Preserving Irvine’s Neighborhoods and Open Space: Why I’ll Vote to Protect Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course

At tonight’s Irvine City Council meeting, I intend to vote to protect the Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course from development.

Councilmember Melissa Fox celebrates Irvine’s open space with Board of Equalization Member and candidate for California Treasurer Fiona Ma

Here’s why:

One of the best, and most distinctive, things about 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.

Since its incorporation in 1971, Irvine has been committed to balancing the built and the natural environment.  As our incredible master-planned community has grown, we have remained attentive to the need to preserve and enhance our natural open spaces, creating a network of parks, trails, and wildlands that residents and visitors enjoy today and will continue to enjoy for generations to come.

Neighborhoods are also a crucial aspect of life in Irvine.

When I ran for City Council, I promised that I would protect the beauty and character of our neighborhoods in all of Irvine.

I also promised to fight runaway development; in  fact, as an Irvine City Councilmember, I have not voted for a single new entitlement nor have I approved any new construction.

Moving forward, I intend to see that Irvine reaffirms its commitment to protecting open space, preserving neighborhoods, and following the wisdom of the General Plan.

I like what my appointee to the Irvine Planning Commission, Dustin Nirschl, has said: “Villages are not just measurements, it’s a feeling.”

Neighborhoods matter.

Open space matters.

And neighbors working together to preserve their neighborhood and their open space matters most of all.

For these reasons, I intend to vote to prevent any development on the Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course by keeping it as a permanent, open space, recreational amenity to serve all Irvine residents — now and in the future.  

Update:  The Irvine City Council voted 5-0 on August 28, 2016, to affirm the Master Plan and maintain the zoning that protects the Rancho San Joaquin Golf course open space and preserves the character of the Rancho San Joaquin neighborhood. Thank you to the residents who joined together in this community-based and community-led effort!

Update: The folks at Protect Rancho Joaquin Golf Course have posted my comments and a video of my remarks at the August 28, 2018, Irvine City Council meeting.

My comments were: “I do want to thank everyone who’s come out today [to the City Council meeting]…I am so grateful that you’re here today to take the time out of your lives to protect your neighborhood, and our community.  It is a core principal of Irvine that we protect our open space, and we’re here today to do that.  And I wanted to thank my colleagues for bringing forth this issue — and particularly the right time with the General Plan update — that there could be no question now that the devotion of our City is to the protection of open space.  And so, I thank you for that.”

 

 

Say Hello to Irvine’s Newest Fire Prevention Method — Goats!

It’s been a long time since cattle and other livestock roamed the Irvine Ranch.

Now, some of them are back.

Goats.

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy is employing goats across its steep ridges and rocky hills to suppress non-native grasses and reduce the vegetation that provides fuel for wildfires.

In addition, the nearby Cleveland National Forest – which recently suffered the Holy Fire – is now also employing 1,200 goats to eat away hundreds of pounds of dried vegetation, helping to keep Irvine and other local communities safe.

Goats are green: they remove non-native and invasive species without using chemicals or causing damage to native plants or the ecosystem.

They predominately browse on woody species, leaving ground vegetation alone. In our area, woody species are usually non-native and invasive, while ground vegetation is made up of many desirable native plant species, such as California’s native purple needlegrass.

Goats even eat hemlock, which is poisonous to humans and many other animals, but not to goats.

Their agility enables goats to safely reach vegetation in steep areas.

It’s a win-win situation, because the goats love eating the non-native vegetation on the ranch, while grazing costs are 25% lower than other vegetation management methods.

You can learn more about goats for fire fuel reduction, non-native and invasive plant management at Sage Environmental Group.

So if you see goats on the hills or mountains around Irvine, make sure you say hello.

They’re helping to keep us safe.

UPDATE:

I’ve recently learned that the City of Irvine will be hosting a “goat demonstration” to which the public will be invited!

Watch this space for more info as it becomes available!

Join the Full Moon Hike in Bommer Canyon with Councilmember Melissa Fox!

If you’ve ever wondered what happens in Irvine’s wilderness open spaces when the sun goes down, then join me — Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox — on a full moon hike on Monday, September 24.

We will meet at the Bommer Canyon Cattle Ranch at 7:00 pm.  Please be on time.  The hike will likely take 2 or 2.5 hours.

