Watch the Great Park Balloon ‘Jack’ Installation!

You are invited to watch the Great Park Balloon ‘Jack’ Installation as Irvine’s iconic giant orange balloon is transformed into a Great Jack-o’-lantern for Halloween!

Balloon pilots are lifted by a large crane to attach black vinyl tarp pieces to the Balloon’s sides, creating a jack-o-lantern face affectionately known as “Jack.”

The transformation is scheduled for 9:00 –11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 2.  The transformation could be delayed to the evening if winds are too strong. Check back on the Great Park Facebook Page for any updates.

There is no cost to watch the Balloon’s transformation, and guests are welcome to enjoy other Great Park amenities open that day, including the Farm + Food Lab and lawn areas.

Also, join us for Irvine’s Spooktacular Fun Days, Oct 13 – Oct 14, the Orange County Great Park’s annual fall tradition featuring a treat town, pumpkin patch, petting zoo, entertainment, crafts, inflatables, face painting, community booths, carnival games, food concessions and much more.  For more information,  visit ocgp.org/spooktacular.

 

 

 

We’re Number One: OC Register Rates Irvine “Best City” for 2018

The readers of the Orange County Register have rated Irvine the “Best City” in Orange County for 2018.

Here is what the Register had to say:

“By now, Irvine is used to accolades.

The Fiscal Times recently ranked it No. 1 out of 116 municipalities in its annual City Fiscal Strength Index. Within the past year it also made the top 10s of other “best-of”lists, including the Best Place to Raise a Family, the Best Park System in the U.S., Best City for Working Parents and Best City to be a Homeowner.

The personal finance website WalletHub ranked Irvine No. 8 – the highest of any Southern California locale – on its 2018 list of the Happiest Cities in America, which was based on factors such as emotional and physical well-being, income and employment and community and environment.

Last year, Sunset magazine selected Irvine as the SoCal runner-up – behind Ventura – on its list of the 19 Best Value Towns in the West.

“This O.C. town was engineered for livability back in the 1960s,” the magazine wrote. “What it lacks in an actual downtown, it makes up for with 350 miles of bike lanes and trails, an infinitesimal crime rate, a robust economy, a multicultural population, and the Orange County Great Park.”

None of this is news to Best of Orange County voters. Irvine has been voted Best City Live In for 8 of the past 10 years and always places in the top three. Beyond its highly regarded schools and abundant parks, Irvine is frequently cited as a model of master planning – even as the city’s population has grown to 268,000, its design as a cluster of villages helps it retain a small-town vibe.”

Congratulations to us!

See the Register’s full “Best of” issue here.

 

Irvine History Happy Hour: Meet Irvine’s New City Manager John Russo!

So what exactly does a City Manager do anyway?

Come this Sunday, September 23 to the Irvine Historical Society’s Let’s Talk History Happy Hour and find out!

Irvine’s new City Manager John A. Russo will be on hand to introduce himself and to share his goals for the future of Irvine.

John A. Russo was hired by the Irvine City Council to be City Manager on July 10, 2018.

Russo began his career in public service as an elected official with the City of Oakland, first as a Councilmember from 1994-2000, and then City Attorney from 2000-2011. While in Oakland, he authored the open government law and the “Sunshine Ordinance” to ensure public transparency and full residential access to public information. He then moved to the City of Alameda, where he served as City Manager from 2011-2015.

The Brooklyn native, 59, graduated with honors in economics and political science from Yale University, and earned his law degree from New York University School of Law. He was a Legal Aid attorney in St. Louis before moving to Oakland in 1987, where he was president of Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, treasurer of the East Bay League of Conservation Voters, and pro bono attorney for neighborhood associations and nonprofits. In 2002, Russo served as League of California Cities president; he also was a Board member for the National League of Cities.

Russo is Irvine’s fifth City Manager.

Join us on Sunday, September 23 for this month’s “Let’s Talk History” Happy Hour.
We will meet at the Irvine Historical Museum from 3:00 -5:00 pm and learn how trains once played a pivotal role on the Irvine Ranch.

