, April 4, 2019, 5:30 – 7:00 PM

Where: UCI Crystal Cove Auditorium

Free admission. All are welcome!

You can find the Facebook Event Page here.

See you there!

You Can Make a Difference: Volunteers Needed for “Point in Time” Count of People Experiencing Homelessness in South Orange County!

You can make a difference for people in need in South Orange County!

I have just learned that the Point in Time count of people experiencing homelessness in our area (South Orange County) is critically short of volunteers. 

The Point In Time is a biennial count of people experiencing homelessness on a given point in time during the last ten days in January.

The count provides vital information that helps the County better understand homelessness in the community and guides the way the County and its partners respond to homelessness in Orange County.

Orange County will be conducting the 2019 Point In Time count on Wednesday, January 23 and Thursday, January 24, 2019.

Please consider volunteering for this important community humanitarian effort!

Volunteers are needed in the following roles for a successful effort: Team Captains, Field Surveyors, Deployment Center Support, Videographers and Photographers. Volunteer opportunities are available in the early morning and late evening.

Sign up to volunteer and help shape homelessness services in Orange County!

Registering to volunteer will take less than 5 minutes.

Training will be provided!

Click to sign up today!

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you very much for a terrific response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Irvine Community Land Trust Opens New Affordable Housing for Working Families, Veterans, and Special Needs Residents

As Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, I am extremely proud of the Land Trust’s most recent affordable housing accomplishment, Parc Derian, which brings 80 new units of housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine.

Perc Derian officially opened on August 3, 2018.

Here is a news report from Affordable Housing Finance that I am delighted to share with you:

AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE
Development to Help Fill Housing Need in Irvine, Calif.

Parc Derian will serve working families and others with special needs.

By Donna Kimura

August 13, 2018

The recently completed Parc Derian brings 80 units of housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents in Irvine, Calif.

The development is a public/private partnership between C&C Development, Innovative Housing Opportunities (IHO), Lennar Corp., the city of Irvine, and the Irvine Community Land Trust.

Located in the heart of the Irvine Business Complex, a major economic and job hub for the city, Parc Derian had 2,000 households on its interest list, from which 80 households were selected by lottery and all moved in within 30 days. Twenty percent of the units are designated for veterans

Developed on a 2.2-acre urban infill site as part of Irvine’s inclusionary zoning plan, the apartment community features almost a half-acre of open space, and residents are served by 5,000 square feet of community space with such amenities as a fitness room, a community room, on-site laundry facilities, and secured bicycle storage. A second-floor exterior podium deck encompasses a tot lot, an outdoor barbeque and fireplace pavilion, a swimming pool, and a community garden.

Designed by KTGY Group, the $33.6 million Parc Derian is a four-story structure featuring contemporary architecture that incorporates urban-inspired elements and finishes and is designed to achieve a LEED Gold certification. It utilizes sustainable building methods such as low-e energy-conserving windows, water saving plumbing fixtures, and LED lighting throughout the property. Advent Cos. is the general contractor.

“Parc Derian underscores our mission to design and build affordable housing that is indistinguishable from market-rate housing and provides a secure and comfortable environment for families and individuals that improves their lives and lifestyle,” said Todd Cottle, a C&C Development principal. “Design and quality of craftsmanship that is represented by Parc Derian play an important role in our properties, especially in inclusionary zoning environments such as the city of Irvine.”

Ranging in size from approximately 635 to 1,203 square feet, the one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments have private balconies and patios and are designed to accommodate large families and special-needs individuals with household incomes between 30% and 50% of the area median income (AMI). Monthly rents range from $527 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,218 for a three-bedroom unit, significantly lower than monthly rents for comparable market-rate apartments in the Irvine area.

To provide housing for residents with special needs, C&C Development and IHO have partnered with Families Forward to set aside apartments that are designed for family households that are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness. Families Forward assists people in crisis to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through housing, counseling, and education.

The developers have also partnered with the Regional Centers of Orange County and United Cerebral Palsy to set aside apartments for developmentally disabled residents. The organizations help residents with disabilities reach their full potential, improve their quality of life, and foster an attitude of acceptance and inclusion.

Residents will further benefit from social services such as health and education enhancement programming offered by Lighthouse Community Center and IHO.

Parc Derian is an excellent example of public-private partnerships working creatively to provide affordable housing for Irvine’s workforce, according to Mark Asturias, executive director of the Irvine Community Land Trust, which provides land that is leased to developers such as C&C Development to build housing that will remain permanently affordable.

“Every family and individual deserves the ability to afford a home in their community,” Asturias said in a statement. “Parc Derian is a tremendous accomplishment for all the partners involved and for the Irvine community. It demonstrates how a city can partner with a home-grown nonprofit such as the Land Trust and developers to bring permanently affordable housing into the community. By providing homes people can afford, they commute less, spend more time with their family, and give back to the community they live in. Irvine is stronger with affordable housing.”

The $33.6 million Parc Derian was financed with low-income housing tax credits from the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, a construction loan provided by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and a permanent loan through the California Community Reinvestment Corp.

The housing tax credits, which were syndicated by National Equity Fund, generated approximately $18.4 million in equity. Additional financing was invested by the City of Irvine and Lennar Corp.

 

 

Councilmember Melissa Fox Receives Award on Behalf of the Irvine Community Land Trust for Opening of New Permanent Affordable Housing in Irvine

Irvine, CA — Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox today received an award on behalf of the Irvine Community Land Trust for the opening of new permanent affordable housing in Irvine.

