Happy Earth Day 2020!

Today, Wednesday, 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.

Under Irvine Mayors Larry Agran, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang, Irvine was indeed a world leader in environmental programs and innovation. One of the highlights of Irvine’s environmental engagement was presence of the U.S. Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. The Solar Decathlon is an international competition held every two years that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The houses are assembled at a central location for display, evaluation, and awards. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The Solar Decathlon was held at the Great Park in 2013 and 2015.

Another highlight of Irvine’s environmental leadership was the creation of the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee in 2012.  The Green Ribbon Committee was charged with the crucial task of developing and recommending environmental policy initiatives and programs, including sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

Unfortunately, when Steven Choi became mayor of Irvine in November 2014, both the Great Park Solar Decathlon and the Green Ribbon Committee became victims of Choi’s climate change denial and hostility to environmental action.

As I’ve detailed in How Orange County Lost the U.S. Solar Decathlon, Steven Choi was hostile to the very premises of the Solar Decathlon — the need for replacing burning fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy.  In sharp contrast to the previous three Irvine mayors who championed environmental and climate concerns, Choi “completely question[ed] the idea of global warming being caused by human intervention.”  Rather than recognizing the importance of environmental action,  both as an opportunity for technological innovation and as an existential imperative, Choi saw all environmental concerns as anti-business and climate change as wholly unconnected to human activity. You can read the full story of the Solar Decathlon here.

Similarly, Choi sabotaged the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee. In fact, when I was elected to the Irvine City Council in November 2016, the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee had been inoperative for several years because Mayor Steven Choi and his allies on the Irvine City Council did not appoint sufficient members to constitute a quorum. In fact, the Committee did not meet during all of 2014 and 2016, cancelling every scheduled meeting. The words “climate change” and “global warming” were not permitted to be used in official City of Irvine publications or staff reports. Choi didn’t even allow the City of Irvine to participate in the Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by the Irvine-based Wyland Foundation.

As a longtime environmental activist, I wasn’t going to allow the City of Irvine to continue to ignore environmental issues and global warming. I convinced newly elected Mayor Donald P. Wagner, who replaced Steven Choi, to re-invigorate the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee and appoint me to the Committee as the City Council’s representative.  I then appointed Krishna Hammond, a young progressive scientist, as my representative to the Committee and encouraged the other Councilmembers to make appointments.  At our first meeting, I was elected Chair of the Committee and Krishna was elected Vice Chair. The Green Ribbon Environmental Committee was out of Choi-imposed exile and was off and running.

 

 

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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.

We’ve made progress since the days when Steven Choi drove the U.S. Solar Decathlon out of town, shut down the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, refused to participate in the Wyland Foundation’s Water Challenge, and banned the words “climate change” and “global warning.”

But there is still much to be done. In particular, the current Irvine City Council leadership needs to show that its professed concern for action on climate change and protecting the environment isn’t just lip service and a public relations smokescreen.

Instead, the City Council needs to adopt a stand-alone Climate Action Plan that we’ve been promised and implement the Community Choice Energy program that we’ve shown to be a tremendous benefit to both the City and the planet.

 

UCI Named No. 1 College in U.S. for Sustainability. The City of Irvine Should Follow UCI’s Example and Adopt the Community Choice Energy Program and Stand-Alone Climate Action Plan We’ve Been Promised!

Congratulations to the University of California, Irvine (UCI), on being named the No. 1 “Cool School” in the nation by the Sierra Club in its annual ranking of sustainability leaders among U.S. colleges.

UCI is the only university to score in the top 10 for 10 consecutive years.

“As UCI is the only university to have ranked in the top 10 ‘Cool Schools’ for an unprecedented 10 years and counting, we’re continually impressed with its commitment to modeling, teaching and embodying excellent environmental stewardship in all areas,” said Katie O’Reilly, Sierra Magazine’s adventure and lifestyle editor. “The Anteaters are truly standouts in this increasingly important space.”

Colleges were ranked according to which ones offer the best sustainability-focused courses and carbon-neutral land and energy policies, as well as the most opportunities to engage with the environmental movement. UCI was recognized for EV charging stations and converting its central-cooling plant to a system that conserves over 80 million gallons of potable water per year while cooling campus buildings —17 of which are certified LEED Platinum and seven of which are zero-waste facilities. UCI also was recognized for creating a new pilot project to provide free insulation retrofits and solar installations in nearby low-income communities.  In addition, UCI researchers were recognized for their work in  adapting medical and public health curricula to better prepare students to treat tropical diseases as they expand in range due to climate change.

You can listen to a podcast on UCI’s “Cool School” Award, including UCI’s efforts regarding sustainability and achieving reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions here.

The City of Irvine has a lot to learn from UCI’s accomplishments.

Under Irvine Mayors Larry Agran, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang, Irvine was indeed a world leader in environmental programs and innovation. One of the highlights of Irvine’s environmental engagement was presence of the U.S. Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. The Solar Decathlon is an international competition held every two years that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The houses are assembled at a central location for display, evaluation, and awards. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The Solar Decathlon was held at the Great Park in 2013 and 2015.

Another highlight of Irvine’s environmental leadership was the creation of the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee in 2012.  The Green Ribbon Committee was charged with the crucial task of developing and recommending environmental policy initiatives and programs, including sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

Unfortunately, when Steven Choi became mayor of Irvine in November 2014, both the Great Park Solar Decathlon and the Green Ribbon Committee became victims of Choi’s climate change denial and hostility to environmental action.

As I’ve detailed in How Orange County Lost the U.S. Solar Decathlon, Steven Choi was hostile to the very premises of the Solar Decathlon — the need for replacing burning fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy.  In sharp contrast to the previous three Irvine mayors who championed environmental and climate concerns, Choi “completely question[ed] the idea of global warming being caused by human intervention.”  Rather than recognizing the importance of environmental action,  both as an opportunity for technological innovation and as an existential imperative, Choi saw all environmental concerns as anti-business and climate change as wholly unconnected to human activity. You can read the full story of the Solar Decathlon here.

Similarly, Choi sabotaged the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee. In fact, when I was elected to the Irvine City Council in November 2016, the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee had been inoperative for several years because Mayor Steven Choi and his allies on the Irvine City Council did not appoint sufficient members to constitute a quorum. In fact, the Committee did not meet during all of 2014 and 2016, cancelling every scheduled meeting. The words “climate change” and “global warming” were not permitted to be used in official City of Irvine publications or staff reports. Choi didn’t even allow the City of Irvine to participate in the Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by the Irvine-based Wyland Foundation.

As a longtime environmental activist, I wasn’t going to allow the City of Irvine to continue to ignore environmental issues and global warming. I convinced newly elected Mayor Donald P. Wagner, who replaced Steven Choi, to re-invigorate the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee and appoint me to the Committee as the City Council’s representative.  I then appointed Krishna Hammond, a young progressive scientist, as my representative to the Committee and encouraged the other Councilmembers to make appointments.  At our first meeting, I was elected Chair of the Committee and Krishna was elected Vice Chair.  The Green Ribbon Environmental Committee was out of Choi-imposed exile and was off and running.

I am extremely proud of the work we’ve done and the things we’ve accomplished since then.

Perhaps most important, we commissioned a study of Community Choice Energy (CCE) and then recommended that the City Council follow its recommendation to implement a CCE plan with an expected savings of $7.7 million per year in citywide electricity cost savings for Irvine residents and businesses, and a $112,000 per year savings for the City itself in municipal energy costs, as well as driving additional local economic development benefits, such as new jobs and $10 million in annual economic output. 

Now I am concerned that the work we’ve done on CCE is about to be undermined by the current City Council leadership.  I have learned that CCE advocates have been getting “push back” from the City and the City Manager.

