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!

 

Making Affordable Housing a Reality: My Remarkable Year with the Irvine Community Land Trust!

In 2018, I was elected to serve as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, guiding its mission of providing secure, high-quality affordable housing for the benefit of income-eligible families.  Like all Irvine Community Land Trust Board Members, I serve as a volunteer, without compensation.

I am very proud of what we accomplished at the Irvine Community Land Trust (ICLT) this year!

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

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

Here is a short video that explains the work the Irvine Community Land Trust does to create more affordable housing in Irvine:

2018 was truly a remarkable year for the Land Trust.

In 2018, we opened Parc Derian, which brings 80 new units of housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine. Located in the Irvine Business Complex, Parc Derian is a beautiful multifamily community with a pool, tot lot, private parking, exercise center, computer lab, and onsite resident services.

Designed to bring employees closer to work, it is a short walk to many jobs as well as Irvine Unified Schools, public transportation, dining and shopping options. Apartments range from one- to three bedrooms and include walk-in closets, energy-efficient appliances, assigned parking and balconies.  Parc Derian is the result of a public/private partnership between the Irvine Community Land Trust, C&C Development, Innovative Housing Opportunities (IHO), Lennar Corporation, and the City of Irvine.

Also in 2018, we began work on Salerno, a new 80-unit rental community. Like Parc Derian, Salerno will provide permanent affordable housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine.

Significantly, in 2018 we began to develop our first homes for ownership with help from a new partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. This new Irvine community, called Chelsea on Native Spring, located north of Irvine Boulevard, will include 68 affordable home for sale to income-eligible veterans, working families, and young professionals.

Homes will be sold to first-time homebuyers who earn up to 120 percent of the area’s medium income. In an area where the median home price is $727,000 and average annual income is around $80,000 for a family of four, many people are priced out of the market and face housing and financial uncertainties while trying to build a life in Irvine. The Chelsea on Native Spring project aims to keep those people in Irvine, especially military veterans, teachers, nurses, and young professionals.  It is expected to begin construction in 2019.

In addition to these new projects, we continued in 2018 to provide quality housing and services to 238 households living at Alegre Apartments and Doria Apartment Homes.

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

In 2018, I traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to represent the Irvine Community Land Trust at a national conference on affordable housing and traveled to Sacramento, where we moved forward to convince the California Legislature to remove tax barriers to creating permanent affordable housing, meaning that more affordable housing could be built in California. We expect that this year we will have the support we need to pass the legislation and I am again making the trip to Sacramento to secure more affordable housing in our state.

It should also be noted that in 2018, the Irvine Community Land Trust became an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. This development was envisioned as eventual in the City’s initial 2006 plan for the Land Trust, which states that the trust shall become self-sustaining and independent after it attains 200 affordable housing units. That threshold was crossed in 2017, and the Irvine Community Land Trust now owns more than 200 homes in three Irvine communities.

The move to become independent from the City of Irvine is designed to make it easier for donors and strategic partners to contribute materials, services, and funds on a tax-free basis, therefore increasing the resources that the Irvine Community Land Trust has to create more affordable housing.

The City of Irvine and its residents also benefit from the separation due to the financial savings in regard to staff salary and office space, which will no longer be provided by the City.

As ICLT Executive Director Mark Asturias explained, becoming legally independent from the City “is a tremendous win-win for both the Land Trust and the citizens of Irvine.  We can operate more efficiently and with less reliance on taxpayers, and we can apply a greater focus on our core mission – to provide high-quality affordable housing to the community.”

Moreover, in the interest of maintaining transparency and community engagement, the Irvine Community Land Trust, on my motion, has voluntarily opened all meetings to the public.  The open session format will allow members of the community to come, hear and be heard on programs and projects being implemented by the Land Trust Board.

Through this meeting format the Land Trust Board hopes to generate community interest and support for its programs, and foster collaboration on its mission to build quality affordable housing for Irvine residents.

I have also called for a City Council vote to apply the City’s Sunshine Ordinance to all non-profit agencies that receive significant funding from the City of lrvine.

Accordingly, for the January 8, 2019 City Council meeting, I have requested a presentation from City staff followed by discussion and direction from the City Council, regarding the application of the City’s Sunshine Ordinance to all non-profit entities in the community that receive significant funding from the City. Please come to the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, to discuss this important matter.

Stay tuned to this blog, as well as the Land Trust’s newly launched Facebook and Linkedin pages, for more information on our progress in creating affordable housing.

2019 promises to be even more positive and exciting!

 

Join Me on Saturday, October 13, at the Orange County Fire Station Open House!

Come meet your local Irvine Orange County Firefighters!

On Saturday, October 13, OCFA’s Fire Station Open House will give visitors an opportunity to meet and greet their neighborhood firefighters, tour their local fire stations, and learn about ways they can stay fire safe.

It will also be a great opportunity to thank your firefighters for their everyday heroism and tell them that you appreciate their bravery and professionalism.