Light refreshments will be served.  A $5 donation is requested.

The Irvine Historical Society is located in the San Joaquin Ranch House, commissioned by James Irvine in 1868 and considered the oldest standing structure within the original boundaries of Irvine Ranch.

Standard hours of operation are Tuesday and Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 pm; closed holidays. Members are free; a $1.00 donation per non-member is appreciated.

One-hour walking tours of Old Town Irvine are available on the first Sunday of each month at 11:30 a.m. Free for members; $5 for non-members.

 

Play Ball! Join Me As We Officially Open Our New Great Park Baseball Stadium!

As Vice Chair of the Orange County Great Park, it is my pleasure to invite you to join me on Sunday, September 16, 2018, for free, family-friendly fun as we officially open our new 1200-seat Great Park Championship Baseball Stadium, and our new additional baseball and softball fields at the Orange County Great Park Sports Complex.

This event begins at 10:00 a.m., with an official opening ceremony at 1:00 p.m.

Enjoy exhibition games from local baseball and softball teams, and visit the new baseball stadium, softball stadium, and 10 surrounding ball fields.

Food trucks will be there for visitors to buy lunch, and city leaders will gather to throw out the first pitch in the Baseball Stadium.

At the Championship Stadium, four, two-inning baseball games will be played by the eight local high school teams. Portola and University will play the first game at 10:00 a.m. followed by Beckman vs. Irvine, Tustin vs. Northwood and Woodbridge vs. Foothill.

The members of these teams will join city officials on the field for the ribbon cutting ceremony at 1:00 p.m.

Parking is free!

The new Great Park Championship Baseball Stadium includes four batting cages, a meeting room and press box. On the field level, there are dressing rooms on both sides where the dugouts are, coaches offices, umpire rooms and training facilities. There is also an outfield berm area, which can hold 1,000 more fans sitting on the grass.

The Orange County Great Park is the largest public park project now underway. Several hundred acres of parkland are under development, and beginning summer 2018 and through year’s end, several more facilities and fields will be turned over to the City for community public use. These are the 1-mile long Great Park bike and pedestrian trails; seven baseball fields that include our new 1,000-seat baseball stadium; five softball fields that include a 500-seat stadium; six artificial turf soccer/lacrosse fields; four basketball courts; a Children’s Playground; and an 18-acre Flex Field in which up to four playing fields can be added for tournament use. In total, the above equals 130 acres.

Already open for one year within the 194-acre Sports Complex are a Soccer Stadium with seating for 5,000, six other soccer/lacrosse fields, 25 tennis courts, five sand volleyball courts, and a Children’s Play Area.

These all complement the long-opened features of the 1,300-acre Great Park, which include five soccer/lacrosse fields, two art galleries, the Great Park Balloon, and the Children’s Carousel.

In addition, the Anaheim Ducks Great Park Ice Complex – the largest in the state with four sheets of ice and one of the largest in the country at 270,000 square feet – will open by the end of 2018 at the Great Park. Ice time will include public skating, youth hockey games and tournaments, and figure skating.

Next on our Great Park agenda should be creating the real jewel of the Great Park: The Cultural Terrace, with botanical gardens and museums!

I have also joined with Irvine City Councilmember Cristina Shea in calling for the construction of a veteran’s cemetery within the Great Park.  This proposal is now going through an expedited evaluation process by our City staff.

For far too many years, the Great Park was a symbol of gross mismanagement and government gone very wrong, with allegations of corruption and massive waste, and with little to nothing to show for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of public dollars except a balloon, a carousel, and great expanses of dirt, dust, and debris.

HEADLINE HEREHowever, since I have joined the Irvine City Council — and been appointed Vice Chair of the Orange County Great Park by my colleagues — we have succeeded in making a tremendous, positive turn-around in the Great Park’s development.  Exciting progress has been made!

As the Orange County Register recently wrote, “If you haven’t visited the Orange County Great Park – where you see that big orange balloon from Interstate 5 – in the past few years, you may be surprised by the amount of construction going on and how quickly things are getting built there.”

We are now fulfilling the promise of a truly Great Park — Join us on Sunday, September 16 to celebrate!

