Happy Earth Day 2019!

Today, Monday, April 22, is Earth Day.

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 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 San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Geoff Fox.

Unfortunately, when Steven Choi was Irvine’s mayor, our city took several steps backwards. The term “climate change” was banned from all city documents and not enough Councilmembers made appointments to the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee to enable a quorum.

Mayor Steven Choi even refused to participate in the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by Irvine’s own Wyland Foundation.

When I joined the Irvine City Council, I successfully pushed for revitalization of the Committee, which has now resumed its work of serving as the official environmental advisory committee, increasing public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, and helping the city serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs.

I am delighted that the Committee now has the full support of the entire City Council, and both Mayor Don Wagner and Mayor Christina Shea have joined with other mayors across the country in asking residents to make a commitment to conserve water and protect this vital resource by taking part in annual Wyland Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, through the month of April.

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 Sinks” — Irvine’s own Grand Canyon.

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.”

Bommer Canyon. Photo by Sanjay B. Dalal.

A crucial environmental issue facing Irvine in the near future is whether to switch from purchasing energy from SoCal Edison to utilizing a Community Choice Energy provider.

Community Choice Energy (CCE) is a program that brings local control and freedom of choice and competition into the electricity marketplace. Community Choice allows cities and counties to purchase power on behalf of their residents and businesses to provide cleaner power options at a competitive price.

It has been operating in California since 2002 following passage of Assembly Bill 117.

On September 25, 2018, the Irvine City Council approved conducting a feasibility study to determine the pros and cons of implementing a CCE program, including potential economic benefits for the community.

Community Choice programs enable local government control over energy procurement to purchase power, set competitive rates, and collect revenue. The local utility still maintains the electricity grid, deliver energy, and bill customers.

Community Choice Energy programs offer automatic enrollment to businesses and residences in its jurisdiction, with the ability for the customer to opt out and continue to purchase electricity from the utility. Customers have the option of choosing increased percentages of renewable energy.

Councilmember Melissa Fox with the artist Wyland at his studio in Irvine.

CCE programs in California generally procure and resell a power mix between 50 percent and 100 percent renewable energy to their customers.

Community Choice Energy can be one of the most powerful ways to accelerate the transition from fossil to cleaner renewable energy.

Community Choice introduces competition and consumer choice into the electricity sector with a focus on local, renewable energy to stimulate rapid innovations in clean energy systems.

By the mid 2020s, as much as 85% of Californians will be served by a Community Choice Energy program.

When our feasibility study is completed, I hope Community Choice Energy will soon be available in Irvine and throughout Orange County.

At our best, the City of Irvine has striven to be simultaneously people-friendly, business-friendly, and earth-friendly.

We must continue to insist that each phase of our City’s development be informed by science, accompanied by careful planning, and prioritize the preservation and enhancement of our environment.

Orange County Veterans Deserve a Final Resting Place. The ARDA is the Only Site that has a Real Chance of Receiving the Necessary Funding. Let’s Get it Done!

I have been fighting for a veterans cemetery on the hallowed grounds of the former El Toro Marine Air Station for many years, beginning in 2013.

As I wrote to the Irvine City Council in early 2014:

“Orange County has a long and proud military tradition. Currently, more than two million veterans live in California – more than in any other state.  This military tradition continues into the present, as nearly 7,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars live in Orange County. Yet Orange County veterans do not have their own official military cemetery and those in Orange County who want to visit a veteran’s grave in a national cemetery must travel to Riverside, San Diego or Los Angeles counties.”

“It is time that Orange County offered its veterans – who have sacrificed so much for us – a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.  I believe that a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, would be an altogether fitting and proper location for this Orange County Veterans Cemetery, as well as a lasting memorial to the Great Park’s military heritage.”

“As an Irvine resident and a member of the Irvine Community Services Commission – and as the daughter of an Orange County Korean War combat veteran – I urge you to create an Orange County Veterans Cemetery and, also, to locate this cemetery in a portion of the Great Park that was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.”