The Green Ribbon Committee also recommended swift adoption of a stand-alone Climate Action Plan, so that, in the words of climate activist Robin Raeder Ganahl, “Irvine residents know what the City’s plan is to reduce emissions, meet state targets, and protect our quality of life.” Again, I am now concerned that the current City Council leadership has no intention of adopting a stand-alone Climate Action Plan, and is simply sitting on the Green Ribbon Committee’s recommendation with no intention to move forward.

Melissa Fox attending the 2013 U.S. Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park as an Irvine Community Services Commissioner.

We’ve made progress since the days when Steven Choi drove the U.S. Solar Decathlon out of town, shut down the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, refused to participate in the Wyland Foundation’s Water Challenge, and banned the words “climate change” and “global warning.”

But there is still much to be done. In particular, the current Irvine City Council leadership needs to show that its professed concern for action on climate change and protecting the environment isn’t just lip service and a public relations smokescreen.

Instead, the City Council needs to adopt a stand-alone Climate Action Plan that we’ve been promised and implement the Community Choice Energy program that we’ve shown to be a tremendous benefit to both the City and the planet. 

 

How Orange County Lost the U.S. Solar Decathlon

In a recent article in the Voice of OC, Chapman University Professor Fred Smoller and former U.S. Department of Energy official Richard King make a convincing case for a California version of the U.S. Solar Decathlon. The problem is, there already was a California-based Solar Decathlon – located at the Great Park in Irvine – until lack of support and mismanagement by the administration of then-mayor Steven Choi forced the U.S. Department of Energy to find another location elsewhere.

The U.S. Solar Decathlon, which has been sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy approximately every two years since 2002, is an award-winning international competition that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The houses are assembled at a central location for display, evaluation, and awards. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

As Smoller and King point out, since the Solar Decathlon’s inception in 2002, more than a dozen California colleges and universities have participated, but no California colleges or universities are slated to participate in the next competition in 2020.

This lack of California participation is troubling, Smoller and King note, because the Solar Decathlon introduces new solar energy technologies to the market and accelerates their implementation; increases and educates the ‘clean tech’ workforce; educates consumers about clean energy; and demonstrates that energy-efficient and solar-powered housing is attainable, practical, and beautiful.

Smoller and King further point out that “as the U.S. surrenders its leadership position on fighting climate change, other nations have stepped in: Solar Decathlons are now being held in Europe, China, the Middle East and Africa. In addition to combating climate change, countries in these regions — especially China — are positioning themselves to take full advantage of the rapidly expanding green economy.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Smoller and King in endorsing a California Solar Decathlon.

California is the ideal location for a Solar Decathlon. California leads the nation, and the world, in developing new and cleaner energy technologies. We are leaders in requiring more effective clean energy standards and in fighting climate change. “To maintain California’s leadership position in the field of clean energy, we must harness the creative energy of our youth, the academic community, industry and labor. By working together, this competition could set a new milestone in clean energy and help make California the sustainability capital of the world.”

Significantly, in both 2013 and 2015, the Solar Decathlon was held right here at the Great Park – until lack of support and mismanagement by the administration of then-mayor Steven Choi forced the U.S. Department of Energy to find another location elsewhere.

It was an incredible achievement in January 2012 when the Great Park team was awarded a $1 million grant to bring the 2013 Solar Decathlon and the XPO in Irvine – the very first time such an award had been made and first time the Decathlon will be held outside of Washington, D.C.

As then-Great Park Board Chair Beth Krom stated at the time, the Solar Decathlon was expected to “bring worldwide attention and economic development to the Great Park and the region and raise public awareness about the benefits of clean energy and energy conservation.”

As I wrote at the time, I was “excited about the potential economic and technological impact that the Solar Decathlon will have for Irvine and Orange County in the future.”

But once the Solar Decathlon contract was awarded, the Irvine City Council, now led by Mayor Steven Choi, completely bungled the opportunity.

First, Mayor Choi and his allies on the Irvine City Council and the Great Park Board (which were then, as now, one and the same) dismissed the public relations firm that had been instrumental in getting the Energy Department to award the Solar Decathlon contract to the Great Park, without hiring any replacement firm – or even adopt a plan – to handle the publicity for the event. The result was far less attendance than been had anticipated when it was assumed that the Solar Decathlon would be properly publicized.

Melissa Fox attending the 2013 U.S. Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park as an Irvine Community Services Commissioner.

Next, Mayor Choi and his allies on the City Council failed to provide proper signage and directions for the event, so that many people who planned to attend could not locate the venue within the uncompleted Great Park.

The City also failed to partner with science, engineering or community based groups to promote and engage with the Solar Decathlon.

In fact, Mayor Choi and his allies on the City Council were hostile to the very premises of the Solar Decathlon. It had been the idea of former Mayor Larry Agran to bring the Solar Decathlon to the Great Park, and the contract was awarded during Agran’s tenure as mayor. Choi never embraced the event as truly belonging to Irvine or the Great Park, instead viewing it with suspicion as belonging to Agran and to Obama’s environmentally pro-active and climate change conscious Department of Energy.

Crucially, Choi did not share the Solar Decathlon’s basic rationale: concerns about the impact of human-caused climate change and the need for new, clean, energy technologies. Rather, Choi told his fellow Republicans that while “it is good to keep the environment clean but [he] completely questions the idea of global warming being caused by human intervention. He opposes cap and trade and other government imposed environmental regulations, calling them an extreme effort to tax businesses and economic growth.”

In line with this anti-scientific thinking regarding the relationship between climate change and human use of fossil fuels, Choi not only cared nothing about ensuring the success of the Solar Decathlon, but ended Irvine’s participation in the Wyland Foundation’s National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation and failed to appoint a quorum for the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, causing that important committee – which I revived, along with Mayor Don Wagner, and which I now chair – to cease meeting for the years that Choi was mayor.

As I said in 2016 when the U.S. Department of Energy announced that the Solar Decathlon would be held in Denver, not the Orange County Great Park, “It is extremely disappointing that the Solar Decathlon will no longer he held in Irvine because the Irvine City Council refused to support the continuation of the Solar Decathlon in the Great Park. The Solar Decathlon served as an international showcase for our city — our businesses and educational institutions — as among the world’s leaders in scientific and environmental innovation, but our shortsighted City Council has allowed this tremendous opportunity to go elsewhere.”

In sum, I agree with Fred Smoller and Richard King that a Solar Decathlon in California– a “leading-edge design competition which promotes innovation, education, and market expansion” of clean energy technologies – would be great for our students, teachers, schools and businesses.  That’s why it’s such a pity that the Solar Decathlon was once here in the Great Park, until the event was mismanaged, and the opportunity was squandered, by the Irvine City Council led by Steven Choi.

 

Zot! The Dramatic Success of UC Irvine is Making Our City Better Educated and More Diverse!

Everyone knows that Irvine is changing.  Our city is becoming more populous and more diverse.

One of the major reasons for this change is the remarkable success of our city’s foundational institution and largest employer: The University of California, Irvine (UCI).

Founded in 1965, UCI now has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy.

UCI is now the most sought-after campus in the entire University of California system, according to a recent article in the Orange County Register.

The article reports that “The Irvine campus announced recently that 70,540 California students applied for admission as freshmen in the upcoming fall semester,  the most among the nine campuses in the UC system.”

Much of this growth is recent.  In fact, applications to UCI have increased by an amazing 32 percent just since 2015!

UCI’s growth has also led to a significant increase in the diversity of our City.  UCI has made a strong commitment to being an engine of social mobility for qualified individuals from nontraditional and disadvantaged circumstances.

As a result, UCI is now the top choice among UC schools for first-generation students and those from underrepresented minority groups and lower-income families.  Almost half of UCI’s freshman applicants come from immigrant backgrounds and are first-generation students.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, a former UCI student, and the wife of someone who who received his Masters and Ph.D. from UC Irvine, I want to congratulate UCI on its great success and pledge to help it continue making our city, our state, and our nation better educated and more diverse while ensuring a brighter future for Orange County and California!

Zot!

