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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But more needs to be done.

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

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

Building the Cultural Terrace at the Great Park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education and childcare.

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

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

Commitment to building the Veterans Cemetery and Memorial.

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

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

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

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

Affordable housing and county-wide help for the homeless.

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

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

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

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

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

Innovative and Responsible Leadership.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope to see you there!

Join Me at the Meeting of the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Guest post by Krishna Hammond, Vice Chair Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Join Me at Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee Meeting!

My name is Krishna.  I’m the Vice Chair of the City of Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee (appointed by Irvine City Councilmember and Committee Chair Melissa Fox).  The Green Ribbon Committee is an official advisory committee to the Irvine City Council, and we meet four times a year to discuss potential policies and make recommendations to the city council.

This Wednesday, February 21st, we will be meeting at 4:30 PM at Las Lomas Community Park (10 Federation Way). We’ll be having a presentation by city staff on Active Transportation (related to biking, skating, rollerblading, and other forms of human-powered transport) and Mobility.

We will also get an update on charging stations for EV vehicles in Irvine.

In addition, we have subcommittees relating to Active Transportation, Energy Development, and Green Infrastructure.

If you’d like to get involved and share your ideas related to these policy areas, please consider meeting us at the committee meeting!

Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee seeks to increase public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, helping the City serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs. The Committee is supported by the Public Works Department. Comprised of 10 members, the committee is an advisory body to the City Council and provides advice on sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

We have a lot of exciting things moving along  the pipeline, including a Request For Proposals for developing a feasibility study and technical assessment of Community Choice Energy, a means of allowing the city to purchase clean energy at a 3-7% savings on average.

You can read our agenda here.

Please join us.

Thank you so much!


Join Us Tonight for the Ride of Silence

Join us tonight, Wednesday, May 17, for the Ride of Silence, as we meet once again at Irvine City Hall to remember and honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways.

We will begin gathering at 6:00 p.m., assemble at 6:30, and start the ride at 7:00 p.m.

We ride to promote sharing the road and provide awareness of the rights and safety of bicyclists.  Our silent ride also commemorates those who have been killed or injured doing what each of us has a right to do – a right that, far too often, motorists fail to recognize, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Irvine is a wonderful city for biking, whether for commuting, exercising, or just enjoying the outdoors. We have more than 300 miles of on-street bike lanes and more than 50 miles of off-street bikeways.  Our bicycle trails are some of the most beautiful, and peaceful, places in Irvine.

Yet in Irvine, as everywhere else, motorists must learn to better share the road safely with cyclists; that cyclists have the same rights to the road as motorists; and that cyclists are the most vulnerable users of the roadways.

A dozen people were killed in Orange County in 2016 while riding their bikes. This year so far, three cyclists have been killed.  The youngest victim, Brock McCann, was only eight years old.

These individuals were fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, co-workers, as well as cyclists.

Irvine’s Ride of Silence is part of a larger, international movement to commemorate cyclists killed or injured while riding on public roads and to raise awareness among motorists of the dangers they pose to cyclists.

As a bicyclist myself, the mother of a bicyclist, an Irvine resident and an Irvine City Councilmember, and as an advocate for more active transportation as a way to cut pollution and our reliance on fossil fuels, I will ride in the Ride of Silence as a way to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways and to urge the public (and local governments) to do more to protect bicyclists’ safety.

The Ride of Silence asks its cyclists to ride no faster than 12 mph, follow the rules of the road, and remain silent during the ride.  Helmets are mandatory. There are no sponsors and no registration fees. The ride aims to raise the awareness of motorists, police and city officials that cyclists have a legal right to the public roadways. The ride is also a chance to show respect for and honor the lives of those who have been killed or injured.

As the organizers of the Ride of Silence have said: “A pack of single file – silent riders – pacing out for 8 to 10 miles. We will share this hour with each other, and know that thousands across the planet will also have marked the hour in their own time zone; but also raise awareness among the many local motorists who will be witnesses of our sombre parade.”

We must remember that cyclists have legal rights to the road as do motorists and bicyclists are the most vulnerable users of the roadways.

We ride to show respect for and honor the lives of those who have been killed or injured.

We ride to promote public awareness of bicycling safety.

We ride so that no bicyclist is ever again killed or injured because of a motorist’s failure to share the road.

See you there.

Join Me at Tonight’s Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee Meeting!

Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee seeks to increase public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, helping the City serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs. The Committee is supported by the Public Works Department. Comprised of 10 members, the committee is an advisory body to the City Council and provides advice on sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

For some time, Irvine’s Green Ribbon Committee has been dormant because there were not sufficient members to constitute a quorum.  One of my goals in joining the Irvine City Council was to get this important committee going again.  Working with Irvine’s mayor, Donald Wagner, we were able to bring the committee back to functioning strength.  The first meeting of the newly reconstituted Green Ribbon Environmental Committee will be tonight, Tues., May 16, at 4:30 p.m. at the Conference and Training Center inside of the Irvine Civic Center (City Hall).  

Below is an invitation to attend tonight’s committee meeting from Krishna Hammond, my Green Ribbon Environmental Committee appointee.  Krishna is a professional chemist and is passionate about protecting, improving, and conserving our environment,  He is a native of San Diego and a resident of Irvine.  Krishna holds a degree in chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  I feel very fortunate that he has agreed to serve on the committee.  I am also a member of the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee and, like Krishna, I hope you’ll able to join us this evening.  All Irvine committee and commission meeting are open to the public.

Join Me at Tonight’s Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee Meeting!

by Krishna Hammond

Krishna Hammond, Member, Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Hi everyone! I am lucky enough to be a committee member on the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee! This is an official advisory committee, which means we can make direct recommendations (which are submitted into the public record) to the Irvine City Council! We work on issues related to energy, recycling and waste, mobility, open space, and water issues.

The committee is having it’s first meeting tomorrow, May 16th, at 4:30 p.m. at the Conference and Training Center inside of the Irvine Civic Center.  We meet about four times a year, so catch us while you can!

I encourage you all to attend! The meetings are open to the public, and there will be a period for public comment.  If you have concerns or want to submit your ideas for improving our city, please don’t hesitate to drop by.

The more people there, the merrier!

Again, the meeting is at 4:30 p.m.  at the Conference and Training Center inside the Irvine Civic Center.

You can read our agenda here.

Hope to see you there!

Sierra Club Leaders Urge Vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

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Contact: Jason Mills (714) 576-4303

Sierra Club Leaders Urge Vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

IRVINE, CA             Leaders of the Orange County Chapter of the Sierra Club recently urged their members in Irvine to vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council.  “As people who care deeply about the environment and the future of our planet, and our beautiful City of Irvine, we urge you to join the Sierra Club in supporting Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council,” the Sierra Club leaders said.

mail-01Their message to Irvine’s Sierra Club members stated that “City Council candidate and Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox is a former Orange County Reserve Park Ranger and a passionate advocate for creating sustainable communities that incorporate public transit, active transportation and access to work, parks, shopping and recreation. Melissa is committed to environmentally responsible, community-oriented planning, including green building practices [and is] dedicated to stopping the rushed development of more housing and office buildings without proper planning or adequate infrastructure, and without consideration of its impact on our schools, our traffic, the character of our communities, and our quality of life.  Please vote for the environment in the November election by casting your ballot for Melissa Fox.”

“I am honored by the support of the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization,” Melissa Fox said. “Preserving Irvine’s open spaces and protecting our environment are important to me.  Let’s move Irvine forward together — toward a re-commitment to Irvine’s tradition of environmentally responsible, community-oriented planning.”

Melissa Fox is an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, attorney, and small business owner in Irvine.  In addition to her endorsement by the Sierra Club, she has also been endorsed by the Orange County League of Conservation Voters, as well as by the Orange County Professional Firefighters and current Irvine City Members Beth Krom and Lynn Schott.

To learn more about Melissa Fox’s campaign, visit www.votemelissafox.com.

Help Irvine Win the Wyland Foundation’s National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation


Help Irvine win the Fourth Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by the Wyland Foundation.

My Water Pledge is a friendly competition between cities across the US to see who can be the most “water-wise.”  Mayors nationwide challenge their residents to conserve water, energy and other natural resources on behalf of their city through a series of informative, easy-to-use pledges online.  Cities with the highest percentage of residents who take the challenge in their population category win.  Participants in the winning cities are eligible to win hundreds of prizes.

“Whether it’s drought conditions in the West or the high costs of energy related to water use in the East, saving water has become one of the most talked about issues facing the nation today,” said the artist Wyland, president and founder of the Wyland Foundation. “This contest gives city leaders a way to supplement their awareness efforts in a friendly, spirited way.”

my water pledge.02

Your own city’s mayor does not have to participate for your city to win.

Unfortunately, Irvine Mayor Steven Choi has decided not to be a participating mayor – but you and I can still make a difference!

Last year, the challenge awarded more than $50,000 in prizes to nearly 1,000 residents in U.S. cities.