Play Ball!

 

The Real Deal on Traffic Light Synchronization in Irvine!

I often get questions from Irvine residents about traffic light synchronization. To help answer these questions, I enlisted the help of my appointee to the Irvine Transportation Commission, Ken Montgomery.

Irvine Transportation Commissioner Ken Montgomergy

Ken knows more about these matters than just about anyone.  He is a retired civil engineer with more than 40 years of experience in managing public works and traffic and transportation issues. He served as Director of Public Works for three Southern California cities: Norwalk, Redondo Beach, and Laguna Niguel.

Ken retired from the City of Laguna Niguel in 2009 after 18 years as that City’s first Director of Public Works/City Engineer.

Ken has been closely following transportation and traffic issues in Irvine for decades and has served as a member of the Irvine Transportation Commission since it was re-established in May 2017, initially as its Chair.

Here is what Ken has to say about traffic light synchronization in Irvine:

Traffic Light Synchronization in Irvine

Ken Montgomergy

City of Irvine Transportation Commissioner

Overview

The City of Irvine owns and operates over 370 traffic signals.

All of the city’s traffic signals on the major corridors in Irvine are already synchronized.

There are another 40 Traffic signals at freeway on and off ramps that are owned and operated by Caltrans.  Those 40 signals are in the process of being upgraded so they can be coordinated with Irvine’s signals on those specific corridors.

What is Traffic Signal Coordination?

Traffic Signal Synchronization is a traffic engineering technique of matching the green light times for a series of intersections to enable the maximum number of vehicles to pass through, thereby reducing stops and delays experienced by motorists.

Synchronizing traffic signals ensures a better flow of traffic and minimizes gas consumption and pollutant emissions.

Driving on a corridor that is synchronized does not means that a driver will get all green lights. Rather, the system attempts to maximize the efficiency of the system favoring the heaviest traffic directions depending on the time of day.

For instance, Jamboree Road traffic is twice as heavy in the southbound direction in the morning compared to morning northbound traffic. The synchronization system sets the timing to favor the southbound direction in the morning. The opposite occurs in the evening peak period when north bound Jamboree traffic is much heavier than the southbound traffic.

Irvine’s Traffic System

The City operates 19 synchronized traffic signal systems that are currently not coordinated with the Caltrans signals. Within the next 12-18 months, the Caltrans signals will be coordinated with the City’s synchronization program, which will considerably help traffic flow on those corridors.

These 19 synchronized traffic signal systems crisscross each other, which means that two heavy traffic corridors are competing for the same green light time.  Also, heavy left turn demand at intersections limits the amount of green light time available for through traffic.  In addition, timing plans for these corridors can get out of date as traffic patterns change all the time. The city is constantly taking new traffic counts and making adjustments to the synchronization plans.

Traffic signal equipment also gets old and obsolete, so the city typically upgrades all the equipment and recalculates the timing plans on three or four corridors per year. These updates also involve adjacent cities so the synchronization program can operate across city lines.  For example, we currently have two synchronization projects underway with the City of Tustin.

The City of Irvine has a traffic signal control center at City Hall, called the Irvine Traffic Research and Control Center (ITRAC) that monitors those 19 synchronized corridors with video detection.  ITRAC is staffed by traffic engineers from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  When there is a construction project or a utility repair or a traffic accident that takes out a lane, staff modifies the signal timing to prevent a major back up in the direction where the constriction is taking place. Only Irvine and Anaheim have this type of traffic signal management center in Orange County.

There are three periods during the day when these 19 corridors are synchronized, the AM peak period, the mid-day peak period and the PM peak period. The hours of operation of those three periods varies from corridor to corridor. Corridors are typically not synchronized on weekend days except when there is a special event.  When a corridor is not is the synchronized mode, traffic signals operate independently within certain pre-programmed parameters. Traffic signals detect the presence of vehicles and bicycles all around the intersection and allocate the green light time as necessary.

Reporting a Problem

If you ever observe a traffic signal that you think is not functioning properly, call ITRAC and report it.