Join Me Saturday for Irvine’s Global Village Festival!

My favorite Irvine cultural event of the year is almost here!

This coming Saturday, September 23, 2017, is the Irvine Global Village Festival!

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox at Irvine's Global Village Festival 2013

In Irvine, we are proud of saying that our city is not only among the most diverse cities in the nation, it is also the most fully integrated.

There are no ethnic, linguistic, religious, or cultural enclaves in Irvine: every neighborhood reflects Irvine’s harmonious ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity.

How diverse is Irvine?  A non-English language is spoken in a remarkable 58% of Irvine homes, with more than 70 different languages spoken in residences throughout Irvine.  Nearly 40 % of Irvine’s public school students have a primary language other than English.

Irvine is also home to more than 80 different churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship, serving Irvine’s wonderful cultural and religious diversity.

This year marks the 16th anniversary of the Irvine Global Village Festival – Irvine’s largest and most attended community event.

Founded in 1998 by a group of Irvine residents to help promote understanding and build harmony within Irvine’s many diverse cultures, the Global Village Festival is now Irvine’s signature event, featuring more than 100 performances on five stages; international cuisine and food from more than 50 restaurants; an international marketplace filled with unique crafts and textiles; interactive, educational and entertaining cultural displays, demonstrations, and performances; and an international village just for kids.

More than 40 local restaurants and gourmet food trucks serve up samples of regional and international specialties from boba smoothies, miso soup, falafel, Mexican fusion tacos and German pretzels to Japanese dumplings, Hawaiian shaved ice and the all-American bacon-wrapped hot dog. Please be prepared with cash for food and beverage purchases.

At the heart of the Festival is the Community Partners Pavilion, where nonprofit, local community groups and government agencies have an opportunity to showcase their programs and services to the community. Be sure to stop by the OC Voters Trailer and take the Festival Survey.

I’m looking forward to celebrating the many facets of Irvine’s diversity at the Global Village Festival – and I look forward to seeing you there!

Here are some important Festival details:

What: Irvine Global Village Festival

When: Saturday, September 23, 2017, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Where: Bill Barber Park, 4 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA

Cost: Admission is FREE! Please be prepared with cash for food and beverage purchases.

Parking: There is no on-site parking at the event.  Festival Parking is permitted in the lot at 20 Corporate Park and in the structure at 30 Corporate Park only. The Festival is 0.7 miles from this location.  Take the free shuttles to the Festival that will be in operation 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. or the walk (about 15 minutes) via Murphy to Alton. Disabled Person Parking will be available at the San Juan or Civic Center parking lots adjacent to Bill Barber Park. Please have the appropriate placard visible when entering the parking lot.

Bike to the Festival:  The easiest way to get to the Festival is by bike. The City of Irvine has an extensive system of bike trails to get you to and from the event, and once inside, riders can safely and securely store their bikes at the Festival’s free Bike Valet area, hosted by the Bicycle Club of Irvine and the Orange County Bicycle Coalition. Use Irvine’s Bike Map to plan your trip.

Pets: Dogs are welcome at the Irvine Global Village Festival! However, owners must be responsible for their pets; dogs must be on leash, interact well in a large crowd and remain in the charge of a person competent to restrain them.

See you there!

Sierra Club Leaders Urge Vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

sierra club x2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jason Mills (714) 576-4303

Sierra Club Leaders Urge Vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

IRVINE, CA             Leaders of the Orange County Chapter of the Sierra Club recently urged their members in Irvine to vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council.  “As people who care deeply about the environment and the future of our planet, and our beautiful City of Irvine, we urge you to join the Sierra Club in supporting Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council,” the Sierra Club leaders said.

mail-01Their message to Irvine’s Sierra Club members stated that “City Council candidate and Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox is a former Orange County Reserve Park Ranger and a passionate advocate for creating sustainable communities that incorporate public transit, active transportation and access to work, parks, shopping and recreation. Melissa is committed to environmentally responsible, community-oriented planning, including green building practices [and is] dedicated to stopping the rushed development of more housing and office buildings without proper planning or adequate infrastructure, and without consideration of its impact on our schools, our traffic, the character of our communities, and our quality of life.  Please vote for the environment in the November election by casting your ballot for Melissa Fox.”

“I am honored by the support of the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization,” Melissa Fox said. “Preserving Irvine’s open spaces and protecting our environment are important to me.  Let’s move Irvine forward together — toward a re-commitment to Irvine’s tradition of environmentally responsible, community-oriented planning.”

Melissa Fox is an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, attorney, and small business owner in Irvine.  In addition to her endorsement by the Sierra Club, she has also been endorsed by the Orange County League of Conservation Voters, as well as by the Orange County Professional Firefighters and current Irvine City Members Beth Krom and Lynn Schott.

To learn more about Melissa Fox’s campaign, visit www.votemelissafox.com.

Join Me at Irvine’s Global Village Festival 2016!

global-village-2016

My favorite Irvine cultural event of the year is almost here!

This coming Saturday, September 24, 2016, is the Irvine Global Village Festival!

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox at Irvine's Global Village Festival 2013

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox at Irvine’s Global Village Festival

In Irvine, we are proud of saying that our city is not only among the most diverse cities in the nation, it is also the most fully integrated.  There are no ethnic, linguistic, religious, or cultural enclaves in Irvine: every neighborhood reflects Irvine’s harmonious ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity.

How diverse is Irvine?  A non-English language is spoken in a remarkable 58% of Irvine homes, with more than 70 different languages spoken in residences throughout Irvine.  Nearly 40 % of Irvine’s public school students have a primary language other than English.  Irvine is also home to more than 80 different churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship, serving Irvine’s wonderful cultural and religious diversity.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Irvine Global Village Festival – Irvine’s largest and most attended community event.  Founded in 1998 by a group of Irvine residents to help promote understanding and build harmony within Irvine’s many diverse cultures, the Global Village Festival is now Irvine’s signature event, featuring more than 100 performances on five stages; international cuisine and food from more than 50 restaurants; an international marketplace filled with unique crafts and textiles; interactive, educational and entertaining cultural displays, demonstrations, and performances; and an international village just for kids.

I’m looking forward to celebrating the many facets of Irvine’s diversity at the Global Village Festival – and I look forward to seeing you there!

Here are some important Festival details:

What: Irvine Global Village Festival

When: Saturday, September 24, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Where: Bill Barber Park, 4 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA

Cost: Admission is FREE! Food tasting tickets are available for purchase at the event. Tickets are $1 each; with tasting prices ranging from 1 to 3 tickets per item. Cash, checks, MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover are accepted at designated ticket booth locations. Prices for sample sized items range from $1 to $3; it is recommended to purchase $10 per person. Tickets are non-refundable. For your convenience, a Schools First automatic teller machine (ATM) is located at the Irvine Civic Center, adjacent to the Irvine Police Department entrance.

Parking: There is no on-site parking at the event. While parking is not available at the event site, FREE shuttle buses will be in service to transport guests to and from the Festival’s satellite parking locations at Main and Jamboree and Woodbridge Community Park. Shuttles will be running from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Disabled Person Parking will be available at the San Juan or Civic Center parking lots adjacent to Bill Barber Park. Please have the appropriate placard visible when entering the parking lot.

Bike to the Festival – that’s how I’m getting there!  By far the easiest way to get to the Festival is by bike. The City of Irvine has an extensive system of bike trails to get you to and from the event, and once inside, riders can safely and securely store their bikes at the Festival’s free Bike Valet area, hosted by the Bicycle Club of Irvine and the Orange County Bicycle Coalition. Use the City’s Interactive Bike Map to plan your trip. Enter the destination address as “4 Civic Center”.

Pets: Dogs are welcome at the Irvine Global Village Festival! However, owners must be responsible for their pets; dogs must be on leash, interact well in a large crowd and remain in the charge of a person competent to restrain them.

See you there!