Experience the beauty and serenity of a moonlit night in Irvine’s Bommer Canyon.  I hope you’ll join me!

This hike is just over 3 miles and includes 700 feet of total climbing elevation with several very steep inclines.  The steepest section ascends 300 feet in a quarter-mile. Participants must be in good physical condition.

You can also see information about the hike on the Facebook Event page HERE.

Find the Irvine Ranch National Landmarks page HERE.

About Bommer Canyon:

Rich in both Irvine Ranch lore and nature’s wonders, Bommer Canyon beckons walkers, hikers and all other outdoor enthusiasts to stroll past ancient oak and sycamore groves and rough rock outcrops.

In 1837, José Antonio Andrés Sepúlveda established Rancho San Joaquin, including the entire area now known as Bommer Canyon.

In 1864, Flint, Bixby & Co. purchased a large portion of Rancho San Joaquin including Bommer Canyon and its surroundings.

James Irvine, who had been a silent partner in Flint-Bixby, became the sole owner of Irvine Ranch, including Bommer Canyon, in 1867.

Between the late 1800s to the 1970s, the Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp served as the center of the Irvine Company’s cattle operations.

When the Irvine Company’s cattle operations finished, the Irvine Company sold the Bommer Canyon area to the City of Irvine between 1981 and 1982.

In 1996, roughly 50,000 acres of preserved land on Irvine Ranch, including Bommer Canyon, were designated as a National Natural Landmark — the first such landmark for California since 1987.

Collectively the preserved lands are known as the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Irvine Ranch Conservancy began managing Bommer Canyon for the City of Irvine in 2005, restoring the natural habitat and initiating community programs.

In 2011, the City of Irvine officially opened the Bommer Canyon trailhead at the corner of Bommer Canyon and Shady Canyon roads.

Today, many trails in Bommer Canyon are open daily for self-guided hikes or bike-riding from approximately dawn to dusk. However, some trails and areas within the canyon can only be accessed through guided programs and require pre-registration with the city or the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.

Join Me on the Ride of Silence on Weds., May 16, to Honor Bicyclists Killed or Injured and Promote Sharing the Road

Join us on Wednesday, May 16, for the annual Ride of Silence, as we meet once again at the Irvine Civic Center to remember and honor bicyclists 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 bicyclists; that bicyclists have the same rights to the road as motorists; and that bicyclists are the most vulnerable users of the roadways.

Eight people were killed in Orange County in 2017 while riding their bikes. This year so far, six cyclists have been killed. These individuals were fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, co-workers, as well as bicyclists.

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

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 support the Ride of Silence as a way to honor bicyclists 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 bicyclists 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  registration fees. The ride aims to raise the awareness of motorists, police and city officials that bicyclists 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 bicyclists 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.

What: Ride of Silence

Where: Irvine Civic Center Plaza

When: Wednesday, May 16, 2018.  Gather at 6:00 p.m., assemble at 6:30 p.m., and start the ride at 7:00 p.m.

Route: Flat 10 mile loop around Irvine; on-street bike lanes and off street bike way.  Route map: click here.

Note: Helmets and lights required!

IMPORTANT UPDATE!!

The Irvine Ride of Silence has been cancelled.

Please join with riders in Orange (Civic Center; 300 E Chapman) or Fullerton (Fullerton Downtown Plaza; Fullerton Museum Center Plaza).

For more information, please see: Ride of Silence OC.

 

 

Celebrating Earth Day 2018: Preserving Irvine’s Earth-Friendly Tradition

Today, Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day.

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

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 long 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 Open Spaces

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 Limestone Sinks. Irvine Ranch Conservancy Open Space.

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.”

The Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Irvine Ranch Open Space.

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 was 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, I was  able to bring the Committee back to full functioning strength.

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

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.

If you’d like to get involved and share your ideas related to these policy areas, please consider joining us at the next Green Ribbon Environmental Committee meeting!

Mayor’s Water Challenge

This year, Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner is joining other mayors across the country in asking residents to make a commitment to conserve water and protect this vital resource by taking part in the 7th annual Wyland Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.

City Council Member Melissa Fox and the artist Wyland at his Irvine studio.