Their direct line is 949 724-7324.  Just tell them what you observed at a specific traffic signal and they will check it on the monitors and fix the problem if necessary. Traffic signals are complicated systems and require constant observation.

I know we would all love to have green lights all the time, but that is just not reality.  If it were, we would implement the “All Green Light Plan” — as would every city.

 

Woodbridge Village Center Summer Party Celebrates a Big Win for the Woodbridge Community!

A great time was had by all on Saturday, July 28, at the Woodbridge Village Center Summer Party, celebrating the beautifully revitalized Center.

The playgrounds were full of happy children, the shops and restaurants full of happy customers. There were electric bike tours of the North and South Lakes, games, music, dancing, face painting, prizes and giveaways.

At one time, it seemed that the Woodbridge Village Center might be demolished.

In 2014, Woodbridge residents were gravely concerned that the Village Center would be replaced by new development that forever change the character of their beautiful community.  In response, a group of residents calling themselves Friends of Woodbridge Village Center formed to fight for their neighborhood.

As I wrote at the time in support of Friends of  the Woodbridge Village Center, “When Woodbridge opened on Father’s Day in 1975, it was Irvine’s premier master planned community, showcasing Irvine’s commitment to creating villages of single family homes and townhouses, with parks, greenbelts, bicycle trails, interconnecting pathways, open space, and neighborhood shopping. After 40 years of success, the people of Woodbridge love their community, and they love their Woodbridge Village Center. That’s why people are so upset by the prospect that their Village Center will be destroyed and replaced with high density apartments and condos or office buildings.”

Happily, the residents’ concerns were heard.

In 2016, the Irvine Company announced plans to spend $30 million to renovate the Woodbridge Village Center.

The promised renovation is now completed — and it’s spectacular!

The renovations include additional gathering and play areas for kids, expanding the courtyard dining area, and opening up a picture-postcard view of the lake.

Councilmember Melissa Fox with Bob Bibee, owner of Pedego Electric Bikes Irvine, located in the Woodbridge Village Center.

New tenants were added, including Yogurtland, Sessions West Coast Deli and CHA for Tea, The Lost Bean cafe, Pizza Press, Rush Cycle, and Clean Juice.  Older local-favorite tenants Barnes and Noble, Champagne French Bakery, Irvine Pedego, and the AMC Classic Woodbridge 5 theater remain.

Congratulations and thank you to the Irvine Company for listening to Woodbridge’s residents and for re-investing so spectacularly in the Woodbridge Village Center!

Congratulations to the Friends of Woodbridge Village Center – and to all of us who worked to ensure that Woodbridge remains one of Irvine’s most beautiful communities.

As I wrote in my blog in February 2016, “It feels good when we work together and win!”

The Woodbridge Village Summer Party was a spectacular celebration of that win.

Let’s continue to work together to ensure that the beauty and character of our neighborhoods are preserved in all of Irvine!

Great Park Update: We’re Creating a Truly Great Park!

As anyone who has followed the history of the Orange County Great Park knows, its development has not always been smooth or something to be proud of.

In fact, for far too many years, the Great Park was a symbol of gross mismanagement and government gone very wrong, with allegations of corruption and massive waste, and with little to nothing to show for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of public dollars except a balloon, a carousel, and great expanses of dirt, dust, and debris.

However, since I have joined the Irvine City Council — and been appointed Vice Chair of the Orange County Great Park by my colleagues — we have succeeded in making a tremendous, positive turn-around in the Great Park’s development.  Real, substantial, and exciting progress has been made.

As the Orange County Register recently wrote, ” If you haven’t visited the Orange County Great Park – where you see that big orange balloon from Interstate 5 – in the past few years, you may be surprised by the amount of construction going on and how quickly things are getting built there.”

We are now fulfilling the promise of a truly Great Park that all of us can feel proud of and enjoy!