Join Me at Irvine’s Global Village Festival 2015!

Globalvillage.2015

My favorite Irvine cultural event of the year is almost here!

This Saturday, September 26, 2015, is the Irvine Global Village Festival!

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox at Irvine's Global Village Festival 2013

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox at Irvine’s Global Village Festival 2013

In Irvine, we are proud of saying that our City is not only among the most diverse cities in the nation, it is also the most fully integrated. There are no ethnic, linguistic, religious, or cultural enclaves in Irvine: every neighborhood reflects Irvine’s harmonious ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity.

How diverse is Irvine?  A non-English language is spoken in a remarkable 58% of Irvine homes, with more than 70 different languages spoken in residences throughout Irvine.  Nearly 40 % of Irvine’s public school students have a primary language other than English.  Irvine is also home to more than 80 different churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship, serving Irvine’s wonderful cultural and religious diversity.

This year marks the 14th anniversary of the Irvine Global Village Festival – Irvine’s largest and most attended community event.  Founded in 1998 by a group of Irvine residents to help promote understanding and build harmony within Irvine’s many diverse cultures, the Global Village Festival is now Irvine’s signature event, featuring more than 100 performances on five stages; international cuisine and food from more than 50 restaurants; an international marketplace filled with unique crafts and textiles; interactive, educational and entertaining cultural displays, demonstrations, and performances; and an international village just for kids.

I’m looking forward to celebrating the many facets of Irvine’s diversity at the Global Village Festival – and I look forward to seeing you there!

Here are some important Festival details:

What: Irvine Global Village Festival

When: Saturday, September 27, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Where: Bill Barber Park, 4 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA

Cost: Admission is FREE! Food tasting tickets are available for purchase at the event. Tickets are $1 each; with tasting prices ranging from 1 to 3 tickets per item. Cash, checks, MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover are accepted at designated ticket booth locations. Prices for sample sized items range from $1 to $3; it is recommended to purchase $10 per person. Tickets are non-refundable. For your convenience, a Schools First automatic teller machine (ATM) is located at the Irvine Civic Center, adjacent to the Irvine Police Department entrance.

Parking: There is no on-site parking at the event. While parking is not available at the event site, FREE shuttle buses will be in service to transport guests to and from the Festival’s satellite parking locations at Main and Jamboree and Woodbridge Community Park. Shuttles will be running from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Disabled Person Parking will be available at the San Juan or Civic Center parking lots adjacent to Bill Barber Park. Please have the appropriate placard visible when entering the parking lot.

Bike to the Festival – that’s how I’m getting there!  By far the easiest way to get to the Festival is by bike. The City of Irvine has an extensive system of bike trails to get you to and from the event, and once inside, riders can safely and securely store their bikes at the Festival’s free Bike Valet area, hosted by the Bicycle Club of Irvine and the Orange County Bicycle Coalition. Use the City’s Interactive Bike Map to plan your trip. Enter the destination address as “4 Civic Center”.

Pets: Dogs are welcome at the Irvine Global Village Festival! However, owners must be responsible for their pets; dogs must be on leash, interact well in a large crowd and remain in the charge of a person competent to restrain them.

See you there!

Join Me at Irvine’s Global Village Festival 2014!

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My favorite Irvine cultural event of the year is almost here!

This Saturday, September 27, 2014, is the Irvine Global Village Festival!

In Irvine, we are proud of saying that our City is not only among the most diverse cities in the nation, it is also the most fully integrated. There are no ethnic, linguistic, religious, or cultural enclaves in Irvine: every neighborhood reflects Irvine’s harmonious ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity.

Commissioner Melissa Fox at Irvine Global Village Festival 2013

Commissioner Melissa Fox at Irvine Global Village Festival 2013

How diverse is Irvine?  A non-English language is spoken in a remarkable 58% of Irvine homes, with more than 70 different languages spoken in residences throughout Irvine.  Nearly 40 % of Irvine’s public school students have a primary language other than English.  Irvine is also home to more than 80 different churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship, serving Irvine’s wonderful cultural and religious diversity.

This year marks the 13th anniversary of the Irvine Global Village Festival – Irvine’s largest and most attended community event.  Founded in 1998 by a group of Irvine residents to help promote understanding and build harmony within Irvine’s many diverse cultures, the Global Village Festival is now Irvine’s signature event, featuring more than 100 performances on five stages; international cuisine and food from more than 50 restaurants; an international marketplace filled with unique crafts and textiles; interactive, educational and entertaining cultural displays, demonstrations, and performances; an international village just for kids; and a world religions area, providing an opportunity to explore and interact with many of the numerous faith-based organizations in the Irvine area.

Globalvillage03Among the groups whose members have been integral in organizing the Irvine Global Village Festival are the Algerian Cultural Society of Southern California, the Asian American Senior Citizen Service Center, EKTAA Indian Cultural Center, First Drops Interfaith Group, Friends of Outreach (for Irvine seniors), Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh, Humanity United, the Irvine Chinese School, the Irvine Evergreen Chinese Senior Association, the Irvine Iranian Parents Association, the Irvine Multicultural Association, the Irvine Thai Arts & Culture, the Orange County Jewish Community Center, NEDA Iranian Senior Group, Network of Arab American Professionals, Orange County Chinese Artists Association, Orange County Veterans Employment Committee, South Coast Chinese Cultural Association, and TTIYA Foundation.

Among the performers scheduled to appear at the Irvine Global Village Festival are Benjamin Ordaz, Lan Nartthasin, Caporales San Simon, Nicholson Pipes and Drums, Adaa Dance, It’s Samba Showtime, Hato Paora, Kapa Haka, Meliza and the Jewels That Raq!, Naked Rhythm, Mexikas, Upstream, Caribbean Jems, La Sirena y Mar de Ashe, Lisa Haley and the Zyedkats, Sneha Krish, JJ & the Habibis, Hozan Murat, Galaxy Youth Ensemble, KANANEA, Ava Dance Studio, IKPA Samulnori Team, Southern Young Tigers, Calistoga Falls,
Mei-Ling Lee Chinese Dance, Sueda, Kerry and the Surftones, Kutturan Chamoru Foundation, Brian Young and the Blues Station, UK Beat, Mahoor Ensemble led by Alireza Khademi, Orange County Friendship Choir, AACCP-Orange County Dance Group, International Peace Choir, Korean Line Dancers, Lithikhaa Mageswaran, Adaa Dance Academy, South Coast Chinese Cultural Association/Irvine Chinese School, SUR Academy Irvine SANAD Foundation, Khayyam Persian School Foundation, Haven Belly Dance Collective, Yakshaloka,  Phernandho, Bolivia Internaciona, Goporum Dance, R3Play – Chinese Folk Dance, Naoki Atkins, Halau Hawaii OCUdita Academy, and Udita Academy

What an incredible array of world and American music, dance, and performance!

I’m looking forward to celebrating the many facets of Irvine’s diversity at the Global Village Festival – and I look forward to seeing you there!

Here are some important Festival details:

What: Irvine Global Village Festival

When: Saturday, September 27, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Where: Bill Barber Park, 4 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA

Cost: Admission is FREE! Food tasting tickets are available for purchase at the event. Tickets are $1 each; with tasting prices ranging from 1 to 3 tickets per item. Cash, checks, MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover are accepted at designated ticket booth locations. Prices for sample sized items range from $1 to $3; it is recommended to purchase $10 per person. Tickets are non-refundable. For your convenience, a Schools First automatic teller machine (ATM) is located at the Irvine Civic Center, adjacent to the Irvine Police Department entrance.

Parking: There is no on-site parking at the event. While parking is not available at the event site, FREE shuttle buses will be in service to transport guests to and from the Festival’s satellite parking locations at Main and Jamboree and Woodbridge Community Park. Shuttles will be running from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Disabled Person Parking will be available at the San Juan or Civic Center parking lots adjacent to Bill Barber Park. Please have the appropriate placard visible when entering the parking lot.