The new housing project is Parc Derian, an 80-unit,100% permanent affordable housing community.  Eight units (10%) are reserved for veterans, four units are reserved for “at risk” families through Families Forward, and four units are reserved for disabled individuals.

Councilmember Fox is the Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust.  She has made creating more affordable housing a priority.  In addition to her work on the Irvine City Council and the Irvine Community Land Trust, Councilmember Fox has made numerous trips to Sacramento to testify before legislative committees and to work with the state legislators, including State Senators John Moorlach, Jim Beall, Scott Wiener, and Janet Nguyen, and Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva on solutions to the California housing crisis.

In addition to the Irvine Community Land Trust, other partners in the Parc Derian project included the City of Irvine, the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, the National Equity Fund, the Bank of America, C & C Development, Lennar Corporation, Innovative Housing Opportunities (IHO), Orange County and United Cerebal Palsy, Familes Forward, and Lighthouse Community Centers.

Parc Derian is located within the Irvine Business Complex (IBC).

At the opening ceremony, Councilmember Fox made the following remarks:

“Good afternoon and welcome. I’m delighted that you have come to enjoy the grand opening of our latest affordable housing project.

Many of you may wonder what is the Irvine Community Land Trust and why are we involved in this project.  The Irvine Community Land Trust was established by the City in 2006.  We were the City’s homegrown nonprofit created to hold land in perpetuity for affordable housing.

Three years ago, in partnership with the City and C&C Development, we started development of our second affordable housing project – Parc Derian.  Today you see the finished product.  But what you may not realize is that this property will always be affordable.  This is because the Irvine Community Land Trust, as a nonprofit, holds land for the community in perpetuity. This was and is the vision the City had when it created the Irvine Community Land Trust.

Today, the Irvine Community Land Trust remains committed to implementing the City’s vision of creating permanent affordable housing. It bears repeating that the City’s vision of housing for Irvine is that we have “a full spectrum of housing types to meet the needs of all income groups at all stages of life that will be permanently affordable.”

You have heard how Parc Derian serves families, special needs residents, and veterans.  You will hear from some of these residents shortly.  Remember, because of the Irvine Community Land Trust’s commitment to permanent affordable housing, these residents will never fear that they might be displaced from their homes because of market rate rent increases. These homes provide a high quality of life for today’s and tomorrow’s residents.

And we have made these homes wonderfully affordable to residents with rents as low as $570 per month. Parc Derian gives individuals and families a sense of community; it is not a coincidence that “community” is part of our name.

As we celebrate the successful completion of this project and the partnership we have with the City,  we also look forward to our next housing permanent affordable developments.  A new 80-unit rental project along Sand Canyon is in the design phase and should break ground this time next year.  And looking beyond that project, we are anticipating more land and funding from the City to the Land Trust to create more permanently affordable housing.

As the City’s nonprofit we will develop future properties and assure the community that they will never be lost or converted to market rate housing.

We call this commitment “stewardship” — and you have our solemn promise that we will always strive to meet the vision of creating and managing a full spectrum of housing opportunities for families, as the Irvine Community Land Trust continues to work with the City to create more permanent affordable housing for our residents.”

 

Irvine City Council Honors Illumination Foundation for Outstanding Service to Reduce Homelessness

At our most recent Irvine City Council meeting, we had the pleasure of presenting a Certificate of Commendation to the Illumination Foundation, which has been selected as 2018 California Nonprofit of the Year.

The Illumination Foundation, which has its headquarters in Irvine, provides “targeted, interdisciplinary services for the most vulnerable homeless clients in order to break the cycle of homelessness.”

As their website explains, “We’re here to break the cycle of homelessness. We assess clients to identify needs and provide immediate relief when necessary, followed by care that combines housing, case management, medical care, mental health and workforce services to decrease community dependency. We offer a low-entry threshold to access health and housing stability for the most vulnerable members of our community, with a focus on families and those with chronic health conditions.”

The Illumination Foundation pioneered an innovative and cost-effective solution to advance health and housing stability for the chronically homeless community.  Since its inception in 2008, the Illumination Foundation has assisted more than 41,000 people with housing and healthcare services, including more than 2,500 children.

The Irvine City Council congratulated and commended the Illumination Foundation “for its outstanding service to reduce homelessness in Orange County.”

You can learn more about how to get involved in helping the Illumination Foundation help others at their website HERE.

If you need help from the Illumination Foundation, call them at (714) 507-2459.

Great Park Update: We’re Creating a Truly Great Park!

As anyone who has followed the history of the Orange County Great Park knows, its development has not always been smooth or something to be proud of.

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

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

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

We are now fulfilling the promise of a truly Great Park that all of us can feel proud of and enjoy!

Here are some of things we’ve already accomplished:

  • Groundbreaking for new Anaheim Ducks’ 270,000 square-foot community ice skating and practice facility in the Great Park (largest public ice skating facility in the West).
  • Opened new 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.
  • Great Park Sports Complex presented with the Orange County Business Council’s Turning Red Tape into Red Carpet Award for Public-Private Partnership.
  • Great Park Championship Stadium became home of Orange County Soccer Club, Orange County’s only professional soccer team and official affiliate partner of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) of Major League Soccer (MLS). Orange County SC is a part of the United Soccer League (USL), the fastest growing Division II professional soccer league in the world comprised of 34 teams across the United States.
  • Begun construction of a 2.5 mile nature corridor at the eastern end of the park. It is intended to be a pathway for bobcats, coyotes, California gnatcatchers and other wildlife species to move safely between the Santa Ana Mountains and the coast. The corridor, accessible only to wildlife, is expected to open mid-2019.
  • 101 acres of Great Park Sports complex completed, including six new soccer/lacrosse fields; a natural turf flex field that can accommodate four additional soccer fields, four basketball courts available for drop-in use, and more.

