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.

Join Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, Irvine Councilmember Farrah Khan, and Me on Saturday Morning, June 29, for a Free Child Car Seat Safety Clinic!

This Saturday, June 29, at 10:00 a.m. at Irvine City Hall, California State Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (AD 74), Councilmember Farrah Khan and I will be hosting a free Child Car Seat Safety Clinic with the California Highway Patrol and the Irvine Police Department.

To help parents ensure the safety of their children, specially trained technicians will be available to inspect car seats and make sure that they are properly installed and equipped.

Did you know that 43% percent of children die in car crashes were improperly restrained?

Did you know that 73% of children’s car seats are not used or installed correctly?

Do you know whether your child’s car seat is properly installed and equipped?

Join Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, Councilmember Farrah N. Khan, CHP, IDP and me to make sure that your car seats are properly installed and ensure your kids are protected!

The event is FREE, but you must RSVP HERE.

For more information please call (949) 251-0074 or visit asmdc.org/Petrie-Norris.

Irvine City Hall is located at 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606

Light refreshments will be served.

See you there!

 

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!

Join Us on an Irvine “Wine & Dine” Bike Tour with Commissioner Melissa Fox!

pedego-junction-electricJoin us on Friday, July 18th, at 6:00 PM for a terrific summer evening starting with a light dinner before we ride into the sunset on an electric bike tour of some of Irvine’s most picturesque bikeways!

It’s the Irvine “Wine & Dine” Bike Tour with Commissioner Melissa Fox!

First, we’ll meet at Pedego Irvine, at 4624 Barranca Parkway, Irvine 92604

melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox with Irvine Pedego owner Bob Bibee.

Then, we’ll have a light catered dinner.

Next, we’ll ride our Pedego Electric Bicycles on a sunset tour of Irvine’s bikeways.

Lastly, we’ll return to Pedego Irvine for a wine tasting provided by a boutique winery!

Cost is only $30 for a Mediterranean wrap, salad and hummus, electric bike rental, and wine tasting!

Please RSVP for dinner to Farrah at 323-428-3611.

We hope to see you there!

Did you know that Irvine has 301 miles of on-street bike lanes and 54 miles of off-street bikeways. Our bicycle trails are some of the most beautiful and peaceful places in Irvine.

Also, Irvine been rated as “Silver” Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.  This makes Irvine the most bicycle-friendly city in Southern California — and we can do ever better!

Electric bicycles provided by Pedego Irvine. Pedego Electric Bicycles are made right here in Irvine!

What: Irvine “Wine & Dine” Bike Tour with Commissioner Melissa Fox!

Co-Hosted by UCI Professor Catherine Liu.

When: Friday, July 18th at 6:00 PM

Where: Meet-up at Pedego Irvine, 4624 Barranca Parkway, Irvine 92604

Cost: $30 for dinner, electric bike rental, and wine tasting!