The OCFA Fire Stations in Irvine participating in the Open House on Saturday, October 13, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. are:

  • Station 4, 2 California Ave., Irvine CA 92612
  • Station 26, 4691 Walnut Ave., Irvine CA 92604
  • Station 27, 12400 Portola Springs, Irvine CA 92618
  • Station 36, 301 East Yale Loop, Irvine CA 92604

See you there!

P.S. Did you know that every OCFA Fire Station has a special nickname? When you visit, ask them the nickname of the Fire Station and why it’s called that name

Help Our Emergency Services at the Great Park on October 18 and Get a Free Tote Bag and Pumpkin!

You are invited to attend the multi-city Point of Dispensing (POD) exercise at the Great Park and help OC cities plan for emergencies and practice the rapid distribution of medicine in the event of a public health outbreak.

In a real emergency, PODs save lives by getting needed medication and supplies to our community quickly and efficiently.

The Great Park POD exercise on Thurs. October 18 from 4 to 6 p.m. will offer both a walk-up option and a drive-thru option. During the event, participants will be directed through the exercise by local police and fire authorities and will be asked to complete a brief intake form, proceed to a nurse or nursing student who will distribute exercise materials, then be directed through the exit station.

Participants will receive a commemorative tote bag, local emergency planning materials, information about the AlertOC emergency notification system, and a free holiday pumpkin!

Watch an informative POD video here.

No reservation or RSVP is required.

For more information on the POD, visit ochealthinfo.com/PODevent.

To receive vital communications in the event of an actual emergency, residents are encouraged to sign up for notifications at AlertOC.org .

Join Me at the Orange County Fire Open Houses!

Come meet your local Orange County Firefighters!

OCFA’s station Open Houses will give visitors an opportunity to meet and greet their neighborhood firefighters, tour their local fire stations, ride a fire engine, see fire suppression techniques, see rescue dogs in action, and learn about ways they can stay fire safe.

It will also be a great opportunity to thank your firefighters for their everyday heroism and tell them that you appreciate their bravery and professionalism in containing recent fires, such as the Holy Jim Fire!

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris and Councilmember Melissa Fox at OCFA Open House.

This year, the Orange County Fire Authority will host two Open House events:

  • Saturday, October 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at OCFA Headquarters, and
  • Saturday, October 13, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m, at participating OCFA stations.

OCFA Headquarters is located at  s located at 1 Fire Authority Road, Irvine, CA 92602 (off Jamboree Road).

The event schedule for the OCFA HQ Open House on Saturday, October 6, includes:

  • 11:00 a.m. — Kidde Fire Extinguisher Demonstration, Burn Demonstration.
  • 11:45 a.m. — Urban Search and Rescue, Dog Demonstration.
  • 12:30 p.m. — Vehicle Extraction Demonstration.
  • 1:15 p.m.  — Urban Search and Rescue, Dog Demonstration.
  • 2:00 p.m. — Burn Demonstration.

The OCFA stations in Irvine participating in the Open House on Saturday, October 13, are:

  • Station 4, 2 California Ave., Irvine CA 92612
  • Station 26, 4691 Walnut Ave., Irvine CA 92604
  • Station 27, 12400 Portola Springs, Irvine CA 92618
  • Station 36, 301 East Yale Loop, Irvine CA 92604

See you there!

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you very much for a terrific response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Visit the California Fire Museum Exhibit

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox, Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris and Dottie the Fire Dog atop a 1902 horse-drawn steam engine.

This past weekend, I paid a visit to the California Fire Museum‘s new exhibition of firefighting equipment and artifacts in Santa Ana.

The exhibit — entitled “Firefighting: Artifacts and Tools of the Trade” —  runs from February 3 to March 3, 2018, at the SAC Arts Gallery at the Santora Building, 207 North Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701.

This is a wonderful exhibit.  The success of this exhibit re-enforces my commitment to convince the Irvine City Council to agree to the Fire Museum’s request for help in preserving their collection from damage from vandalism and the elements by preserving the heritage of our California firefighters at the Great Park.

The California Fire Museum , Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization whose purpose is:

  • To preserve and protect the history and heritage of the fire service in general, with special emphasis on the California Fire Services.
  • To collect, restore, preserve and exhibit apparatus, equipment, art and artifacts of the firefighting profession.
    To provide life safety, fire safety and fire prevention education to the community.
  • To educate the public about firefighters, firefighting and emergency services.
  • We are dedicated to conservation, research, restoration, education and community service.

If you would like to become a member, sponsor, or have a donation of fire memorabilia, funds or services, please contact the California Fire Museum at (949) 916-5019.

As a Board Member of the Orange County Fire Authority and the mother of a firefighter, I urge everyone interested in preserving our California firefighter heritage to contact Irvine’s Mayor and the members of the City Council to tell them to provide the California Fire Museum space for the public display and storage of their irreplaceable collection.