On March 11, 2014, I cheered when the City Council unanimously voted to designate the Amended and Restated Development Agreement [ARDA] site in the Orange County Great Park in Irvine as the future site of a verterans cemetery.

But when I became an Irvine City Councilmember in 2016, I learned that there had been no progress on a veterans cemetery in the intervening two years because, I was informed, of the high cost of the decontamination and demolition necessary on the originally designated ARDA site.

Because the ARDA site did not appear to be financially viable, I, along with the Orange County Veteran’s Memorial Park Foundation and many national and local veterans organizations, supported the Strawberry Fields site as a less expensive, more practical, and faster alternative.

When the voters rejected the Strawberry Fields site as causing too much traffic and being too close to the freeway, I then proposed, along with Irvine City Councilmember Christina Shea, using a portion of the Orange County Great Park (and the former MCAS El Toro) that is currently planned for a golf course to be used instead for a veterans cemetery.

Subsequently, a site was proposed in Anaheim Hills near the 91 Freeway.  While I am not opposed to that site, the fact is that it has not received support from the Assembly, has not received any financial backing from either the county, state, or federal government, and is not located on the historically appropriate grounds of the former MCAS El Toro. It does not appear to be viable.

Now several of our state legislators have recently indicated a strong preference for the ARDA site originally designated by the Irvine City Council.

Assembly Bill 368, authored by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (AD 65) and currently before the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, states that the California Department of Veterans Affairs “shall acquire, study, design, develop, construct, and equip a state-owned and state-operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery, which shall be located at the site of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, on 125 acres known as the Amended and Restated Development Agreement [ARDA] Site in the Orange County Great Park in the City of Irvine.”

Significantly, several members of the legislature, from both sides of the aisle — Democrats Senator Thomas J. Umberg (SD 34) and Assemblymembers Sharon Quirk-Silva (AD 65) and Tom Daily (AD 69) and Republican Assemblymembers Tyler Diep (AD 72), William Brough (AD 73) and Philip Chen (AD 55) — have pledged to allocate the funds necessary for the decontamination of the site and the construction of a veterans cemetery in that location and urged the Irvine City City to re-designate it as the official site.

Their letter states, “Today, we are ready to work with State and Federal officials to secure funding for the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery.  We ask that you stand by your previous commitment to provide a resting place for California veterans at the ARDA site.”

In addition, Nick Berardino, President of VALOR (Veterans Alliance of Orange County) and a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, who has been advocating for a veterans cemetery for years, has responded to the legislators’ letter by saying “We are excited that the legislature is poised to support the veterans cemetery and impressed that the Orange County delegation is able to secure the funding in this years budget.”

This week, on April 9, 2019, Assembly Bill 368 was unanimously approved (10-0) for passage by the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee and referred to the Appropriations Committee.

Accordingly, it is now clear that the only site that has a real chance of receiving the necessary funding for an Orange County veterans cemetery is the ARDA site.

For this reason, I am withdrawing my support for the golf course site option and joining with these state legislators in calling for the Irvine City Council to again designate the ARDA as the site for a veterans cemetery and calling on the state and federal government to provide the funding needed to build a veterans cemetery on the ARDA site in the Great Park on the hallowed grounds of the former El Toro Marine Station.

Further, this month, United States Representative Gilbert Cisneros (CA 39), a retired naval officer and a member of the Congressional Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies has urged the federal government to step up and provide financial help for our long-overdue veterans cemetery in Orange County.

He wrote to the Subcommittee: “I urge you to provide increased funding for the Veterans State Cemetery Grant program in order to support a veterans cemetery in Orange County. With 3.19 million residents, Orange County has a disproportionately high population of veterans. However, it does not have a single veterans cemetery. Local veterans have been campaigning for a veterans cemetery for years, but the federal government has failed to rise to the occasion. While local entities are pursuing a state veterans cemetery, federal funding should be made available in order to get this project across the finish line. I urge you to increase the VA’s State Cemetery Grant program funding to ensure this long overdue project does not suffer any further delays.”