At our last Irvine City Council meeting, the Great Park’s Interim Director, Pete Carmichael, presented us with the latest Great Park Progress Report, which  I want to share with you.

Construction Updates:

  • Sports Park Phases 3 and 4: expected turnover September, 2018.
  • Bee and Bosque Trail Areas: awaiting turnover by partner FivePoint.
  • Ice Complex: opening expected by end of 2018.
  • Western Sector Street Improvements: construction in progress; phase 1 completion expected Fall 2018.

Forward Planning Updates:

  • Cultural Terrace: FivePoint contracting for Phase 2 consultants.
  • Cultural Terrace: Preliminary tenant outreach.
  • Cultural Terrace: parking plan developed to include parking stalls, entrance plaza and landscaping.
  • Water Park: CEQA studies in progress.
  • Water Park: land appraisal underway.
  • Water Park: new lease terms coming to City Council next month (August).

Further Updates and News:

  • Championship Soccer Stadium has held 17 tournaments; played 112 games; hosted 75 teams; and has had attendance of 95,625.
  • Soccer Fields have held 18 tournaments; 11,750 practices; 4,818 games; hosted 6,330 teams, and has had attendance of 411,330.
  • Upcoming Soccer Events: GSAC Conference Championships; NAIA National Championships.
  • Tennis Center has held 884 tournaments; 722 league matches, and given 1,745 lessons.
  • Movies on the Lawn Series: more than 9,000 visitors.
  • OC Steam Fest: 5,000 visitors.
  • UCI Anti-Cancer Walk: 3,500 visitors.

Up Next:

  • Opening of Baseball and Softball facilities.

Of course, there is still more to do.  As I have said, while I am proud of all that we’ve recently accomplished at the Great Park, the time has come to focus on creating what should be the real jewel of the Great Park: The Cultural Terrace.  I have long been a strong advocate for botanical gardens and museums in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace.

You can positively impact the next phase of development by the Great Park Cultural Terrace by becoming involved in the grass-roots organizations that are working toward a Great Park botanical garden and a natural history museum:

Great Park Garden Coalition
Website: http://redryder200.com/GreatGardensCoalition/
Facebook: Click here.

California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance (CCRPA)
Website: http://www.ccrpa.com/
Facebook: Click here.

You can also help by signing this petition to urge the creation of a natural history museum in the Great Park.

In addition, I remain strongly committed to the creation of veterans cemetery in Irvine.  Councilmember Christina Shea and I have proposed to build a veterans cemetery in the Great Park on land now designated for a golf course

This proposal would be both cost-saving and time-saving, and locates the veterans cemetery squarely within the Great Park and the former Marine Air Base, yet not next to neighborhoods and schools.

The proposal does not involve a land exchange, and the location of the cemetery would not open other areas to potential commercial development, add additional homes, or cause any increase in traffic.

Click HERE to read the proposal.

As you can see, we’ve accomplished a lot.  I am very proud of our residents, our city staff, and our community partners for all we’ve done so far, and I look forward to continuing to fulfill the promise of a truly Great Great Park!

Be sure to check out the Great Park Calendar of Events so you can keep up-to-date on what’s coming up next!

 

 

Join Me at the City Council Meeting on August 28 to Hear City of Irvine Staff Present Results of the Second Public Outreach Survey on the General Plan Update

Please join me to hear City of Irvine staff present results of the Second Public Outreach Survey on the General Plan Update.

The City of Irvine staff presents the results of the second public outreach survey to the City Council and the public at the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018.

Please note, this meeting was rescheduled from a previous date.

The City Council meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the Conference and Training Center at Irvine City Hall located at 1 Civic Center Plaza (at Harvard Avenue and Alton Parkway).

What is the General Plan Update?

The City of Irvine is updating its General Plan, a state-required document representing the long-range vision of the City.

The purpose of the update is to build upon longstanding objectives that define Irvine and for the City Council to consider changes as needed. The update will serve as the City’s policy blueprint for the future. It will update community goals and public policy direction to ensure Irvine’s high quality of life is preserved and enhanced as the City builds out and matures.

The City conducted extensive public outreach to establish the preliminary General Plan Planning Framework and to identify major goals and topics for consideration in the update. City staff presented the results of the second  outreach survey and Planning Framework developed for the General Plan Comprehensive Update project to City Commissions throughout Spring 2018.

No changes to existing land uses or allowable development intensities are proposed.

This update will also incorporate changes required by state law.

Visit irvine2035.org for more information regarding the General Plan Update project.

You can find more information about Irvine City Council meetings HERE.

 

Irvine City Councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox Seek Relocation of the Veterans Cemetery to Area Currently Planned for a Golf Course in the Great Park

The following is a press release that was sent out on July 13, 2018.

July 13, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Daniel Robertson 949-874-3442

IRVINE CITY COUNCILMEMBERS CHRISTINA SHEA AND MELISSA FOX SEEK POTENTIAL RELOCATION OF VETERANS CEMETERY TO AREA CURRENTLY PLANNED FOR A GOLF COURSE IN THE GREAT PARK.

IRVINE, CA – Based on the voters rejection of Measure B, Irvine City Councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox have sent a memo to Acting City Manager Grace Leung directing the City’s planning staff to consider the potential relocation of the Orange County Veterans Cemetery to the area currently planned for a golf course in the Great Park.

