Irvine Community Land Trust’s “Stories from Home” Continues with Inspiring Story of Cail Cheng

I was elected to serve as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust (ICLT) in 2018, 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. 

We build high-quality affordable rental, ownership and special needs housing for the benefit of income-eligible families. Located in the heart of Southern California’s one of the most expensive real estate markets, there is a tremendous need for affordable housing.

From time to time, ICLT Executive Director Mark Asturias shares a story about our residents.  Here is his latest of our “Stories from Home”:

Cail Cheng

I’m very happy to present the return of the Irvine Community Land Trust’s “Stories from Home” series, where we highlight some of our communities’ exceptional residents, who all make Irvine a better place in their own ways.

This time, we’re featuring Cail Cheng, 27, a former Alegre resident who recently moved out. You may wonder why we’re highlighting a former resident, but Cheng has a truly remarkable story of growth during the few years he spent with us.

At first glance, Cheng seems like anyone else his age – he’s kind, diligent and loves art, photography and video games. But his path through life has been far more challenging than most. Cheng lives with a developmental disability. Five years ago, he wasn’t employed and had experienced very limited independence in his life. Though he has never been very verbal, his mother – June McLaughlin – heard his inner voice loud and clear: he wanted to live his own life.

Right around this time, the ICLT was finishing work on Alegre, one of our first affordable communities. Like our other properties, Alegre included certain units set aside for people living with developmental disabilities. ICLT was offering an affordable cost for a two-bedroom unit with a roommate, ideally meant to serve as a stepping stone for residents to later transition into complete independence. We put out a call for initial residents to apply, and McLaughlin was listening.

When McLaughlin heard about the opportunity and told her son, she saw a fire light up in Cheng’s eyes like nothing she had ever seen. He was still mostly silent, but there was a newfound focus – a quiet determination to grab the reins of his life for himself.

For roughly half of his stay with us, Cheng worked tirelessly to find steady employment, undergoing training that readied him for what the world would expect from him. Two years in, his diligence paid off through a job with Goodwill, where he continues to work to this day.

Just last year, McLaughlin realized that her son had turned a corner. He was much more responsible than he ever had been and was legitimately happy at his job. His time at Alegre had readied him for the next big step – fully independent living in a market rate apartment in the City of Irvine.

Earlier this year, Cheng left our community and moved into the San Mateo Apartments, where he now lives a proud, independent life. Over the course of five years, McLaughlin has seen him grow from a messy boy living at home to a self-made man capable of juggling all his bills and other responsibilities. “It’s been a privilege. I’m grateful for him as a son, to be part of his story,” McLaughlin said. “It’s an honor to be his mom.”

We’re honored, too. It gives us significant pride to have been able to – quite literally – open a door for Cheng as he hungered for new challenges that would help him grow. The fact that he’s moved on means that we’ve played our part, and we wish him the best of luck in his new, independent life!

Mark Asturias
Executive Director, Irvine Community Land Trust

Thank you to everyone who has helped the Irvine Community Land Trust continue to succeed in its mission of helping people like Cail Cheng and many others.

As Mark Asturias said, it’s an honor to be a positive force in so many people’s lives.

Watch a video on the Irvine Community Land Trust here:


The Irvine Community Land Trust Land Continues Construction Progress on Salerno, Our Newest Affordable Housing Community

I was elected to serve as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust (ICLT) in 2018, 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. 

We build high-quality affordable rental, ownership and special needs housing for the benefit of income-eligible families. Located in the heart of Southern California’s one of the most expensive real estate markets, there is a tremendous need for affordable housing.

Both as a member of the Irvine City Council and as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, I have made it a priority to create more affordable housing, especially for working families, verterans, and people with disabilities. I have worked with legislators in Sacramento to cut taxes on affordable housing construction, and I have made for easier to more working people to become homeowners.

As we fight the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, secure and affordable housing has never been more important.

Through a series of special protocols, the Irvine Community Land Trust is  continuing construction on our new community, Salerno, even during the pandemic. Out of concern for our construction workers, we’ve undertaen extraordinary measures to ensure they stay safe and healthy while on the job.

