Join Me at the ASUCI Housing Security Town Hall on April 4 at UCI’s Crystal Cove Auditorium!

Please join me and leaders from the Associated Students of the University of California, Irvine (ASUCI) on Thursday, April 4, 2019, at 5:30 PM for the presentation of a groundbreaking report on student housing issues at UC Irvine.

Despite opposition from many community members and UCI student leaders, the Irvine City Council recently voted 4–1 to tighten restrictions on “boarding houses” and to ramp up code enforcement of housemate arrangements that are not the “functional equivalent of a family.”

As the UCI student newspaper New University has reported, “Housing insecurity has been an increasing burden on UCI’s student population due to rising tuition prices and the growing Irvine housing market. Irvine Company, which owns several apartment complexes near campus as well as throughout the affluent city of Irvine, raises rent prices for students alongside prices for renters throughout the city. Housing insecurity has become such a problem that students are sometimes living in their cars because they are unable to find an affordable apartment.”

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I voted against this proposed ordinance.  I believe that preserving neighborhood character is important, as is preventing excessive noise and improper home modifications. But these goals can best be achieved by enforcing regulations we already have on the books, not by prohibiting living arrangements that are financially necessary to students and young people.

I also have serious concerns about the constitutionality of the proposed ordinance, its intrusion into residents’ private lives, as well as its conflict with state law regarding housing.

Indeed, the California Department of Housing and Community Development contacted the City of Irvine immediately after the vote, expressing their concern that the ordinance violated state law.

As a result, the ordinance is being re-worked by City staff and will not move forward in its current form.

But those of us concerned about student housing insecurity and homelessness can’t let down our guard.

Brought to you by ASUCI Office of the President’s Housing Security Commission, the ASUCI Housing Security Town Hall will feature a groundbreaking report on student homelessness and housing insecurity presented by Izzak Mireles, a UCI Masters of Urban and Regional Planning graduate student.

In addition, I will be making some remarks and engaging in a question and answer session.

I hope you will join us alongside experts and leaders from across the Irvine community.

What: ASCUI Housing Security Town Hall 

When: Thursday, April 4, 2019, 5:30 – 7:00 PM

Where: UCI Crystal Cove Auditorium

Free admission. All are welcome!

You can find the Facebook Event Page here.

See you there!

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, outreach@cityofirvine.org, 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.

 

Irvine Community Land Trust Seeks Two New Volunteer Board Members to Help Us Create Affordable Housing!

As Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust (ICLT), I am pleased to announce that the Land Trust is seeking two new volunteer board members who are passionate about helping us create affordable housing!

In order to expand and diversify the skillset of the Board, the ICLT is specifically looking for experts in either accounting and finance, fundraising, information technology or public relations and marketing. These traits are critical to the organization’s future plans as it executes on its mission to bring 5,000 affordable homes to the City of Irvine.

A non-profit organization, the ICLT efficiently addresses a dire need in the city of Irvine with significantly less impact on taxpayers. Since 2006, the ICLT has created more than 325 permanently affordable homes, with an additional 80 apartments and 68 townhomes in the pipeline.

In addition to the Accounting, Fundraising, PR/marketing and/or IT backgrounds, the ideal candidate should:

  • Live and/or work in the City of Irvine.
  • Be available to meet once a month with the full board. Usually those meetings are the third Monday of each month from 4 to 6 p.m.
  • Be available to contribute additional time for subcommittee meetings several times a year.

Candidates will be interviewed by a subcommittee; finalists may be interviewed during an upcoming board meeting. Successful candidates elected to the board will serve a two-year term.

To request a New Board Member Application and a full description of the duties and responsibilities of the ICLT Board Members, email info@irvineclt.org.

Deadline to submit applications is April 15.

About the Irvine Community Land Trust

The Irvine Community Land Trust was created by the City of Irvine to provide secure, high-quality affordable housing through the operation of a non-profit community land trust, securing and retaining title to land on which permanently affordable rental, ownership and special needs housing will be constructed and maintained for the benefit of income-eligible families.

In 2017, the Land Trust became an independent agency, allowing greater operational efficiency while maintaining public involvement through its partnership with the City.

The vision of the ICLT is that by the year 2025, the ICLT will have created approximately 5,000 units of permanently affordable housing in the City of Irvine, contributing more than 50 percent of the City’s 2025 goal of 9,700 affordable units. In addition, the ICLT will conduct a monitoring program and provide stewardship for these units, insuring high-quality construction, design, sustainability, maintenance and permanent affordability. ICLT will achieve self-sufficiency by ensuring that fees and other earned income are sufficient to support the organization’s ongoing operating costs.

Here is a video that shows why we’re so proud of the work of the Irvine Community Land Trust:

I hope you’ll join us!

The City of Irvine’s Budget Will Not Include Cuts to Irvine Schools

Recently, City of Irvine staff proposed that, due to a projected budget shortfall, the City should consider cutting its support for Irvine’s public schools and reduce its spending on public safety.

I strongly opposed these cuts.

While I am concerned about the City’s fiscal health and our budget — a topic I will address soon in a future blog post — I do not believe that it is in the best interests of Irvine’s residents to curtail our support for education and public safety.

Due to my opposition and that of other City Council Members, as well as conversations between myself and Irvine Unified School District Board Members, and IUSD and City staff, reductions to school funding will no longer be proposed for the upcoming City budget.

Here is the official announcement:

“A special message about the City of Irvine’s $80 million in cash grants and program support for Irvine schools since 2008.