Bike to the Festival – that’s how I’m getting there!  By far the easiest way to get to the Festival is by bike. The City of Irvine has an extensive system of bike trails to get you to and from the event, and once inside, riders can safely and securely store their bikes at the Festival’s free Bike Valet area, hosted by the Bicycle Club of Irvine and the Orange County Bicycle Coalition. Use the City’s Interactive Bike Map to plan your trip. Enter the destination address as “4 Civic Center”. Or Click here to download the City of Irvine Bikeways Map for the Global Village.

Pets: Dogs are welcome at the Irvine Global Village Festival! However, owners must be responsible for their pets; dogs must be on leash, interact well in a large crowd and remain in the charge of a person competent to restrain them.

UCI Sets “Green” Example for City of Irvine

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Congratulations to the Univerisity of California, Irvine, on its selection as the 2014 “Greenest School in the Nation,” according to the Sierra Club’s magazine. The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and oldest environmental organization.

The decision was based on a survey of America’s four-year degree-granting undergraduate colleges conducted by four organizations: the Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI), and the Princeton Review.

President Obama speaking at UC Irvine 2014

UCI came in first out of the 173 colleges that completed the survey by scoring 813.51 out of a possible total of 1000 points.

According to the Sierra Club Magazine, “In 2008, UC Irvine vowed to improve its energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020, then hit that target seven years early, making it the first U.S. school to achieve that goal. Then administrators doubled down by pledging an additional 20 percent energy reduction by 2020. Helping the matter: three on-site solar power projects and a 19-megawatt cogeneration plant with turbines powered by combustion and steam. The school’s water-recycling program saves more than 210 million gallons per year.”

This recent recognition by the Sierra Club comes just a few weeks after President Obama, at his UCI Commencement Address, lauded UC Irvine for “set[ing] up the first Earth System Science Department in America. A UC Irvine professor-student team won the Nobel Prize for discovering that CFCs destroy the ozone layer.  A UC Irvine glaciologist’s work led to one of last month’s report showing one of the world’s major ice sheets in irreversible retreat. Students and professors are in the field working to predict changing weather patterns, fire seasons, and water tables – working to understand how shifting seasons affect global ecosystems; to get zero-emission vehicles on the road faster; to help coastal communities adapt to rising seas. And when I challenge colleges to reduce their energy use to 20 percent by 2020, UC Irvine went ahead and did it last year.  Done.  So UC Irvine is ahead of the curve. All of you are ahead of the curve.”

To me, one of UCI’s most impressive “green” achievements is ZotWheels, an  innovative bike sharing system.  As UCI explains, ZotWheels is “the first automated self-service bike share program in California . . .  Almost a pound of tailpipe emissions will be saved for every mile a member rides a bike instead of driving.  Bike sharing allows faculty, students, and staff an alternative to driving when making short-distance trips during the work and school day, as well as addressing important issues such as health and environmental sustainability, the future of transportation, and promoting community building on campus. Bike sharing already exists in many European cities, such as Paris and Barcelona. Take our bikes for a short ride around the inner ring, to the park, to a meeting, or to class.  ZotWheels are meant to be shared; so rent one, ride it, return it and repeat any time you want to bring a little fun to your day!”

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at 2013 Solar Decathlon

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at Solar Decathlon

The City of Irvine has a lot to learn from UC Irvine’s accomplishments.

The City of Irvine ought to be a leader in creating sustainable communities that incorporate smart growth principles, public transit and active transportation access to work, parks, shopping and recreation. Our heritage as a master planned community and our long-standing commitment to well-planned smart growth ought to make Irvine a natural leader in promoting green building practices and smart growth principles.

Unfortunately, in recent years we have set our environmental goals too low.  Nor is the current council majority committed to smart, green growth, instead approving frantic growth and development at any cost.

The result of the current council’s rubber-stamping of developers’ proposals has been runaway development of housing tracts and apartments causing terrible traffic and overcrowded schools – posing a clear and present danger to our quality of life.

Irvine is positioned to become a leader in renewable energy use.  Last year, the Solar Decathlon was held for first time outside of Washington, D.C. – at the Great Park, in Irvine. Despite a lukewarm, anti-environmentally conscious majority on the city council, the event was successful.  The 2015 Solar Decathlon will be held once again here in Irvine. And a team from Orange County, led by UC Irvine, will be in the competition.  This time, with an enthusiastic and committed city council and thoughtful promotion and planning, the event could have much more wide-ranging and economically beneficial impact for the city.  But before that can happen – and before Irvine can claim the title of the nation’s energy innovation capitol – we must elect a city council committed to making solar and renewable energy a far more significant energy source for Irvine’s city buildings, homes and businesses.

So congratulations UC Irvine!  You’ve shown us the direction that the City of Irvine should be taking.

Make Your Voice Heard! Take the 2015-2019 Irvine Consolidated Plan Community Survey!

Irvine City Hall,  Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine, melissajoifox, melissafoxblog.com

The City of Irvine is asking for input from residents and local community organizations in order to develop a plan that reflects the priorities of our community for the 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan Community Survey.

City of Irvine,  Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine, melissajoifox, melissafoxblog.comEvery five years, the City of Irvine prepares a Consolidated Plan to submit to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This plan is required to receive federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) funds and will identify the City’s priorities for allocating these funds.

Public input is very important in helping the City plan for how CDBG and HOME funds will be used over the next five years. CDBG funds are designed to benefit low and moderate-income residents, prevent or eliminate slums or blight, and address community development needs. HOME funds are designed for the development and support of affordable housing.

Please help the City of Irvine determine its housing and community development needs by participating in this survey. If you need assistance or have any questions regarding this survey, please contact the City of Irvine Housing Division at (949) 724-7444.

We appreciate your time and assistance in helping us plan for the next five years!

Click for the 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan Community Survey.

You can read the 2010-2014 City of Irvine Consolidated Plan here.

Thank you for taking the time to complete the survey!

Earth Day: Preserving Irvine’s Earth-Friendly Tradition

earth day 2014 poster.  Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox. melissafoxblog.com.

Irvine’s Earth-Friendly Tradition

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 has also demonstrated its commitment to green buildings through the enactment of the Irvine Build Green Program, which encourages builders to create environmentally sensitive, healthier developments for its residents, businesses and visitors.

sanjoaquin.  Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox. melissafoxblog.com.  photo by Geoff Fox.

In addition, Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, under the jurisdiction of the Community Services Commission, advises the City Council on matters related to climate protection, energy, recycling, waste management, sustainability, transportation, and water, helping the City serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs.

The Irvine Chamber of Commerce is also helping Irvine get greener with its new Irvine Green Business Certification Program, which helps improve its members’ bottom lines by reducing energy and waste costs, and by providing access to tax credits, rebates and incentives. This certification will also allow the Chamber to encourage Irvine businesses to take steps to “green” their business as a means to protect the environment, save money, and use energy more efficiently.

Irvine.green.sanjoaquin.  Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox. melissafoxblog.com. photo by Geoff Fox.

Irvine also offers numerous other environmentally conscious programs, including the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, in which Irvine residents and businesses are encouraged to join this friendly, national competition by pledging to conserve water and other resources. This program and other environmental programs are detailed on the City of Irvine’s website, as are the City’s Annual Earth Day Tips to Save Resources and Money.

Irvine’s Open Spaces

Irvine.sunset.  Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox. melissafoxblog.com. photo by Geoff Fox.

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.

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.

Irvine.trail.  Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox. melissafoxblog.com. photo by Geoff Fox.

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.”

Irvine: A Bicycle-Friendly City

Irvine bicycle sunset.  Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox. melissafoxblog.com.

Irvine has also been recognized as the most bicycle-friendly in Southern California by the League of American Bicyclists, the oldest and largest membership organization of cyclists in the United States.

