Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris: My Commitment to Irvine’s High Quality Parks and Recreation

Guest Post by Irvine Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris

[Note: Lauren Johnson-Norris has served Irvine for nearly two years as my appointee to the Community Services Commission. She recently wrote a blog post describing her work on the Commission, particularly her efforts to renovate the beautiful and rustic Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp and to ensure high quality recreational park space in the urban-feeling Irvine Business Complex. I am proud of the work that she has done what she has accomplished as my appointee to the Community Services Commission and I want to share her post with you. — Melissa]

As an Irvine Community Services Commissioner for the past year and 10 months, my number one priority has been making sure that our children and families experience the highest quality recreation. With over 90 unique parks, Irvine has won awards for being one of the best places to live and raise a family. As a Commissioner, I am proud of the work I have done making sure that our parks live up to Irvine’s high standards.

That is why I am so proud to have voted to begin improvements to Bommer Canyon’s Cattle Camp.

Bommer Canyon has been surveyed to be Irvine’s most loved and used community park space for excellent reasons. Bommer Canyon is a quintessential example of Irvine’s successful weaving of open space with world-class recreation. What was once an active cattle camp only 30 years ago is now a cherished, rustic hiking area.

However, the structures have been out of code and out of ADA compliance for many years. Termites and rodents have made these structures home and there is no real restroom in this community park. I am excited to have been able to vote to approve the beginning of a rehabilitation project that will make this space safer, and ADA compliant, without sacrificing its rustic feel and aesthetic.  I am also happy to share that I fought to make sure that the final design plans and materials will come back for approval in front of the Community Services Commission before they go to the City Council.

All of the Commissioners want to make sure that we preserve the unique character of the cattle camp for residents to enjoy a true piece of Irvine’s history.

I love how Irvine’s parks are as diverse as the members of our community. During my term as a Commissioner, I have fought for park space in the Irvine Business Complex and approved several parks that met Irvine residents’ high standards in this uniquely urban-feeling space.

Unfortunately, not all park proposals from developers that come before the Commission are up to Irvine’s high standards. Some have to be voted down because their design is faulty and fails to meet the standards that Irvine requires for a park.

This year, all five Commissioners voted not to approve a proposed park in the Irvine Business Complex that would have been on the roof of a building, with a swimming pool and tot lot, that the public would have had to access by taking the building’s elevators.

In reality, this proposal was not a feasible park plan and putting park space on the roof is not consistent with the character of any Irvine neighborhood.  Rejecting this faulty plan was a unanimous decision of the Community Services Commission and one we made with the best interest of Irvine residents in mind.

It has been a privilege to work to make sure Irvine’s parks and recreation are of the highest quality and live up to our residents’ standards. Careful planning and sound decision-making is critical to preserve and protect Irvine’s excellent quality of life and I am proud of my work to contribute in this way.

 

 

Irvine’s Public Libraries: I Need Your Input!

Irvine has three libraries that are managed through in agreement with Orange County Public Libraries.  These are the Katie Wheeler Library, the Heritage Park Library, and the University Park Library. Irvine taxpayers pay for the maintenance and operation of these libraries.

As the daughter of a librarian, a member of the Irvine City Council, and as Irvine’s representative on the Library Advisory Board (LAB) of Orange County Library System, I have been very concerned about the conditions and quality of the public libraries in Irvine.

This past summer, I assigned my interns to research our public libraries and make a report on the status of libraries.  Among the many problems noted in the report were overcrowding, inadequate work space, and lack of amenities.

Something must be done.

Irvine residents need and deserve a public library system that is modern, well-maintained and inviting, with a multitude of amenities and programs for students, seniors, and the entire community.

Going forward, I would like your input.

Do you use the public libraries in Irvine?

What problems do you see?

What suggestions do you have?

Please let me know at mefox@cityofirvine.org.

Please forward this post to others who are interested in improving our public libraries in Irvine.

Thanks!

UPDATE:

I made this blog post partly to test whether Irvine residents really want improved libraries, with awareness that every improvement has a cost and that financial realities must always be taken into account. What I’ve found is that there is tremendous interest in improving our libraries, and that — like me — residents believe that our relationship with the County regarding our libraries is not positive for Irvine. I have also been impressed with the ideas that residents have put forward regarding the kinds of libraries and library services we need in the digital age. Please keep your comments coming — preferably to my City Council email address at mefox@cityofirvine.org (even if you’ve also commented online). Thanks!

Why are Developers So Afraid of Lauren Johnson-Norris?

The well-funded, dark-money attacks on Lauren Johnson-Norris, candidate for Irvine City Council, are despicable.

Anonymous cowards have sent out unsigned letters to voters with vile lies about Lauren, who is a brilliant attorney, the mother of twin five-year-old girls, and a tireless advocate for children, families, and veterans.

In addition, more than $100,000 in dark-money has flowed into the coffers of a mysterious and unaccountable political action committee to spread even more lies about Lauren.

No doubt more dark-money attacks will follow.

The initial goal of these cowardly attacks was to scare Lauren into dropping out of the race.

That effort failed, and now the goal is to deceive Irvine voters.

These dark-money attacks, and the cowards behind them, will not succeed.

Irvine voters know the dedication to Irvine’s children and families that Lauren Johnson-Norris has demonstrated as a devoted and effective Community Services Commissioner.

Irvine police know the dedication to at-risk children and families that Lauren has shown – and have emphatically endorsed her campaign for Irvine City Council.