The memo is as follows:

As we continue to seek a site for the Veterans Cemetery, it has occurred to us and others, as mentioned July 10th at our council meeting, that the area within the Great Park planned for a golf course offers several benefits as a potential location. The golf course site has ample space, at about 195 acres; it is within the Great Park and in the heart of the former MCAS El Toro, honoring those who served there; it is not located adjacent to neighborhoods or schools, and it could provide multiple points of access for future visitation and processions. If up to 125 acres were to be dedicated to the Veterans Cemetery, 70 plus acres would still be available for a smaller golf-related use, other recreational uses and a potential for the expansion of the Organic Circle Farm, helping with annual revenues for the Great Park.

The golf course site wouldn’t require the 40 million dollars demolition and remediation costs that the ARDA site requires. The golf course site has also gone thru the CEQA process. Additionally, by creating a veteran’s cemetery in the heart of the Great Park, not outside the Great Park where the ARDA site is located, our Veterans would realize a true resting place inside the Great Park, where so many citizens have requested the cemetery to be developed. In lieu of a full length golf course, there may be financial savings that can be used for cemetery construction.

For the reasons outlined above, we believe this is worthy of our planning staff to add this second site to their present review and due diligence study for the City’s review process of the ARDA site. This will allow staff to review this concept along with any other alternatives we may deem of value for our Veterans Cemetery.”

Councilmember Christina Shea stated that “We are listening to our voters and we want to find what works best to create a veterans cemetery and to bring peace and civility back to our city.  We are determined to find a positive solution to provide a veterans cemetery in our city and ensure that our residents’ voices are heard.”

Councilmember Melissa Fox stated that “The voters have spoken. We are listening. We need to find a location for the veterans cemetery that responds to the voters’ concerns. I have been a strong and consistent supporter of 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. The Great Park is an altogether fitting and proper location for this veterans cemetery, where it would also be a lasting memorial to the Great Park’s military heritage.”

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Note:

Anyone who wishes to express support for this proposal — to consider the potential relocation of the Orange County Veterans Cemetery to the area currently planned for a golf course in the Great Park — can contact the Irvine City Council here.

Press Release: Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox Refers Email Threat to Orange County District Attorney

July 9, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jason Mills (714) 576-4303

IRVINE CITY COUNCILMEMBER MELISSA FOX REFERS EMAIL THREAT TO ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY

IRVINE, CA – Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox referred an email communication from Harvey Liss to the Orange County District Attorney’s office today.

In his email to Councilmember Fox, Liss directed her to vote for a motion regarding the veterans’ cemetery to be presented by Councilmember Jeff Lalloway at the July 10, 2018, City Council meeting or face an end to her participation on the Irvine City Council.

Liss’s email to Councilmember Fox may constitute a violation of several California criminal code sections designed to protect public officials from being extorted for their votes.

Liss is a close ally of Larry Agran and Ed Pope of the “Save the Veterans Cemetery” campaign committee, and an editor of the Irvine Community News & Views, which was one of the major donors to the campaign urging a “No” vote on Measure B, lending over $300,000 to the campaign, without transparency as to where its money came from.

Liss’s communication to Councilmember Fox via her private email account may also violate the City of Irvine’s Ethics and Lobbying Ordinance, since Liss is demanding that Councilmember Fox take a position on a municipal question on which Irvine Community News & Views has spent money far over the threshold reporting amount without reporting or registering as a city lobbyist and without reporting the lobbying activities that he and other agents of Irvine Community News & Views have undertaken.

In response to the email, Councilmember Fox said, “Liss’s threat is a misuse of the political system.  It is to the people of Irvine that I owe my best efforts, my best judgment, my faithfulness, and my sole allegiance.  I will not be bullied, threatened, or extorted into voting against what I believe to be the best interests of the City of Irvine.”

 

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The Veterans Cemetery: What Should Irvine Do Now?

Current view of the original (ARDA) site for a veterans cemetery.

The voters in Irvine recently rejected Measure B. The issues now are what, in rejecting Measure B, did the voters really decide, and what should the Irvine City Council do in response to the voters’ decision.

Some argue that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters said that the proposed veterans cemetery should be located at the ARDA site that was originally selected by the City Council in July 2014, and that the City Council should begin immediately to build a veterans cemetery at that location.

But the actual language of Measure B said nothing about the original ARDA site, except that the development previously zoned for the strawberry fields site would be moved there.

Looking at the specific language of Measure B, what the voters said No to was “allowing the previously planned development for the Bake Parkway Site to be relocated to the intersection of Pusan and Irvine Blvd and allowing the development of a veterans cemetery near the intersection of I-5 and Bake Parkway.”

Thus, by its express language, the no vote on Measure B rejects that zoning decision, but does not authorize the city to place a veterans cemetery on the ARDA site.

Sign used by Measure B opponents warning of thousands more cars on Irvine roads if Measure B passed.

In addition, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site in 2014 was based on the belief that the City would provide the land for the veterans cemetery, but the costs of construction and subsequent maintenance of the cemetery would be wholly paid by state and federal government.

Crucially, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site also came several years before we learned that construction of the veterans cemetery at the ARDA site would cost nearly $80 million, mostly due to the need for decontamination of the soil and the decontamination and removal of numerous existing structures, and that in addition to providing the land, the City would have to bear a significant portion of these construction costs.

In particular, Measure B said nothing at all about approving the spending of tens of millions of dollars that are now earmarked for creating the features of the Great Park that residents have said they want – such as museums, botanical gardens, a new Wild Rivers Water Park, and a permanent amphitheatre for live music – and, instead, using that money for a veterans cemetery.