Along with the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, which has led the fight years-long fight for an Orange County veterans cemetery, I say “Hurrah!” to Rep. Cisneros’ letter.

Based on all these factors, as a member of the Irvine City Council and the daughter of a combat veteran, I hereby fully commit to the goal of building a Southern California Veterans Cemetery on the grounds of the former MCAS El Toro at the ARDA site.

I have never approached this issue from a partisan perspective, or with concern for anything but properly honoring O.C. veterans like my father. My sole concern now — as it has been from the beginning of this effort — is doing whatever I can to ensure that an O.C. Veterans Cemetery becomes a reality.

I look forward to working in a positive, bipartisan way with our state and federal representatives, other Irvine City Councilmembers, the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, veterans organizations, community groups, and private donors, doing whatever it takes and pulling together in the same direction, to finally establish the Orange County veterans cemetery that we have fought for and needed for so long.

Our veterans deserve a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.

Let’s get it done.

Irvine Police Department and O.C. Dept. of Education Host Meeting on Teen Vaping at Irvine High School

The Irvine Police Department is participating in a parents meeting on April 9 at 6:00 PM at the Irvine High School Theater on vaping and other issues regarding substance abuse in conjunction with the Orange County Department of Education.

According to the O.C. Department of Education, “There is a growing concern about youth vaping, especially on school campuses. Newer, pod-based e-cigarettes are easy to conceal and contain high levels of nicotine, which can disrupt adolescent brain development.”

There will be a presentation by Mr. Stephan Lambert, the Orange County Department of Education’s Prevention Coordinator, on vaping and other issues regarding substance abuse. Jim Wright, the IHS School Resource Officer, will also be present to provide his perspective.

All are welcome.

In March 2014, the Irvine City Council, in one of its worst decisions, rejected a resolution to prohibit electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or vaping) in city parks and recreational facilities.

Then-Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway celebrated the Council’s decision in favor of e-cigarettes with a misguided appeal to the rhetoric of personal liberty, saying he had confidence in “individuals and their ability to make their own [health] choices.”

At the time, I strongly criticized the City Council’s decision.

First, I pointed out the scientific evidence of the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes, especially on developing brains.

Second, I made it clear that, for me, “what’s at issue is our freedom to enjoy Irvine’s parks and recreational facilities without breathing air polluted with second-hand e-cigarette chemicals. I have no problem with adults smoking e-cigarettes in their own homes or on their own property or on the property of people who say it’s okay with them. But I don’t want members of my family or yours — especially children — to be forced to inhale second-hand e-cigarette chemicals when they come to enjoy Irvine’s beautiful public parks and recreational facilities. That’s where we should draw the line.”

I am glad to see that we’ve made progress since that time.

You can find more information about the meeting and how to rsvp here.

City of Irvine Seeks New Member for Irvine Residents with Disabilities Advisory Board

The City of Irvine is accepting applications for one vacant position on the Irvine Residents with Disabilities Advisory Board.

The Irvine Residents with Disabilities Advisory Board was established in 1990 by the Irvine City Council to ensure residents with disabilities have equal access in community life.

The Board’s mission is identifying and recommending programs and services meeting the physical and social needs of residents who have disabilities, regardless of age.

The Board provides advocacy and support for programs related to community needs and propose recommendations to a variety of City departments.

Membership is not to exceed 14 voluntary members, with 51 percent of the board required to be a person with a disability or directly related to a person with a disability.

The Board is a public advisory body of the City of Irvine that reports to the Community Services Commission. Members provide input on the needs of Irvine residents with disabilities. The board is made up of volunteer members who live or work in Irvine.

Board members must participate in monthly meetings, which are held on the first Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Irvine Civic Center.