Here are some of things we’ve already accomplished:

  • Groundbreaking for new Anaheim Ducks’ 270,000 square-foot community ice skating and practice facility in the Great Park (largest public ice skating facility in the West).
  • Opened new 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.
  • Great Park Sports Complex presented with the Orange County Business Council’s Turning Red Tape into Red Carpet Award for Public-Private Partnership.
  • Great Park Championship Stadium became home of Orange County Soccer Club, Orange County’s only professional soccer team and official affiliate partner of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) of Major League Soccer (MLS). Orange County SC is a part of the United Soccer League (USL), the fastest growing Division II professional soccer league in the world comprised of 34 teams across the United States.
  • Begun construction of a 2.5 mile nature corridor at the eastern end of the park. It is intended to be a pathway for bobcats, coyotes, California gnatcatchers and other wildlife species to move safely between the Santa Ana Mountains and the coast. The corridor, accessible only to wildlife, is expected to open mid-2019.
  • 101 acres of Great Park Sports complex completed, including six new soccer/lacrosse fields; a natural turf flex field that can accommodate four additional soccer fields, four basketball courts available for drop-in use, and more.

At our last Irvine City Council meeting, the Great Park’s Interim Director, Pete Carmichael, presented us with the latest Great Park Progress Report, which  I want to share with you.

Construction Updates:

  • Sports Park Phases 3 and 4: expected turnover September, 2018.
  • Bee and Bosque Trail Areas: awaiting turnover by partner FivePoint.
  • Ice Complex: opening expected by end of 2018.
  • Western Sector Street Improvements: construction in progress; phase 1 completion expected Fall 2018.

Forward Planning Updates:

  • Cultural Terrace: FivePoint contracting for Phase 2 consultants.
  • Cultural Terrace: Preliminary tenant outreach.
  • Cultural Terrace: parking plan developed to include parking stalls, entrance plaza and landscaping.
  • Water Park: CEQA studies in progress.
  • Water Park: land appraisal underway.
  • Water Park: new lease terms coming to City Council next month (August).

Further Updates and News:

  • Championship Soccer Stadium has held 17 tournaments; played 112 games; hosted 75 teams; and has had attendance of 95,625.
  • Soccer Fields have held 18 tournaments; 11,750 practices; 4,818 games; hosted 6,330 teams, and has had attendance of 411,330.
  • Upcoming Soccer Events: GSAC Conference Championships; NAIA National Championships.
  • Tennis Center has held 884 tournaments; 722 league matches, and given 1,745 lessons.
  • Movies on the Lawn Series: more than 9,000 visitors.
  • OC Steam Fest: 5,000 visitors.
  • UCI Anti-Cancer Walk: 3,500 visitors.

Up Next:

  • Opening of Baseball and Softball facilities.

Of course, there is still more to do.  As I have said, while I am proud of all that we’ve recently accomplished at the Great Park, the time has come to focus on creating what should be the real jewel of the Great Park: The Cultural Terrace.  I have long been a strong advocate for botanical gardens and museums in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace.

You can positively impact the next phase of development by the Great Park Cultural Terrace by becoming involved in the grass-roots organizations that are working toward a Great Park botanical garden and a natural history museum:

Great Park Garden Coalition
Website: http://redryder200.com/GreatGardensCoalition/
Facebook: Click here.

California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance (CCRPA)
Website: http://www.ccrpa.com/
Facebook: Click here.

You can also help by signing this petition to urge the creation of a natural history museum in the Great Park.

In addition, I remain strongly committed to the creation of veterans cemetery in Irvine.  Councilmember Christina Shea and I have proposed to build a veterans cemetery in the Great Park on land now designated for a golf course

This proposal would be both cost-saving and time-saving, and locates the veterans cemetery squarely within the Great Park and the former Marine Air Base, yet not next to neighborhoods and schools.

The proposal does not involve a land exchange, and the location of the cemetery would not open other areas to potential commercial development, add additional homes, or cause any increase in traffic.

Click HERE to read the proposal.

As you can see, we’ve accomplished a lot.  I am very proud of our residents, our city staff, and our community partners for all we’ve done so far, and I look forward to continuing to fulfill the promise of a truly Great Great Park!

Be sure to check out the Great Park Calendar of Events so you can keep up-to-date on what’s coming up next!