My belief is that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters did not want a zoning change that, as the No on B campaign said, would have allowed “massive development projects” at the ARDA site, add “812,000 square feet of development,” and “bring 10,000 more cars and trucks to Irvine streets and neighborhoods every day.”

For me, the lesson of Measure B is that the voters did not want to risk the possibility that the land exchange would lead to more development and more traffic congestion, as well as the voters believing that it was too favorable a deal for the developer.

In other words, I see the rejection of Measure B as a vote against more development and traffic congestion, and not a vote in favor of spending $40 – $80 million dollars on a veterans cemetery rather than building other popular features of the Great Park.

In a survey of Irvine voters I conducted from my blog and through email, the great majority said that they voted against Measure B because they did not want more development and traffic.

Even more significantly, 64% said that Irvine should not spend $40 to $80 million dollars for a veterans cemetery, compared to only 13.5% in favor.

Current view of the original (ARDA) site for a veterans cemetery.

In a new and promising twist to the veterans cemetery saga, the Orange County Board of Supervisors has now agreed to have its staff study and advise whether county-owned open space outside Irvine might be a feasible location for an Orange County veterans cemetery. The approximately 234-acre site is in the city of Anaheim, near the 91 and 241, adjacent to Gypsum Canyon.

This site would provide a larger veterans cemetery for Orange County veterans, at no cost to Irvine, and be free from the divisive politics that has characterized the veterans cemetery debate in Irvine.

In fact, many of the veterans who initiated the fight for a veterans cemetery now favor this site, because, as Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran Nick Berardino has said, it appears that “veterans are removed from the political equation, and are now heading in a practical, reasonable direction to give all the brave men and women a final resting place.”

If the Irvine City Council approves Jeff Lalloway’s motion to spend $40 to $80 million dollars to clean up the original site for a cemetery, it will deplete the Great Park budget for at least a decade.

As the Irvine City News noted, “It sounds noble when [Jeff] Lalloway, [Larry] Agran and their followers hold up the service of our veterans. But when you understand that the veterans still can’t get what they were promised without taking away the gardens, the museums, the music, the culture and the future of the Great Park, it puts Lalloway’s political power move in perspective.”

I have been a strong and consistent supporter of a veterans cemetery in Irvine.  But I have also been a strong supporter of fulfilling the promises that the City made to residents when it created the Great Park, and I am not in favor of giving up on those promises.

I believe the Great Park should have great gardens and a great museum, as well as other features for the enjoyment of all residents, and I do not believe that the City can afford to spend $40 to $80 million on a cemetery and continue with these other projects.

What do you think?  

Do you favor spending $40 to $80 million dollars to clean up the original site for a cemetery or should that money go to create other features for the Great Park?

The City Council will decide on Tues, July whether to approve Lalloway’s motion or whether some other course is more sensible and also responsive to the will of the voters and the needs of the community.

As always, the public is invited to attend and speak on these issues at the City Council meeting.

I also urge interested residents to contact the Mayor and the City Council by email and tell us in writing what you think we ought to do.

Here is how to contact the Mayor and the City Council:

Irvine City Council
949-724-6233 or irvinecitycouncil@cityofirvine.org

Mayor Wagner: donaldwagner@cityofirvine.org
Mayor Pro Tem Christina Shea: christinashea@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Jeff Lalloway: jeffreylalloway@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Lynn Schott: lynnschott@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Melissa Fox: melissafox@cityofirvine.org

Thank you.

Irvine Slated to Name John Russo as New City Manager!

The following is a press release from the City of Irvine:

The Irvine City Council has chosen John A. Russo as its finalist for City Manager, and will formally consider hiring him at its July 10 meeting.

Russo has 23 years of results-oriented public service gained through leadership positions in Oakland, Alameda, and Riverside. Having served as a City Councilmember, City Attorney, and City Manager, Russo’s combination of experience at three California cities gives him a unique perspective as he prepares to lead Irvine in implementing the vision at the direction of its City Council.

“It is an extraordinary honor to be selected to serve in this position in a city known across America for its foresight, commitment to public safety, and adherence to financial stability,” said Russo. “Consistent with Irvine’s values, I am committed to open and transparent decision-making – listening to all stakeholders (citizens, business, university, public sector, and faith communities) with an open mind, and equally committed to decisive action and a long-term approach to policy. Process matters. Results matter more.”

Russo most recently served as City Manager for the City of Riverside for nearly three years. His experience in municipal government fits well with Irvine’s priorities.

Among the City Council goals in 2018:

  • Traffic improvement initiatives that include 16 capital improvement program projects now underway. The City Council has approved more than $71 million for traffic management and congestion improvements, with construction scheduled over the next 12 months.
  • City Council support of public safety. For a 12th consecutive year, Irvine is the safest city with a population of 250,000 or more for Part 1 violent crime, according to FBI data.
  • The City Council’s ongoing support of its public schools. The City Council provides $10.2 million annually in direct and indirect support.
  • The opening of large sections of the Orange County Great Park, including soccer fields, baseball and softball stadiums with multiple playing fields, basketball courts, and the $100 million public ice facility.
  • Continued high service to the community.

Highlights from Russo’s background align with Irvine’s focus areas:

  • Maintaining Irvine’s renowned employment base – one of the highest jobs-to-population ratios in the country – driven, in part, by major business headquarters such as Edwards Lifesciences and Blizzard Entertainment. Russo last year helped bring the California Air Resources Board’s headquarters and testing facilities to Riverside.
  • Developing of the 1,300-acre Orange County Great Park, a former Marine base. While in Alameda, Russo expeditiously implemented all land use entitlements for redevelopment of the closed Alameda Naval Air Station, a 1,000-acre waterfront property across the bay from San Francisco.
  • Continuing Irvine’s fiscal health, including its recognition as the No. 1 fiscally responsible large city for two straight years. During Russo’s tenures in both Alameda and Riverside, he eliminated structural deficits, significantly increased financial reserves, and presided over improvements in those cities’ bond ratings.