Ask yourself, what are the anonymous and well-financed cowards behind these attacks on Lauren afraid of?

They are afraid Lauren’s strength, intelligence, and courage.

They are afraid of Lauren’s vow to take forceful action to deal with Irvine’s over-development and traffic congestion.

They are afraid of Lauren’s commitment to ensure that Irvine’s children have access to quality, affordable child care.

They are afraid of Lauren’s independence and integrity.

They are afraid because Lauren is endorsed by both Irvine police officers and OCFA firefighters.

Most of all, they are afraid of you — Irvine’s voters — because they know you are sick and tired of our community being under the control of powerful developers hiding behind mysterious political action committees driven by unlimited piles of dark-money.

I condemn and denounce these false and cowardly attacks on Lauren Johnson-Norris, and I call upon other elected officials, candidates, and community leaders to join me in condemning these attacks.

I call upon everyone who loves Irvine to join me in rejecting this dark-money poison from our community and voting for Lauren Johnson-Norris for Irvine City Council.

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.

 

As We Celebrate Labor Day, Let’s Commit to Increasing Irvine’s Child Care Choices

As we celebrate Labor Day, I want to take the opportunity to recommit to improving the working conditions of Irvine residents by increasing the availability of child care.

Too often, parents in Irvine are forced to choose between going to work and caring for their children.

Nearly 2,500 Irvine families do not have adequate child care, with the most acute shortage for children under 2 years-old and children 6 to 12 years-old.

I have been working with City staff, my Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris, developers, childcare providers, and the business community to increase child care through an overall city child care development plan.

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris has eloquently addressed this issue:

Parents are being advised to apply for child care and get on waiting lists while they are expecting a child and still report waiting several months to a year to secure a spot for their child. Infant care has been identified as the most challenging child care to secure, especially considering the important low provider-to-child ratio mandated by state law.

Some Irvine parents report putting their families on lists and simply never hearing of an opening.

The consequence of the Irvine childcare gap is that families are forced to make unanticipated career and financial decisions. Parents report having to make the sometimes difficult decision to have one parent stay home, even where the families was previously a dual-income family.

Statistically, it is increasingly difficult to return to the workforce the longer a worker is away.

In addition, the result is not only lost income while the child is infancy, but potentially for years to come. For a single parent, the situation is even worse — and may be untenable if family care or care outside the city is unavailable.

A critical part of any thriving community is safe, professional, reliable, and affordable preschool and child care. Preschool has been shown to positively affect children’s social skills and prepare them for the rigors of K-12. Children who miss the opportunity for preschool because of inadequate child care in a community start kindergarten at a disadvantage.

Ultimately, the negative effects of unavailable or inadequate preschool or childcare extend beyond individual children and families to the community as a whole.

It is time to address the shortage of child care for families in Irvine. Increased child care through designated private sites as part of an overall city development plan, access to childcare in houses of worship, and the option of city early childhood education must be part of this plan.

Families in Irvine are looking to the City Council for solutions.

What kind of waiting periods are you facing right now for child care and preschool in Irvine?

What kinds of improvements do you want to see in the availability of child care and preschool in Irvine?

Send your information to Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox at mefox@cityofirvine.org or to Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris at laurenjohnson78@gmail.com.

Visit the Irvine Fine Arts Center Presents to See “All Media 2018” Showcase for Southern California Artists!

The Irvine Fine Arts Center announces the opening of its latest exhibition, All Media 2018, an annual juried show featuring the work of Southern California artists.

An opening reception is 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, with award presentations beginning at 4:45 p.m.

The exhibition runs through Saturday, Oct. 27.

Juried by brilliant OC Weekly arts writer — and my long-time friend — Dave Barton, the exhibition features painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, sculpture, installation, digital media, and more.

Gallery hours are 10:00 a.m.– 9:00 p.m. Monday–Thursday, 10 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday.

Admission and parking are free.

All Media 2018 exhibition artists include: Marte Amato, Carlo Andaya, Alyssa Arney, Peter Bobbs, Bridget Bourgon, Kevin Campbell, Rachelle Chuang, Katherine Cooksey, Patrick Crabb, Nicholas Decker, Mika Denny, Martin Etem, Lauren Evans, Silvia Faris, Amanda Fisher, Consuelo G. Flores, Liz Flynn, Fernando Forero, Dwora Fried, Alice Gamez, Daniela Garcia, Paul Gardner, Lisa Griffiths, Keumsook Hahn, Emily Halpern, Sara Hassan Khani, Jacoby Hinton, Phung Huynh, Greta Jursch, George Katzenberger, Beverly A. Kelly, Ellen Kirwan, Broni Likomanov, Gillian Loop, Paul Lucido, Gina M., Kai Mao, Shahin Massoudi, Durandy McConnell, Andrea Moni, Kevin Moran, Kevin Morris, Marie Nagy, Nicholas Nicola, Tommy Orosco, Peter Politanoff, Anne Marie Price, Christian Ramirez, Jenny Rask, Robin Repp, Samuelle Richardson, Kerri Sabine-Wolf, Robyn Sanford, Carl Shubs, Peggy Sivert, Amber Smith, Savva Teteriatnikov, Linda Wald, Elizabeth Wang, Wren Warner, and Sean Yang.

The Irvine Fine Arts Center is located inside Heritage Community Park at 14321 Yale Ave.

For more information, visit irvinefinearts.org or call 949-724-6880.

See you there!