Irvine is indeed a wonderful city for biking, whether for commuting, exercising, or just enjoying the outdoors. We currently have 301 miles of on-street bike lanes and 54 miles of off-street bikeways.  Our bicycle trails are some of the most beautiful, and peaceful, places in Irvine.

We also know that we can — and will — do even better in the future.  As in other California cities, Irvine residents primarily rely on their cars to get around town.  But Irvine has also made it a priority to support and encourage other, environmentally conscious, forms of transportation – including walking and biking.

In fact, we’ve just conducted an important study to better understand how residents, employees, and visitors walk, bike or get around Irvine. The results of this study will help us make better transportation decisions for our community, and help us increase the ease and safety of biking and walking around town.

Irvine as Solar Capitol USA

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at Solar Decathlon

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at Solar Decathlon

Irvine is now an international center for the development of efficient, environmentally conscious solar energy as the home of the United States Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, the award-winning international competition held every two years that challenges college teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive.

In 2013, the Solar Decathlon was held for first time outside of Washington, D.C.– at the Great Park, here in Irvine. The 2015 Solar Decathlon will be held once again here in Irvine, which can now claim the title of the nation’s energy innovation capitol.

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.

Congratulations to Team Orange — the New “Home Team” of the Solar Decathlon!

Solar Decathlon, Solar Decathlon Irvine, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox

Congratulations to Team Orange – consisting of students from UC Irvine, Chapman University, Irvine Valley College, and Saddleback College – on their selection to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2015 Solar Decathlon, the biennial international student competition to design and build the best solar-powered home.

The announcement that Team Orange had been selected as one of the 20 collegiate teams to compete in the 2015 Solar Decathlon was made yesterday at UC Irvine by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, who also announced that the 2015 Solar Decathlon will be take place once again at the Great Park in Irvine.

Solar Decathlon, Solar Decathlon Irvine, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa FoxThe Solar Decathlon is an award-winning international competition that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.  Team Austria from the Vienna University of Technology won the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013.  The University of Las Vegas-Nevada took second place in the overall competition, and Czech Technical University took third place.

The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002. The competition has since occurred in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013. Last year, the Solar Decathlon was held for first time outside of Washington, D.C. – at the Great Park, here in Irvine, California.

Thus far, the Solar Decathlon competition has provided more than 17,000 college students with training and hands-on experience.

Click here for a spectacular  aerial video of the 2013 Solar Decathlon at the Great Park.

“I’m thrilled that Team Orange has been selected to compete in this world-class event,” said Professor Gregory N. Washington, Dean of UC Irvine’s Samueli School of Engineering, who will lead Team Orange.  “We and our partners will show California and the nation that our campuses and Orange County lead the way on innovative, affordable solar power and other clean energy advances. The home team can definitely win.”

Team Orange plans to create a residence that reflects the traits of the drought-resistant, sun-loving California poppy, our California state flower.

“As President Obama made clear in the State of the Union address, we need an all-of-the-above energy strategy that creates a safer and more sustainable planet, while ensuring American students and workers have the skills they need for the challenging jobs of today and tomorrow,” Poneman said. “The Solar Decathlon provides the next generation of America’s architects, engineers and entrepreneurs with the real-world experience and training they need to strengthen U.S. innovation and support new, clean sources of energy.”

I am tremendously excited that the 2015 Solar Decathlon will be held once again here in Irvine, which can now claim the title of the nation’s energy innovation capitol.

I am also tremendously excited for our own Team Orange – the new “home team” of the Solar Decathlon!

Congratulations to Irvine — Selected as America’s “Best-Run City”

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Congratulations to us – the City of Irvine – for being selected as America’s “Best-Run City”!

Among the key factors cited by the online financial news and opinion publication 24/7 Wall St. in selecting Irvine as the best-run among America’s 100 most populous cities in its annual ranking of the “Best and Worst Run Cities in America,” are our high level of education, our high median income, our high home values, and our outstanding public safety record.

Here is what 24/7 Wall St. had to say:

1. Irvine, California
Population: 230,000 (86th largest)
Credit rating: not rated
Violent crime per 100,000: 51 (the lowest)
2012 Unemployment rate: 5.7% (tied-10th lowest)

Irvine has a very well-educated population.  Last year, 97% of Irvine adults had at least a high school diploma, and more than two-thirds had at least a bachelor’s degree.  The city is home of the University of California, Irvine, which is the top local employer.  The heavy concentration of well-educated adults has also led to higher incomes. Irvine’s median household income was around $96,000 last year, exceeding that of nearly every other large city.  The typical Irvine home cost about $630,400 last year, more than any other large U.S. city except San Francisco.  The city was also one of the safest in the nation, with only 51 violent crimes per 100,000 people.

While this is the first year that Irvine has been rated first in the 24/7 Wall St. rankings, Irvine was ranked third last year and second two years ago, demonstrating that Irvine’s success is the result of our long-term commitment to careful planning and our faithfulness to Irvine’s traditional long-range vision of promoting both economic growth and high quality-of-life.

In addition to the factors listed by 24/7 Wall St. as leading to Irvine’s number one ranking as the best-run city in America, I would add Irvine’s long-standing commitment to open spaces, parks, and bicycle paths; our support for the arts, such as the Irvine Barclay Theatre; our support for youth sports and recreation; our great cultural diversity; our services to seniors; our commitment to green technology and protecting our environment; our dynamic and thriving small business community; our dedicated and conscientious city employees and staff; our dedicated parents and community volunteers; our tradition of civic pride and civic engagement; and – of course – all the warm and friendly people who truly make Irvine the best city in America.

Irvine Gets Greener as the Irvine Chamber of Commerce Launches Green Business Certification Program

Green_BuildingThe City of Irvine has long been a leader in 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, industrial and household recycling, composting, water conservation, waste disposal, and energy saving.  Irvine has also demonstrated its commitment to green buildings through the enactment of the Irvine Build Green Program, which encourages builders to create environmentally sensitive, healthier developments for its residents, businesses, and visitors.

Chamber.green.02In addition, Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, under the jurisdiction of the Community Services Commission, advises the City Council on matters related to climate protection, energy, recycling, waste management, sustainability, transportation, and water, and seeks to increase public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, helping the City serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs.

Now Irvine is getting even greener as the Irvine Chamber of Commerce launches its Irvine Green Business Certification Program.  The program is designed to help improve its members’ bottom lines by reducing energy and waste costs, and by providing access to tax credits, rebates and incentives. This certification will also allow the Chamber to encourage Irvine businesses to take steps to “green” their business as a means to protect the environment, save money, and use energy more efficiently.

Sustaining a high quality environment is the goal of the program and the Chamber’s 800+ membership will be invited and encouraged to take part in implementing important actions that will both save them money and improve the environment.

Sponsored by seven founding companies dedicated to green initiatives – Eberle Co., Waste Management of O.C., Ware Disposal Co. Inc., Atria Senior Living, Rancho Santiago Business & Entrepreneurship Center, Goodwill of Orange County, and Enlightened Energy Services – the Chamber has created an innovative program that recognizes small to medium sized businesses that strive to protect, preserve, and sustain our environment.

To be considered for certification and recognition, a company must be an Irvine business demonstrating green business practices in each of the following areas:

  • Waste Reduction & Recycling
  • Green Purchasing
  • Energy Efficiency & Conservation
  • Alternative Transportation
  • Water Conservation & Pollution Prevention
  • Staff Training & Public Awareness

“The Chamber is developing a model,” says Steve Eberle, owner of Eberle Company and Chair of the Chamber’s Green Task Force, “that builds awareness and establishes a benchmark for building owners, managers, and tenants who want efficiencies, cost savings, and bragging rights.”

Eberle also believes that just as the USGBC LEED Program recognizes buildings and its owners for completing a rigorous site, water, energy, atmosphere, materials and indoor environmental air quality and efficiency program, the Chamber program provides building occupiers the opportunity to adopt simple practices that will immediately save the company money, raise consciousness among employees and industry colleagues, and earn recognition for helping to sustain the quality of life in Irvine.