“This annual challenge to conserve water, sponsored by the Wyland Foundation here in Irvine, reminds us of our precious resource,” said Mayor Wagner. “I am hopeful that what is a short-term challenge for our residents becomes a long-term practice of conservation.”

 Last year, residents from over 4,100 cities in all 50 U.S. states pledged to reduce their annual consumption of freshwater by 1.9 billion gallons, reduce waste sent to landfills by 42 million pounds, and prevent more than 87,000 pounds of hazardous waste from entering our watersheds. The challenge goes beyond recent drought issues and looks at the ways water use will affect the future of our communities.

To participate, enter online at  mywaterpledge.com , and then make a series of online pledges to conserve water on behalf of the City of Irvine.

One winning city will be determined from five population categories. The city with the most pledges in each population category will win.

Residents from the winning cities who take the online pledge will be entered to win hundreds of environmentally friendly prizes, including $5,000 for home utilities, water-saving fixtures and home improvement gift cards.

I am thrilled that our mayor has decided to join in the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. Thank you to Irvine-based Wyland Foundation for your commitment to promoting, protecting, and preserving the world’s oceans, waterways, and marine life. All of us in Irvine are proud that this wonderful artist and conservationist is located in our city!

For more information, visit cityofirvine.org .

Keeping Our Commitment

From its beginnings as a visionary master-planned community developed from the Irvine Ranch, the City of Irvine has striven to be simultaneously people-friendly, business-friendly, and earth-friendly.

That success can continue into the future, as long as we insist that each phase of our City’s development be accompanied by careful planning and the preservation and enhancement of our environment.

 

 

Irvine Needs Your Input on Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp Renovation!

The City of Irvine invites the community to share input on the renovation of Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp at a public workshop Wednesday, April 25, 6-7:30 p.m., at the Las Lomas Community Center.

bommercyn.01The Bommer Canyon Community Park Rehabilitation Project focuses on refreshing the former Cattle Camp, originally built in 1967.  The 15-acre rustic site is a popular setting for parties, company picnics, weddings, family reunions and camp-outs.

The public workshop seeks to gather community input on desired features and ideas for the renovated site.  Input gathered will be used to enhance a draft park design for City review this summer.

For those unable to attend the workshop, project information and an online survey will be available at cityofirvine.org after the workshop.  Las Lomas Community Center is located at 10 Federation Way, Irvine 92603.

The workshop and parking are free.

Nestled in the heart of Bommer Canyon is part of the old Irvine Ranch Cattle Camp.  Several of the original structures exist today, adding to the rustic feel of the Canyon. Bommer Canyon Community Park is also an important preservation area for many local plants and wildlife, including several endangered species.  The cattle camp area is available for rental.  View a map and directions here.

Trails are open for hiking, mountain biking and horse-back riding. Please note that only some trails are open to the public for self-guided daily access while others are restricted to docent-led activities due to sensitive habitat. Dogs are not permitted on trails in Bommer Canyon, but they are permitted on the Quail Hill Loop Trail.  Please see trail map here.

For more information, call Darlene Nicandro, Project Development Administrator at 949-724-7462.

Join Me for Irvine’s Breakfast and Hike Open Space Celebration!

Please join me as the City of Irvine invites the community to attend a 30th Anniversary Open Space Celebration Breakfast and Hike on Saturday, April 14 at the Quail Hill Trailhead.

This free public event will begin at 8 a.m. with a pancake breakfast, followed by a welcome at 9:15 a.m. and a 1.8-mile hike hosted by Irvine Ranch Conservancy.  Please wear comfortable shoes.

Please park at the Quail Hill Community Center.  Parking is not available at the Quail Hill Trailhead.

No RSVP needed. For more information, call 949-724-6077.

One of the best — and most distinctive — things about 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 Irvine Open Space Preserve features trails for hiking, mountain biking and, for part of the year, horseback riding.

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. It features wetlands, oak stands, grasslands and coastal sage scrub, and has been designated by the state and federal governments as a natural landmark.

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.

What: Irvine 30th Anniversary Open Space Celebration

When: Saturday, April 14, 2018. 8:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

Where: Quail Hill Trailhead, 34 Shady Canyon Drive, Irvine, California 92603

Cost: Free

You can see the Facebook event page here.

See you there!