Why I Voted “No” on a Zoning Change to Permit 1,000 More Million Dollar Single Family Houses in Irvine. Tell the Irvine City Council What You Think!

Recently, I voted “No” on continuing the second reading of a re-zoning proposal that would allow the addition of 1,000 single family million dollar houses to be built by the Irvine Company in the area of Portola Springs/Orchard Hills in Irvine.

This vote could have been the end of the issue, since on the first reading both Mayor Christina Shea and Councilmember Mike Carroll voted against the re-zoning.

However, Councilmember Mike Carroll now voted with the supporters of adding 1,000 new homes (Councilmembers Anthony Kuo and Farrah N. Khan) to continue the item to January 2020.

Carroll, Kuo and Khan won the vote to continue, 3-2. This means that these additional 1,000 million dollar single family houses will again come before the Council.

As a longtime advocate for local communities to permit more housing to alleviate our statewide affordable housing crisis, I was initially disposed to vote in favor of this re-zoning proposal.

But on further reflection, it became apparent to me that this proposed housing development would be built without the necessary infrastructure, including new schools and a local retail center, which are needed and have long been promised to residents.

I am a strong advocate for action on the local and state level addressing the housing crisis, but not at the cost of overcrowded schools and the abandonment of Irvine’s renowned village model and our Master Plan balancing housing with schools, retail centers, and open space.

In particular, I am a strong supporter of Irvine’s village concept, which is intended to reduce sprawl and traffic congestion, and create walkable neighborhoods and a sense of community, by locating housing, at several different levels of purchase price or rental cost, around both local schools and a local retail center.  This village model — an essential part of Irvine’s Master Plan long promoted by the Irvine Company — has been enormously successful.  As the Irvine Chamber of Commerce has boasted, Irvine is a “City of Villages.”

You can see a video promoting the Irvine Master Plan, with specific reference to the Irvine village model as an integral part of the Master Plan, here:

For this reason, I was very concerned — shocked, actually — when a representative of the Irvine Company responded to my questioning by stating that the Irvine Company had no plans to build a retail center near these new homes and were no longer committed to the village model.

In other words, I came to see that voting in favor of this zoning change is tantamount to voting for Irvine to no longer be a “City of Villages.”

On the issue of whether these proposed 1,000 million dollar homes would help alleviate the affordable housing crisis, here are the facts:

This week’s OC Register reports on an analysis by the Southern California News Group that graded every jurisdiction in California on its progress on state-mandated housing goals (the Regional Housing Needs Assessment or RHNA).

According to the article, Irvine is supposed to permit 12,149 homes between 2013 and 2021. Housing units are mandated in each of four categories: (1) very low income, (2) low income, (3) moderate income, and (4) above moderate income.

The number show that Irvine has done exceptionally well in providing housing in the moderate and (especially) above moderate income categories, but is not doing nearly as well in the low income and very low income categories, where it is seriously off track in meetings its RHNA goals.

Very Low Income Units: Irvine has permitted 907 very low income units, needs 1,761 to be on track, 2,817 for final goal.  In sum, very low income units are not on track, and are far from the final goal.

Low Income Units: Irvine has permitted 3 units, needs 271 to be on track, 2,034 for final goal. In sum, low income units are not on track, and are far from final goal.

Moderate Income Units: Irvine has permitted 12,973 units, needs 1,399 to be on track, 2,239 for final goal. In sum, moderate income units are more than on track, and are already in excess of the final goal.

Above Moderate Income Units: Irvine has permitted 12,137 units, needs 3,162 to be on track, 5,059 for final goal. In sum, above moderate income units are far more than on track, and are already far in excess of the final goal.

These numbers demonstrate what everyone knows: Irvine’s housing is overwhelmingly skewed toward the “Above Moderate Income” market.

The 1,000 housing units that would be added to Portola Springs/Orchid Hills under the re-zoning proposed by the Irvine Company are single family homes costing above $1,000,000.  These 1,000 “Above Moderate Income” units would not help Irvine meet its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals.

On the contrary, they would exacerbate Irvine’s school over-crowding and traffic congestion problems while doing little or nothing to ease our affordable housing crisis.

That’s why I voted No.

It is my belief that only saying No to these projects that provide housing only for the well-to-do, will we encourage developers to build more environmentally responsible and affordable housing projects.