The Chamber’s message to Irvine’s businesses is that participation in the Irvine Green Business Certification Program makes financial as well as environmental sense, will build a more sustainable community, and will have the potential to increase market demand for local green products and services.

In the words of Irvine Chamber’s President and CEO Tallia Hart, the Green Certification Program “is designed to help our Irvine business members easily adopt simple, smart practices that can save you money immediately, improve your company bottom line over time and contribute to preserving and enhancing the quality of our business life now and into the future.”

Irvine will be the first city in Orange County to implement this innovative program.

The Irvine Green Business Certification Program is available at no cost for retail, wholesale, manufacturers, distributors, refineries, and legal and medical offices — in fact, any Irvine company is eligible.

Congratulations to the Irvine Chamber of Commerce for creating its new Green Business Certification Program, a very welcome addition to Irvine’s tradition of public and private environmental leadership!

The 2013 Solar Decathlon Opens in Irvine!

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Solar Decathlon Teams 2013

As one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, we are used to new houses being built in Irvine.

But these new houses in the Great Park are special.

These are state-of-the-art solar-powered houses – each of them vying for the title of best solar-powered house in the world in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2013 Solar Decathlon.

The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002. The competition has since occurred biennially in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011.

This year, the Solar Decathlon will be held for first time outside of Washington, D.C. – at the Great Park, here in Irvine, California.

From October 3-6 and 10-13, 2013, twenty collegiate teams will be competing – and showing their state-of-the-art solar-powered houses to visitors – at the Great Park, free of charge on eight days over two weekends.  Public hours will be from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM:

  • Thursday, Oct. 3 – Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013.
  • Thursday, Oct. 10 – Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013.

The Solar Decathlon is an award-winning international competition that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production.

The purpose of the Solar Decathlon is to help remove barriers to the adoption of solar energy technologies by:

  • Educating students and the public about the money-saving opportunities and environmental benefits presented by clean-energy products and design solutions;
  • Demonstrating to the public the comfort and affordability of homes that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable-energy systems available today; and
  • Providing participating students with unique training that prepares them to enter the clean-energy workforce.

Solar-Power Competition: 10 Contests

Solar Decathlon, Melissa Fox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, melissafoxblog, melissajoifox

Commissioner Melissa Fox at Solar Decathlon

The Solar Decathlon is a competition.  Like the Olympic decathlon, the Solar Decathlon consists of 10 individual contests. These individual contests are designed to gauge how well the houses perform and how livable and affordable they are. Each individual contest is worth a maximum of 100 points, for a competition total of 1,000 points.

The 10 contests are:

  • Architecture – Teams are required to design and build attractive, high-performance houses that integrate solar and energy-efficiency technology seamlessly into the design. A jury of professional architects evaluates each team’s construction documents and the final constructed house, looking at architectural elements, holistic design, and inspiration.
  • Market Appeal – Teams build their houses for a target market of their choosing. Teams are then asked to demonstrate the potential of their houses to keep costs affordable within that market. A jury of professionals from the homebuilding industry evaluates how well suited each house is for everyday living, determines whether the construction documents would enable a contractor to construct the house as intended, and assesses whether the house offers potential homebuyers within the target market a good value.
  • Engineering – Team houses are evaluated by a jury of professional engineers for functionality, efficiency, innovation, and reliability.
  • Communications – Teams are judged on their success in delivering clear and consistent messages and images that represent the vision, process, and results of each team’s project through web sites, communications plans, and student-led house tours.
  • Affordability – Teams are encouraged to design and build affordable houses that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems, and earn points for building less expensive houses.  For this contest, teams can earn the maximum 100 points for achieving a target construction cost of $250,000 or less. A sliding point scale is applied to houses with estimated construction costs between $250,001 and $600,000. Houses with estimated costs that are more than $600,000 receive zero points.
  • Comfort – Teams are encouraged to design their houses to maintain steady, uniform indoor environmental conditions.  Points are awarded for maintaining narrow temperature and relative humidity ranges inside the houses.
  • Hot Water – Teams need to demonstrate that a solar-powered house can provide all of the energy necessary to heat water for domestic uses. Teams score points in this contest by successfully completing several daily hot water draws.
  • Appliances – Teams need to demonstrate that solar-powered houses can provide power for the appliance use and amenities of the average U.S. home while using less energy. Teams earn points for refrigerating and freezing food, washing and drying laundry, and running the dishwasher.
  • Home Entertainment – Teams earn points for demonstrating that houses powered solely by the sun can deliver more than just basic household functionality and also provide power for electronics, appliances, and other modern conveniences.
  • Energy Balance – Teams earn points for demonstrating that the solar-power can produce all the energy necessary for the daily energy demands of a small household.  Each house is equipped with a utility meter that measures the energy a house produces and consumes over the course of the competition. A team receives points for producing at least as much energy as its house needs.

The Teams: From 13 States and 4 Countries

The teams in this year’s competition (with links to their web pages) are:

Click here for a gallery of the solar-powered houses.

Click here for virtual tours.

XPO: Clean Energy Exposition

The Solar Decathlon is also part of XPO, a clean, renewable, and efficient energy exposition, simultaneously being held at the Great Park.  The XPO features visionary and innovative companies, products, and educational opportunities.  Through fun, interactive exhibits and activities, the XPO provides visitors with information about the broad spectrum of energy efficiency in home design, transportation, consumer products, food production and education. Visitors will experience actionable ways to implement energy efficiency today and into the future, with the goal to leave the XPO with tools and resources to live differently.

XPO features include:

  • The SunShot Innovation Pavilion will feature an educational trade show connecting consumers to clean, renewable, efficient energy companies, products and services and will also showcase the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot program, featuring educational activities and displays from a variety of solar companies.
  • The Powerful Ideas Symposium will feature guest speakers and panelists presenting useful, innovative ideas related to clean, renewable, efficient energy and its connection with the world and our everyday lives.
  • The Powerful Ideas Classroom will feature educational activities and lessons focused on science, engineering, architecture and energy for preschool through high school students.
  • The Competitors Pavilion will showcase the colleges and universities competing in the Solar Decathlon, providing opportunities to learn more about the technology and innovation used in the student teams’ homes. This Pavilion will also feature the U.S. Department of Energy Housing Innovation Awards and the American Institute of Architects Orange County Student Design Committee Awards.
  • The Transportation Zone will feature electric vehicle demonstrations, ride-and-drives and competition.
  • The Arts and Culture Zone will feature artistic gallery exhibitions where guests can explore, discover, and experience how art can be influenced by environment and the environment by art.
  • The Farm + Food Zone will feature exhibits and workshops on the benefits of locally grown food and how to grow nutritious, delicious food and maintain healthy gardens.

What the Solar Decathlon and XPO Could Mean for Irvine

It was an incredible achievement in January 2012 when the Great Park team was awarded a $1 million grant to bring the 2013 Solar Decathlon and the XPO in Irvine – the very first time such an award had been made and first time the Decathlon will be held outside of Washington, D.C.  As then-Great Park Board Chair Beth Krom stated at the time, the Solar Decathlon will “bring worldwide attention and economic development to the Great Park and the region and raise public awareness about the benefits of clean energy and energy conservation.”

Indeed, Irvine – with its well deserved reputation for leadership in urban planning, innovation, conservation and green technology – is really the perfect place for the Solar Decathlon.

More than other 300,000 visitors are expected from across the nation and around the world.

(Public transportation is available through Metrolink and local shuttles).

I am tremendously excited about visiting each house in the Solar Decathlon and seeing what new solar energy technology and cutting edge innovative thinking can achieve.

I am also excited about the potential economic and technological impact that the Solar Decathlon will have for Irvine and Orange County in the future.

Irvine Global Village Festival 2013

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It’s almost here!

This Saturday, September 28, 20013, is the Irvine Global Village Festival!