Last year, residents from over 3,600 cities in all 50 U.S. states pledged to reduce their annual consumption of freshwater by 1.4 billion gallons, reduce waste sent to landfills by 36 million pounds, prevent more than 179,000 pounds of hazardous waste from entering our watersheds, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5.3 billion pounds. Participants have included mayors from Seattle, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Diego, San Francisco, Long Beach and Miami.

Currently, Irvine is not in the top 10 cities in our population size in water-saving pledges.  We can fix that – and save water.

And maybe win some prizes, too.

Take the Water Conservation Challenge pledge here.

UCI Sets “Green” Example for City of Irvine

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Congratulations to the Univerisity of California, Irvine, on its selection as the 2014 “Greenest School in the Nation,” according to the Sierra Club’s magazine. The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and oldest environmental organization.

The decision was based on a survey of America’s four-year degree-granting undergraduate colleges conducted by four organizations: the Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI), and the Princeton Review.

President Obama speaking at UC Irvine 2014

UCI came in first out of the 173 colleges that completed the survey by scoring 813.51 out of a possible total of 1000 points.

According to the Sierra Club Magazine, “In 2008, UC Irvine vowed to improve its energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020, then hit that target seven years early, making it the first U.S. school to achieve that goal. Then administrators doubled down by pledging an additional 20 percent energy reduction by 2020. Helping the matter: three on-site solar power projects and a 19-megawatt cogeneration plant with turbines powered by combustion and steam. The school’s water-recycling program saves more than 210 million gallons per year.”

This recent recognition by the Sierra Club comes just a few weeks after President Obama, at his UCI Commencement Address, lauded UC Irvine for “set[ing] up the first Earth System Science Department in America. A UC Irvine professor-student team won the Nobel Prize for discovering that CFCs destroy the ozone layer.  A UC Irvine glaciologist’s work led to one of last month’s report showing one of the world’s major ice sheets in irreversible retreat. Students and professors are in the field working to predict changing weather patterns, fire seasons, and water tables – working to understand how shifting seasons affect global ecosystems; to get zero-emission vehicles on the road faster; to help coastal communities adapt to rising seas. And when I challenge colleges to reduce their energy use to 20 percent by 2020, UC Irvine went ahead and did it last year.  Done.  So UC Irvine is ahead of the curve. All of you are ahead of the curve.”

To me, one of UCI’s most impressive “green” achievements is ZotWheels, an  innovative bike sharing system.  As UCI explains, ZotWheels is “the first automated self-service bike share program in California . . .  Almost a pound of tailpipe emissions will be saved for every mile a member rides a bike instead of driving.  Bike sharing allows faculty, students, and staff an alternative to driving when making short-distance trips during the work and school day, as well as addressing important issues such as health and environmental sustainability, the future of transportation, and promoting community building on campus. Bike sharing already exists in many European cities, such as Paris and Barcelona. Take our bikes for a short ride around the inner ring, to the park, to a meeting, or to class.  ZotWheels are meant to be shared; so rent one, ride it, return it and repeat any time you want to bring a little fun to your day!”

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at 2013 Solar Decathlon

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at Solar Decathlon

The City of Irvine has a lot to learn from UC Irvine’s accomplishments.

The City of Irvine ought to be a leader in creating sustainable communities that incorporate smart growth principles, public transit and active transportation access to work, parks, shopping and recreation. Our heritage as a master planned community and our long-standing commitment to well-planned smart growth ought to make Irvine a natural leader in promoting green building practices and smart growth principles.

Unfortunately, in recent years we have set our environmental goals too low.  Nor is the current council majority committed to smart, green growth, instead approving frantic growth and development at any cost.

The result of the current council’s rubber-stamping of developers’ proposals has been runaway development of housing tracts and apartments causing terrible traffic and overcrowded schools – posing a clear and present danger to our quality of life.

Irvine is positioned to become a leader in renewable energy use.  Last year, the Solar Decathlon was held for first time outside of Washington, D.C. – at the Great Park, in Irvine. Despite a lukewarm, anti-environmentally conscious majority on the city council, the event was successful.  The 2015 Solar Decathlon will be held once again here in Irvine. And a team from Orange County, led by UC Irvine, will be in the competition.  This time, with an enthusiastic and committed city council and thoughtful promotion and planning, the event could have much more wide-ranging and economically beneficial impact for the city.  But before that can happen – and before Irvine can claim the title of the nation’s energy innovation capitol – we must elect a city council committed to making solar and renewable energy a far more significant energy source for Irvine’s city buildings, homes and businesses.

So congratulations UC Irvine!  You’ve shown us the direction that the City of Irvine should be taking.