Applications are available at the Irvine Civic Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza. Applicants should visit the second floor Community Services Department front counter to obtain an application.

Interested parties can also visit cityofirvine.org/irdab to download an application.

Completed applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. Monday, April 22, 2019. Turn in applications by mail, in person, or via email to City of Irvine City Clerk, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606 or clerk@cityofirvine.org.

For more information, contact Community Services Supervisor Susie Blanco at 949-724-6633 or sblanco@cityofirvine.org.

 

Run or Walk a 5K and Support Animals in Need!

The Irvine Animal Care Center is inviting all runners, walkers, and animal-lovers to take part in its 2019 Virtual 5K throughout the month of April to support animals in need.

Register for the Irvine Animal Care Center Virtual 5K and receive your exclusive medal along with race completion certificate!

How does a Virtual 5K work?

The Irvine Animal Care Center Virtual 5K allows you to customize your fundraising experience and race at your own pace, in your own time. There is no set location for the Virtual 5K, which ensures that participants can participate from wherever they’re located.

Once you’re registered, your race medal and completion certificate will be mailed directly to you. All that’s left to do is complete your 5K (3.1 miles) between April 1 and April 30. It’s that easy!

You can walk or run on any terrain you prefer — you can even include your four-legged family members for an additional fee, and they’ll receive their very own medal for completing the race too.

Complete a 5K in April, and help provide care and shelter for adoptable animals at the center.

Register online here.

For more information or questions, call 949-724-7740.

There is still time to get the perfect holiday present for your loved one (person or pet)!

The mission of the Irvine Animal Care Center is to provide a safe, clean, caring and enriching environment that meets the high standards of our community and provides the community a resource of trained and knowledgeable staff and volunteers; place all adoptable animals into permanent, loving, responsible pet homes and reunites owner-identified animals with their owners; and promote human responsibility for companion animals.

Irvine Happiest City in California! Second Happiest City in the Nation!

Congratulations to us!

Irvine has recently been named the 2019 Happiest City in California and the second Happiest City in the USA by the personal finance website WalletHub!

According to their report, WalletHub “drew upon the various findings of positive-psychology research in order to determine which among more than 180 of the largest U.S. cities is home to the happiest people in America. We examined each city based on 31 key indicators of happiness, ranging from depression rate to income-growth rate to average leisure time spent per day.”

The factors examined included depression rates, sleep rates, income growth, sports participation, and separation and divorce rates.

Married couples in Irvine will be happy to know that Irvine has the second lowest separation and divorce rate in the nation!

Read the WalletHub report online here.

Does Irvine have problems?

Of course, we do!

But just for today, let’s remind ourselves that, for the most part, we really love living here!

 

Help Make Irvine a More Environmentally Conscious and Responsible City: Apply to Join the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee!

As Chair of the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, I am happy to announce that the City of Irvine is accepting applications to fill two member-at-large vacancies on the Committee.

Irvine’s Green Ribbon Committee is an official advisory committee and meets four times a year to discuss potential policies and make recommendations to the City Council.

The 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.

Selection will be based on:

· Professional or civic expertise in an environmental field, including, but not limited to, planning, environmental sciences, health, law, or related field.

· Educational experience in an environmental field, including, but not limited to, planning, ecology, geology, hydrology, or related field.

· Demonstrate concern for, and the desire to improve, the status of natural resources, and environment of the City of Irvine.

The Committee meets quarterly on the third Tuesday of the appropriate month, or as needed, at 4:30 p.m. at Irvine City Hall.

Applications are available at Irvine Civic Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Community Services Department, or online here.

Completed applications must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20, to:

City Clerk
City of Irvine
1 Civic Center Plaza
Irvine, CA, 92623

Please direct any questions to Tricia Sosa at 949-724-7320 or tsosa@cityofirvine.org.

Help us as we help make Irvine a more environmentally conscious and responsible city.