I recently received some photos of the progress that we’ve made at Salerno, which will bring 80 affordable homes to the city.  Still on schedule to be completed in the Fall of 2020, Salerno will offer affordable rents as low as $550 for a one-bedroom, $625 for a two-bedroom and $695 for a three-bedroom.

Thirty-five of the homes will be reserved for those earning less than 30 percent of the area median income: 15 for veterans; 10 for individuals with developmental disabilities; and 10 for families at risk of homelessness.

When completed in the fall, Salerno will join Parc Derian, Alegre Apartments and Doria Apartment Homes as places where income eligible residents will proudly call Irvine “home.” As the Orange County Register observed, these affordable communities offer “a new beginning for veterans, developmentally disabled people and families at risk of homelessness.”

The interest list for Salerno is currently closed.  However, you can get your name on our interest list for future projects and available homes HERE.

We will notify you when a project becomes available.

Here are some photos of our progress at Salerno:


Our next project, Native Spring, is especially exciting For the first time, the Irvine Community Land Trust will build for-sale homes that hard-working residents making less than $100,000 can actually afford to buy.

The Native Spring homeownership project will serve moderate-income families with a 68-house development in Portola Springs that will have all the features of any market rate for-sale project in the city. A young couple earning $76,000 to $94,000 annually will be able to purchase a home for about $370,000.

Additionally, these homebuyers will “pay it forward” by agreeing to resale provisions that keep these homes permanently affordable. This development, which will break ground in 2020, is tremendously exciting for the ICLT as it stands to make the American dream a reality for many first time home buyers.

The ICLT continues to look for corporate donors who can provide grant opportunities, donate materials and items to help build, furnish and landscape new communities. Contact us to learn how to contribute!

You can learn more about the Irvine Community Land Trust at our website HERE.

In May 2019, the Irvine Community Land Trust was awarded the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, the world’s most respected source of information on nonprofit organizations.  You can read about it HERE.

Stop the Dangerous Santiago Creek Development: Vote No on City of Orange Measure AA!

I urge my friends in the City of Orange to stop the dangerous Santiago Creek development. Vote No on Measure AA.

The proposed development — which would squeeze 128 expensive homes on 40.9 acres just south of Santiago Creek, near the already excessively congested intersection of Santiago Canyon Road and Cannon Street — is too dangerous to be approved.

Just about everything about this proposed Santiago Creek Development is wrong:

  • The area of the proposed development is prone to wildfire and has few evacuation routes. Those few evacuation routes are already excessively congested.  During the recent 2017 Canyon II Fire, cars were backed up for miles with people trying to flee.  This proposed development will create even more congestion, which could prove fatal in the next wildfire.
  • The area of the proposed development is subject to serious flooding danger. The area is in a flood plain and has a history of dangerous flooding.  Major floods in Orange County have occurred in 1810, 1815, 1825, 1884, 1891, 1916, 1927, 1938, 1969, 1983, 1993 and 1997.  In February 1969, heavy rains led to catastophic flooding of Santiago Creek that washed out bridges and roads, destroyed homes and cars, and caused hundreds to be evacuated. The danger of flooding in the area remains unabated.
  • The proposed development is on a known fault line and subject to liquefaction in an earthquake. In addition, two earthen dams upstream of the proposed development are also on a fault line and subject to liquefaction, increasing the danger of catastophic flooding.
  • There are active methane vents next to the site. The homes built on the proposed site will require methane gas detectors to monitor dangerous levels of methane.  The release of methane into the air can cause debilitating health problems, ranging from rashes, nosebleeds and wheezing to headaches, nausea, vomiting, brain injury and death.
  • The development project is also an affront to democracy. Residents of the area have opposed the development for years, yet the developers and the Orange City Council has ignored their concerns.  Despite the people’s opposition, the Orange City Council pushed ahead with approving this project, putting the financial interests of the developers ahead of the wishes and the safety of the people. When this most recent development plan came before the Orange City Council, more than 80% of the Orange residents who spoke at the public hearing opposed the project.  The Orange City Council approved it anyway, forcing the residents to overturn their decision through the referendum process.  Residents then collected more than 13,000 signitures — nearly double the number needed — in less than 30 days to put Measure AA on the ballot.  The people do not want this project!