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

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

Russo would become Irvine’s fifth City Manager. Sean Joyce retired in February 2018 after a nearly 13-year career in Irvine. The first City Manager, William Woollett Jr., served from 1972-1989, followed by Paul Brady (1990-1999) and Allison Hart (1999-2005).

Russo has agreed to a base salary in Irvine of $303,014.

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Since its incorporation in 1971, Irvine has become a nationally recognized city, with a population of 267,086 that spans 66 square miles and is recognized as one of America’s safest and most successful master-planned urban communities. Top-rated educational institutions, an enterprising business atmosphere, sound environmental stewardship, and respect for diversity all contribute to Irvine’s enviable quality of life. This family-friendly city features more than 16,000 acres of parks, sports fields and dedicated open space and is the home of the Orange County Great Park. For more information, please visit cityofirvine.org.  

 

 

Why Did Measure B Lose? What Should Irvine Do Now? Take the Surveys!

[Take the surveys below at the end of this blog post.]

The voters in Irvine recently rejected Measure B.

The issue now is what, in rejecting Measure B, did the voters really decide.

Sign used by opponents of Measure B, warning that passage of Measure B would mean thousands more cars on every road in Irvine.

Some argue that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters said that the proposed veterans cemetery should be located at the ARDA site that was originally selected by the City Council in July 2014.

But the actual language of Measure B said nothing about the original ARDA site, except that the development previously zoned for the strawberry fields site would be moved there.

Looking at the specific language of Measure B, what the voters said No to was “allowing the previously planned development for the Bake Parkway Site to be relocated to the intersection of Pusan and Irvine Blvd and allowing the development of a veterans cemetery near the intersection of I-5 and Bake Parkway.”

Thus, by its express language, the no vote on Measure B rejects that zoning decision, but does not authorize the city to place a veterans cemetery on the ARDA site.

Map used by opponents of Measure B, warning that passage of Measure B would lead to massive development and 10,000 more car and truck trips every day.

In addition, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site in 2014 was based on the belief that the City would provide the land for the veterans cemetery, but the costs of construction and subsequent maintenance of the cemetery would be wholly paid by state and federal government.

Crucially, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site also came several years before we learned that construction of the veterans cemetery at the ARDA site would cost nearly $80 million, mostly due to the need for decontamination of the soil and the decontamination and removal of numerous existing structures, and that in addition to providing the land, the City would have to bear a significant portion of these construction costs.

In particular, Measure B said nothing at all about approving the spending of tens of millions of dollars that are now earmarked for creating the features of the Great Park that residents have said they want – such as museums, botanical gardens, a new Wild Rivers Water Park, and a permanent amphitheatre for live music – and, instead, using that money for a veterans cemetery.

My belief is that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters did not want a zoning change that, as the No on B campaign said, would have allowed “massive development projects” at the ARDA site, add “812,000 square feet of development,” and “bring 10,000 more cars and trucks to Irvine streets and neighborhoods every day.”

For me, the lesson of Measure B is that the voters did not want to risk the possibility that the land exchange would lead to more development and more traffic congestion, as well as the voters believing that it was too favorable a deal for the developer.

In other words, I see the rejection of Measure B as a vote against more development and traffic congestion, and not a vote in favor of spending tens of millions of dollars on a veterans cemetery rather than building other popular features of the Great Park

I would like to know what you believe the rejection of Measure B means, especially if you were among the majority in Irvine who voted against it.

Please take the surveys below:

 

The City Council must now decide whether, and how, to proceed with a veterans cemetery.  What do you want the City Council to do:

 

Please share these surveys with your Irvine friends and neighbors. I would like as much resident input as possible.

Thanks!

Melissa

UPDATE:

The surveys are now closed.

While the surveys are not scientific, I believe their results are straight-forward and present an accurate view of why Measure B failed.

The survey results show that the main reason people voted No on Measure B was opposition to development and traffic, rather than a desire to return the veterans cemetery to its original site.

These results should not be unexpected since the No on Measure B campaign focused almost exclusively on the claim that Measure B would lead to more development and traffic (“B = Thousands MORE Cars on THIS Road!”).

Further underscoring the conclusion that Measure B failed because of perceptions about development and traffic rather than preference for the original site, the survey results show that few residents are in favor of spending the $40 – $80 million required to build the veterans cemetery on the original site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lesson of Measures B and D: No More Developer Giveaways!

The clear message sent by voters with the defeat of Measures B and D is that developers must not be allowed to continue runaway development without regard to our traffic, schools, and quality of life, and that Irvine residents must have a say in all future development decisions.

I agree.

I supported Measure B because I believed it would provide veterans with the best chance for a dignified military cemetery; that it would save Irvine taxpayers millions of dollars; and that it would reduce traffic congestion by restricting future development at the strawberry fields.

The voters, however, did not want to risk even the possibility that it would lead to more development and more traffic congestion.

In fact, Irvine residents are rightly concerned that runaway development and traffic congestion will forever change the character of our beautiful city – without their input or consent.  They are rightly distrustful of developers whose bottom line is their profit, not our quality of life.  I am distrustful as well, and I share the voters’ skepticism about giant developers and their motives. Developers spent millions of dollars trying to defeat me in the last election, and no doubt will do so again.