The City of Irvine has proudly provided cash grants to benefit Irvine schools and students for 13 years. The City uses vehicles such as the Educational Partnership Fund (EPF) program, established in 2006, and the Challenge Match Grant Program, created in 2008, to facilitate support.

From 2006 through June 2019, the City has provided $32 million in direct cash grants benefiting Irvine schools. The City is continuing to commit another $4 million annually for the next two fiscal years, for a total cash contribution of $40 million to benefit Irvine schools.

Beyond cash support, the City provides over $10 million annually in direct and indirect services to Irvine schools and students. The City of Irvine has provided over $80 million in direct and indirect support benefiting Irvine schools since 2008.

Indirect programs include school resource officers at middle and high schools; D.A.R.E. instruction so that elementary school students refrain from drug use and bullying and practice responsible internet use; crossing guards; middle school and high school youth action teams; and joint field and pool use. The two Partnership for Educational Excellence Programs grew from $1.5 million per year to $4 million per year in direct cash grants. The City Council established this funding because schools are a priority; voters affirmed it, and the Irvine City Council continued this unique funding tradition after the voter measures expired in 2016.

The City remains committed to supporting Irvine schools. The City is also committed to its long-term financial planning, transitioning to a two-year budget and a five-year financial plan. The City’s financial condition shows a structural deficit. The executive management team values transparent discussions early in the budget planning cycle. This includes open dialogue at community meetings, in order to facilitate a proposed balanced budget that meets many needs. City executive management proposed a host of changes and reductions to address the shortfall, including a possible reduction to some of the $10 million in annual support to Irvine schools in order to ensure adequate City and Police services.

While reductions to school funding will no longer be proposed for the upcoming budget, we need to work together to find constructive approaches. The City faces leaner times. We want to ensure our support for Public Safety, which is a top priority for the Council and the community, is not jeopardized. Mutual cooperation and productive communication is critical for effective long-term financial planning that balances community priorities and the City’s budget.”

Thank you to the many Irvine residents and IUSD Board Members who reached out to me and other members of the City Council opposing these cuts.

Our voices have been heard.

Join Us for the International Sensation, “The Colours of Her Heart,” by Mallika Sarabhai and Samia Malik at the Merage Jewish Center!

Join us for a breathtaking performance of the international sensation, “The Colours of Her Heart,” by Mallika Sarabhai and Samia Malik at the Merage Jewish Center in Irvine on Saturday, March 23, 2019, at 7:00 p.m.

In “The Colours of Her Heart,” Mallika Sarabhai, dancer, activist, choreographer, columnist, speaker and one of India’s most tireless advocates for achieving social change through the arts, brings her latest music-dance creation to Irvine.

In collaboration with Pakistani lyricist, composer, painter, and singer Samia Malik, “The Colours of the Heart” presents the pains, travails and victories of women of all nations, the bonding and the sisterhood that is spreading across all nations, giving women strength, courage, and a feeling of belonging.

With songs in Urdu and English and stories that are both personal and universal, “The Colours of the Heart” draws you into the world of women and their lives.

The multi-faceted Mallika Sarabhai holds an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad (India’s most prestigious business school) and a Ph.D in Organizational Behavior. Since first making a name for herself as an actress., she has been one of India’s leading choreographers and dancers for over three decades. In constant demand as a soloist and with her own dance company, Darpana, she has been creating and performing both classical and contemporary works.

Samia Malik’s dynamic, evolving working practice encompasses music, visual art and education. Asking challenging and important questions about our common humanity, Samia’s Malik’s work has enthralled audiences from the UK to India. She writes and performs songs based on traditional Urdu Ghazal (a highly refined union of poetry with music) extending and subverting the form to explore contemporary issues around identity, race and gender.

“The Colours of the Heart” is presented in Irvine by the Ektaa Center and the Arpana Dance Company.

The Merage Jewish Center is located at 1 Federation Way, Irvine CA 92603

For more information, call the Ektaa Center at 949-300-8912 or visit www.arpana.booktix.com.

 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Mark Your Calendars for the Irish Festival in June at the Great Park!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Last year, I was named an Irish Honoree by the City of Los Angeles.  The award came as a result of my help in bringing the annual Irish Fair and Music Festival to the Great Park in Irvine.

I am tremendously honored to have been named an Irish Honoree.  Irish Americans have contributed enormously to our nation, and I am proud to help share and celebrate Irish culture.

This year, the Irish Fair and Music Festival will return to the Great Park in Irvine!

Festival dates are Father’s Day weekend, Saturday, June 15 and Sunday, June 16, 2019. 

The Irish Fair and Music Festival is dedicated to preserving and promoting Irish and Irish-American culture in the Southern California area by presenting Irish music, dance, theater, language, sports and all other aspects of the Irish heritage.

Now in its 45th year, the Irish Fair has become a landmark for Irish and Irish American culture and family entertainment. Over 30,000 people attend the event annually. It has been described as the happiest and most fun filled event in all of Southern California!

Among the many artists appearing at the Festival at the Great Park this year are The Fenians,  The Humble HooligansCraic in the Stone,  Sligo Rags,  Young DublinersMarys Lane, and The Ploughboys.

The Irish Fair also features Irish Step Dancing, historical reenactments, Irish and Scottish import shops and arts & craft vendors.

You can find more information, and tickets, online at the Irish Fair and Music Festival.

See you there!

In the meantime, you can get your Irish on and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by enjoying this phenomenal musical performance of “Rocky Road to Dublin” from last year’s Irish Festival at the Great Park:

 

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!