I believe that California’s housing and homelessness crises must be addressed with effective, meaningful action.  I have worked hard to create more affordable housing.  As Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, I’ve helped reduce homelessness and create affordable housing for families, veterans, and people with disabilities, and I’ve gone to Sacramento to fight for tax reductions for investments in affordable housing I am a strong advocate for action on the local and state level addressing the housing and homelessness crises, but not at the cost of lives lost due to development plans that fail to properly account for the high danger of flood, wildfire, and other natural disasters. Plus, more multi million-dollar homes are not what the City of Orange, Orange County, or California need right now.

Vote No on Measure AA to stop this dangerous development!

Watch a video on the Santiago Creek development here:

Learn more at

Irvine Community Land Trust Distributes Free Face Masks to Affordable Housing Residents

As Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, I’m pleased to announce that the Land Trust has distributed hundreds of free face masks to residents of our affordable housing communities.

I want to thank FivePoint for its generous contribution of these masks.

I also want to thank Farrah Khan, my colleague on the Irvine City Council and a Community Land Trust Board Member, for arranging and coordinating the delivery of the face masks from FivePoint to the Land Trust so that we can distribute them free of charge.

COVID-19 spreads when an infected person speaks, sneezes, or coughs within 6 feet of others. You may have the virus and spread it even if you feel well.

To prevent infection, you must cover your nose and mouth when outside your home. Wearing a mask or cloth face covering can slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the release of virus into the air. It also reinforces physical distancing, and shows you care about the health of others. Wearing a mask is now required statewide. It’s also the law in Irvine, and common sense and good neighborliness everywhere.

I am honored 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.  

We’re all in this together!



Irvine Posts New Web Page Detailing the City’s Efforts to Combat Homelessness

The City of Irvine has posted a new web page detailing the City’s efforts to combat homelessness.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I’m proud of what we’ve done.

I’m especially proud of our inclusionary housing requirement that 15 percent of all new residential development be affordable to lower-income households.

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox receiving affordable housing award on behalf of the Irvine Community Land Trust

I’m also proud of the City of Irvine’s establishment and funding of the Irvine Community Land Trust, which I am honored to serve as Chair, dedicated to creating affordable housing.

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.

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.

Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox and other officials listen to a homeless man at the Santa Ana riverbed.

In fact, over the past 30 years, Irvine has developed more affordable housing for families and individuals at risk of homelessness than any other city in Orange County.

Irvine has also provided over $6.7 million in grant funding to nonprofit organizations for homelessness prevention programs.

I am proud too of our Irvine Police Department’s approach to homelessness, which employs a dedicated team of Mental Health and Homeless Liaison Officers and is characterized by compassion and concern for those suffering from economic hardship, mental illness, and addiction.

The City has established a dedicated email address,, to address homelessness in Irvine. If you know someone in need of services, or if you have a question related to homelessness in Irvine, please contact us.

Irvine has also partnered with several non-profit community organizations — including Families Forward, Second Harvest Food Bank, FOR FAMILIES, Human Options, Second Chance OC, South County Outreach and StandUp for Kids — to help people experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness.

Please read the web page to see all we’re doing.

Of course, more needs to be done to resolve the homelessness crisis and alleviate the human suffering we see around us throughout Orange County.

While I’m proud of all we’ve done in Irvine, I’m also dedicated to doing more.

I’ve traveled to Sacramento to convince our legislators to reform the tax code to make it easier to build affordable housing.

I’ve traveled to San Antonio, Texas, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to see possible solutions in action.

We need more affordable housing and more attainable housing.

We need more mental health services.

Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox and Community Services Commission Chair Lauren Johnson-Norris attending conference at Haven of Hope in San Antonio on helping people suffering homelessness.

We need real regulation and supervision of so-called sober living homes that heartlessly dump untreated addicts into our communities when their money runs out.

No area of the nation has been more adversely impacted by these unregulated and profiteering sober living homes than Orange County.

We need to work with responsible non-profit community and faith organizations to find real solutions to the growing crisis of drug and alcohol abuse.

Homelessness is a both humanitarian crisis and a public health crisis that we can not ignore or simply pretend to legislate out-of-existence. Helping our homeless population will require a concerned, regional, and state-funded approach that both provides safe temporary shelter and effective, humane solutions of the root causes of homelessness.

Let’s working together to achieve these goals and truly resolve the homelessness crisis.