Here’s why:

As an Irvine City Councilmember, I have not voted for a single new entitlement or approved any new construction. The development that residents are now seeing all over town – from the Great Park neighborhoods to Quail Hill to Tomato Springs – was approved by prior City Councilmembers, and not by me. I have not approved any of it, and I was one of only two Irvine Councilmembers who voted against the Irvine Company’s proposed 1,960-unit apartment complex at the old Traveland USA site at the 5 Freeway and Sand Canyon. I opposed that plan because of its negative impact on traffic and schools, and I will not approve any future development without prior careful determination and consideration of its impact on our schools, traffic, and open space.

As an Irvine City Councilmember, I also voted against Measure D. I opposed Measure D because I believe that Irvine residents must have a strong voice in determining how our city grows.

Moving forward, I reaffirm my pledge to end runaway development. Irvine must return to its commitment to the wisdom of the Master Plan.  The current piecemeal approach to development favored by developers and some members of the City Council must end. Irvine needs to return to the principles of careful planning and measured, smart growth that not very long ago made Irvine the best place in America to live, work, and raise a family. There must be no more developer giveaways.  

Irvine needs an effective traffic reduction plan, and not just a congestion management plan. Irvine had long been recognized as a national leader in city planning and innovation. Unfortunately, Irvine has failed to properly plan for the tremendous increase in traffic caused by the city’s explosive recent growth. As a result, Irvine residents have been forced to contend with unprecedented traffic congestion and less safe streets and roads.  Our City Council now needs to do more than try to manage the traffic congestion that is already out of control. We need to say clearly that the current level of traffic congestion is completely unacceptable and must be reduced.

Irvine needs more police officers.  As Irvine has grown, the need for more police officers has become critical, not just for preventing crime, but also for enforcing our traffic laws, which are essential to keeping our children safe as they play and go to school in our neighborhoods. I will work to add more police officers to ensure that our residents are as safe in Irvine now and in the future as they were before Irvine began to grow.

Irvine needs more childcare. We know that our great schools, beautiful parks, and safe environment attract many families with young children.  We also know that a critical part of any thriving community is safe, professional, reliable, and affordable preschool and childcare. Developers must be held accountable for including childcare as part of an overall city development plan, just as they are required to build schools. Irvine must become truly family friendly. No more waiting lists!

Let’s build the veterans cemetery.  I have been fighting for a veterans cemetery at the former El Toro Marine Base since 2014 and will continue to do so. Our veterans deserve a veterans cemetery close to their families and loved ones. Now that Measure B has been defeated, we need to find a site that honors our veterans and is approved by Irvine residents.  I am firmly committed to that task.

Let’s finish building the Great Park. For far too long, the residents of Irvine were given nothing but empty promises about building our Great Park on the grounds of the old El Toro Marine Base.  As Vice Chair of the Great Park, I am proud that we have finally succeeded in creating a Great Park that residents can enjoy, with terrific sports fields, a magnificent new championship soccer stadium, and the best community ice-skating facility in the West already under construction — but there is still much more to do.  Our residents have told us that they want a new Wild Rivers water park, and we need to ensure that happens.  We also need to fulfill our promise to build a city-owned amphitheatre on the Great Park’s cultural terrace, so that a developer’s decision can not deprive us of live music again. I will also insist that we follow the recommendations of residents and build world-class botanical gardens, museums, and a lake to make Irvine the home of a truly Great Park. Getting that job done is one of my main priorities.

I love Irvine and will continue to work to ensure that Irvine remains among the safest and most beautiful cities in the nation.  As your Irvine City Councilmember, I will fight to ensure that the public interest – in preventing over-development, over-crowed schools, and traffic congestion, and in preserving the character of our communities – comes before the private interests of developers, no matter how big and powerful those developers may be.

Melissa

Message from General Robin Umberg: Vote Yes on Measure B!

Here is a message I recently received from my friend Brig. Gen. (ret) Robin Umberg urging us to vote Yes on Measure B.

I want to share it with you:

“Dear Melissa,

As a soldier for 36 years and an Army Brigadier General (ret), I know that the women and men I have served with are the bravest and most devoted people I have ever met. They were all willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country and deserve to be honored and remembered within a sacred military cemetery.

Passing Measure B is the only way that veterans will get the cemetery in Orange County that they deserve. That’s why I’m writing to you today — to make sure that you and your friends are prepared to vote Yes on Measure B.

Here are the facts: It has been endorsed by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and both Republican and Democratic Parties of Orange County. Think about that. A Yes on Measure B will cost citizens less, achieve the mission of constructing the cemetery in the quickest time frame, and this change of site will not increase Orange County’s traffic. It will ensure the establishment of a gorgeous cemetery that will be visible from two highways.

We are closer than we have ever been to providing this much-needed space for remembering our veterans. We can’t let them down now — please vote Yes on Measure B by J‌une 5‌th.

Thank you for honoring our veterans.

Brigadier General (ret) Robin Umberg.”

[Please note: The use of military rank or photos does not imply endorsement by the Department or Defense or the Army.]

For more information about the veterans cemetery, please see:

Setting the Record Straight on the OC Veterans Cemetery

Putting Politics Aside to Honor Veterans with a Final Resting Place

Stop Playing Political Games with Veterans Cemetery

Stop the Politics and Build the Veterans Cemetery Now

Distinguished Environmental Group Laguna Greenbelt Endorses YES on Measure B for Veterans Cemetery!

Irvine Takes Historic Step Forward for a Veterans Cemetery at the Former El Toro Marine Base

Tell the Irvine City Council to Keep Your Promises to Our Veterans

The Strawberry Fields Site is the Best Location for the Veterans Cemetery. Now Let’s Get it Done!