We are proud of saying that the Irvine is not only among the most diverse cities in the nation, it is also the most fully integrated. In Irvine, there are no ethnic, linguistic, religious, or cultural enclaves: every neighborhood reflects Irvine’s growing and harmonious ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity.

How diverse is Irvine?  A non-English language is spoken in a remarkable 58% of Irvine homes, with more than 70 different languages spoken in residences throughout Irvine.  Nearly 40 % of Irvine’s public school students have a primary language other than English.  Irvine is also home to more than 80 different churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship, serving Irvine’s expanding cultural and religious diversity.

Irvine’s Global Village Festival is truly an expression and a celebration of Irvine’s diversity.

This year marks the 12th anniversary of the Irvine Global Village Festival – Irvine’s largest and most attended community event.  Founded in 1998 by a group of Irvine residents to help promote understanding and build harmony within Irvine’s many diverse cultures, the Global Village Festival is now Irvine’s signature event, featuring more than 100 performances on five stages; international cuisine and food from more than 50 restaurants; an international marketplace filled with unique crafts and textiles; interactive, educational and entertaining cultural displays, demonstrations, and performances; an international village just for kids; and a world religions area, providing an opportunity to explore and interact with many of the numerous faith-based organizations in the Irvine area.

Among the groups whose members have been integral in organizing the Irvine Global Village Festival are the Algerian Cultural Society of Southern California, the Asian American Senior Citizen Service Center, EKTAA Indian Cultural Center, First Drops Interfaith Group, Friends of Outreach (for Irvine seniors), Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh, Humanity United, the Irvine Chinese School, the Irvine Evergreen Chinese Senior Association, the Irvine Iranian Parents Association, the Irvine Multicultural Association, the Irvine Thai Arts & Culture, the Orange County Jewish Community Center, NEDA Iranian Senior Group, Network of Arab American Professionals, Orange County Chinese Artists Association, Orange County Veterans Employment Committee, South Coast Chinese Cultural Association, and TTIYA Foundation.

Among the performers scheduled to appear at the Irvine Global Village Festival are the Ada Bollywood Dance Academy, the American Association For Chinese Culture Promotion, the Ava Persian Dance Studio, Ayres De Los Andes, Ballet De Sally Savedra, Ballet Folklorico Casas Guanajuato, BBoys Anonymous, Benjamin Ordaz, Bit-O-Irish Trio, Bolivia Internacional, Butler Fearon O’Connor School Of Irish Dance, Brian Young & The Blues Station, Caribbean Jems Dance Group, English Joy Stiltwalking Duo, Fraternidad Diablada Bolivia, Galaxy Youth Arts Performing Group, Hawai’i Club At UCI, Hollis Long, Hozan Murat, IKPA (Irvine Korean Parents Association) – Samulnori (traditional Korean percussion), Ilhan Ozulu, International Peace Choir, Irvine Korean Line-Dance Group, Irvine Thai Arts And Culture, It’s Samba Show Time!, JJ & The Habibis, Joy Shannon And The Beauty Marks, Kerry & The Surftones, Kids Imagine Nation, Kuhai Halau ‘O Leilanileikukuiokalani & Aloha Hawai’i Dancers, La Sirena Y Mar De Ashe’, Las Estrellas Ballet Folklorico, Lisa Haley & The Zydekats, Mahoor Ensemble led by Alireza Khademi, Mainstreet German Trio, Maple Youth Ballet, Mei-Ling Lee Chinese Dance Group, Mexikas, Moonsville Collective, Naked Rhythm, Nartthasin Thai Dance Group L.A., Nicholson Pipes And Drums, Nika Imani, O’ahu Hawaiian Band, OC Ikeda Youth Ensemble, Orange County Friendship Choir, Renascence School International, Rising Phoenix Morris, SANAD Academy Group, SCCCA/ICS, Street Beat, Syrtaki International Dance Ensemble, the Cambodian Family Dance Troupe, the Filipino American Community Of Orange County, the Miner 49′-ers, the Jewels That Raq! Belly Dance Group, and the Tuscany Trio.  What an incredible array of world and American music, dance, and performance!

I am looking forward to celebrating the many facets of Irvine’s diversity at the Global Village Festival – and I look forward to seeing you there!

P.S. Here are some important Festival details:

What: Irvine Global Village Festival

When: Saturday, September 28, 2013, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Where: Bill Barber Park, 4 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA

Cost: Admission is FREE! Food tasting tickets are available for purchase at the event. Tickets are $1 each; with tasting prices ranging from 1 to 3 tickets per item. Cash, checks, MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover are accepted at designated ticket booth locations. Prices for sample sized items range from $1 to $3; it is recommended to purchase $10 per person.  Tickets are non-refundable. For your convenience, a Schools First automatic teller machine (ATM) is located at the Irvine Civic Center, adjacent to the Irvine Police Department entrance.

Parking: There is no on-site parking at the event. While parking is not available at the event site, FREE shuttle buses will be in service to transport guests to and from the Festival’s satellite parking locations at Main and Jamboree and Woodbridge Community Park. Shuttles will be running from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Handicapped parking will be available at the San Juan or Civic Center parking lots adjacent to Bill Barber Park. Note: By far the easiest and greenest way to get to the Festival is by pedal power. The City of Irvine has an extensive system of bike trails to get you to the event, and once inside, riders can safely and securely store their bikes at the Festival’s free Bike Valet area, hosted by the Bicycle Club of Irvine and the Orange County Bicycle Coalition.

Pets: Dogs are welcome at the Irvine Global Village Festival! However, owners must be responsible for their pets; dogs must be on leash, interact well in a large crowd and remain in the charge of a person competent to restrain them.

Irvine Tops List of America’s “Thriving Cities”

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The popular news and opinion website The Daily Beast recently set out to discover the cities that most exemplify America’s post-recession progress – America’s Top 20 “Thriving Cities.”

They discovered that Irvine is Number One.

According to the article, they “wanted to find the cities with growing populations, with more job prospects, and a better chance to climb the income ladder. Once we found where people were going, we looked at the environment they would find. These are cities with a thriving housing market and the intellectual capital to innovate and improve. Finally, we considered municipal bond ratings.”

To come with their list, they “looked at the 100 largest cities in the U.S. and compared them in categories of population growth (20 percent), employment and earnings (30 percent), market strength (20 percent), infrastructure (15 percent), and intellectual capital (15 percent) and weighted them accordingly. We used data from the U.S. Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Equality of Opportunity Project, Moody’s Credit Services, Zillow, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.”

The Top 20 “Thriving Cities” are:

1. Irvine, California
2. San Jose, California
3. Fremont, California
4. Austin, Texas
5. San Francisco, California
6. Seattle, Washington
7. Plano, Texas
8. Gilbert, Texas
9. Orlando, Florida
10. San Diego, California
11. Washington, D.C.
12. Chandler, Arizona
13. Denver, Colorado
14. Madison, Wisconsin
15. Scottsdale, Arizona
16. Boston, Massachusetts
17. Irving, Texas
18. Raleigh, North Carolina
19. Minneapolis, Minnesota
20. Lincoln, Nebraska

The article points out that while some economists and journalists – and, of course, politicians — have been acting like Chicken Littles telling us that the economic sky is falling, the evidence shows that “local economies are actually improving. In fact, it’s perhaps more illustrative of the state of the nation to find places that are thriving post-recession.”  This is certainly true in Irvine, where we have seen our property values increase and our population surge, our unemployment decline, and city revenues far exceed budget estimates.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “thrive” as “grow or develop well or vigorously.”

Yes, Irvine is thriving — but is it Irvine developing too fast?  Has growth exceeded planning?  Is Irvine now in danger of too much growth, too fast, creating overcrowded schools, traffic congestion, and presenting a danger to our quality of life?

Moving forward, we can do even better for our schools, our parks, our neighborhoods, our seniors, and our local businesses.