Don’t Be Deceived By The “Save The Veterans Cemetery” Petition!

OC Register Slams Agran, Lalloway, and “Despicable,” “Misleading” Veterans Cemetery Petition

Help Us Defeat the Paid Mercenaries who have Invaded Irvine and their Fraudulent “Save the Veterans Cemetery” Petition!

As the daughter of an Orange County Korean War combat veteran, I am proud to have participated in making sure that Orange County’s veterans – who have sacrificed so much for us – will at last have a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.

Please help by voting YES on Measure B.

Thank you.

Melissa

 

 

Celebrate Armed Forces Day — Vote YES on Measure B!

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Today, May 19, 2018, is Armed Forces Day.  First observed in May 1950, the day was created to honor Americans serving in the five U.S. military branches – the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard – following the consolidation of the military services in the U.S. Department of Defense.  To all active duty, reserve and veteran members of the U.S. armed forces – thank you for your service to our nation!

099550e8635598e306c4b09874a0272fOrange County has a long and proud military tradition. Currently, more than two million veterans live in California – more than in any other state.  Orange County has over 130,000 veterans — one of the highest populations in the United States – including more than 7,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Yet Orange County veterans do not have their own dedicated military cemetery.  Those in Orange County who want to visit a veteran’s grave in a military cemetery must travel several hours to Riverside, San Diego, or Los Angeles counties.

Please join me in showing your support for Orange County’s military veterans by voting YES on Measure B to facilitate the creation of a veterans cemetery on the grounds of the former El Toro Marine Base.

Orange County veterans – who have sacrificed so much for us – deserve a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.

For more information about the veterans cemetery, please see:

Putting Politics Aside to Honor Veterans with a Final Resting Place

Stop Playing Political Games with Veterans Cemetery

Stop the Politics and Build the Veterans Cemetery Now

Distinguished Environmental Group Laguna Greenbelt Endorses YES on Measure B for Veterans Cemetery!

Irvine Takes Historic Step Forward for a Veterans Cemetery at the Former El Toro Marine Base

Tell the Irvine City Council to Keep Your Promises to Our Veterans

The Strawberry Fields Site is the Best Location for the Veterans Cemetery. Now Let’s Get it Done!

Don’t Be Deceived By The “Save The Veterans Cemetery” Petition!

OC Register Slams Agran, Lalloway, and “Despicable,” “Misleading” Veterans Cemetery Petition

Help Us Defeat the Paid Mercenaries who have Invaded Irvine and their Fraudulent “Save the Veterans Cemetery” Petition!

As the daughter of an Orange County Korean War combat veteran, I am proud to have participated in making sure that Orange County’s veterans – who have sacrificed so much for us – will at last have a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.

Please help by voting YES on Measure B.

Thank you.

Melissa

Distinguished Environmental Group Laguna Greenbelt Endorses YES on Measure B for Veterans Cemetery!

The leaders of the distinguished environmental group Laguna Greenbelt recently issued a strong statement urging voters to support Yes on Irvine’s Measure B in order to facilitate the creation of a veterans cemetery on the site known as the strawberry fields.

Laguna Greenbelt is a grassroots organization that has worked ceaselessly to protect wildlife habitat in Orange County since 1968. Over the last fifty years, it has led efforts to preserve a coastal wilderness area that is now 22,000 beautiful acres. Today Laguna Greenbelt continues to defend this iconic landscape for the sake of its wild inhabitants and the people who love it.

The Measure B Strawberry Fields Veterans Cemetery site is bisected by the lower part of the “Central Reach” of the Nature Greenbelt, which is crucial to preserving our environmental heritage.

One of Laguna Greenbelt’s major projects has been the creation of an essential nature corridor across Irvine to connect the coastal wildlife habitat west of the I-5, to the much larger open space of the Santa Ana Mountains, including the Cleveland National Forest.

Last March, I had the opportunity to join Laguna Greenbelt President Elisabeth Brown, Ph.D, along with Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner and Councilwoman Christina Shea at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Orange County Great Park Wildlife Corridor.

As envisioned by Laguna Greenbelt, this nature corridor will link our coastal wilderness with the Santa Ana Mountains/Cleveland National Forest and will ensure the health and future of wildlife and their habitat in our region’s 22,000 acres of coastal parks.

As the leaders of Laguna Greenbelt noted, “A cemetery built on the strawberry-growing site [i.e., the Yes on Measure B site] would be bisected by the wildlife corridor, greatly increasing the amount of green space available to the animals. The lush greenery of the cemetery would help support wildlife to feed and mingle before moving on.  In contrast, the original cemetery site on Irvine Blvd is not near the wildlife corridor, and would have no benefits for wildlife movement or encouraging genetic mixing. Animals moving downslope from the mountains that found their way to the cemetery across busy Irvine Blvd would be blocked from moving safely inland or seaward. Surrounded by urban development and Irvine Blvd on all sides, the cemetery would be just another isolated fragment of open space”

For this reason, they “urge Irvine voters to approve the land swap in June, and vote yes on Measure B.”

Here is their statement:

“Last September, the City of Irvine agreed to a land swap with developer Five Point Communities. This moved the cemetery site to land near the Spectrum V development and the I-5/I-405 interchange. The gently sloping new site is currently being used as agricultural land to grow strawberries. In exchange, the city deeded over the parcel along Irvine Blvd, where the cemetery was originally planned. After the land swap was completed, the City deeded the new site to the State of California, which is responsible for building the cemetery.

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