I hope Irvine residents will make their views on this proposal for an additional 1,000 million dollar single family houses clear to all members of the Council between now and then.

Contact information for all members of the Irvine City Council can be found here.

Why are Developers So Afraid of Lauren Johnson-Norris?

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

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

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

No doubt more dark-money attacks will follow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are afraid of Lauren’s independence and integrity.

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

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

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

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

RELATED:

Vote for Lauren Johnson-Norris for Irvine City Council!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preserving Irvine’s Neighborhoods and Open Space: Why I’ll Vote to Protect Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course

At tonight’s Irvine City Council meeting, I intend to vote to protect the Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course from development.

Councilmember Melissa Fox celebrates Irvine’s open space with Board of Equalization Member and candidate for California Treasurer Fiona Ma

Here’s why:

One of the best, and most distinctive, things about 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.

Since its incorporation in 1971, Irvine has been committed to balancing the built and the natural environment.  As our incredible master-planned community has grown, we have remained attentive to the need to preserve and enhance our natural open spaces, creating a network of parks, trails, and wildlands that residents and visitors enjoy today and will continue to enjoy for generations to come.

Neighborhoods are also a crucial aspect of life in Irvine.

When I ran for City Council, I promised that I would protect the beauty and character of our neighborhoods in all of Irvine.

I also promised to fight runaway development; in  fact, as an Irvine City Councilmember, I have not voted for a single new entitlement nor have I approved any new construction.

Moving forward, I intend to see that Irvine reaffirms its commitment to protecting open space, preserving neighborhoods, and following the wisdom of the General Plan.

I like what my appointee to the Irvine Planning Commission, Dustin Nirschl, has said: “Villages are not just measurements, it’s a feeling.”

Neighborhoods matter.

Open space matters.

And neighbors working together to preserve their neighborhood and their open space matters most of all.

For these reasons, I intend to vote to prevent any development on the Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course by keeping it as a permanent, open space, recreational amenity to serve all Irvine residents — now and in the future.  

Update:  The Irvine City Council voted 5-0 on August 28, 2016, to affirm the Master Plan and maintain the zoning that protects the Rancho San Joaquin Golf course open space and preserves the character of the Rancho San Joaquin neighborhood. Thank you to the residents who joined together in this community-based and community-led effort!

Update: The folks at Protect Rancho Joaquin Golf Course have posted my comments and a video of my remarks at the August 28, 2018, Irvine City Council meeting.

My comments were: “I do want to thank everyone who’s come out today [to the City Council meeting]…I am so grateful that you’re here today to take the time out of your lives to protect your neighborhood, and our community.  It is a core principal of Irvine that we protect our open space, and we’re here today to do that.  And I wanted to thank my colleagues for bringing forth this issue — and particularly the right time with the General Plan update — that there could be no question now that the devotion of our City is to the protection of open space.  And so, I thank you for that.”

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happily, the residents’ concerns were heard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join Me at the City Council Meeting on August 28 to Hear City of Irvine Staff Present Results of the Second Public Outreach Survey on the General Plan Update

Please join me to hear City of Irvine staff present results of the Second Public Outreach Survey on the General Plan Update.

The City of Irvine staff presents the results of the second public outreach survey to the City Council and the public at the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018.

Please note, this meeting was rescheduled from a previous date.

The City Council meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the Conference and Training Center at Irvine City Hall located at 1 Civic Center Plaza (at Harvard Avenue and Alton Parkway).

What is the General Plan Update?

The City of Irvine is updating its General Plan, a state-required document representing the long-range vision of the City.

The purpose of the update is to build upon longstanding objectives that define Irvine and for the City Council to consider changes as needed. The update will serve as the City’s policy blueprint for the future. It will update community goals and public policy direction to ensure Irvine’s high quality of life is preserved and enhanced as the City builds out and matures.

The City conducted extensive public outreach to establish the preliminary General Plan Planning Framework and to identify major goals and topics for consideration in the update. City staff presented the results of the second  outreach survey and Planning Framework developed for the General Plan Comprehensive Update project to City Commissions throughout Spring 2018.

No changes to existing land uses or allowable development intensities are proposed.

This update will also incorporate changes required by state law.

Visit irvine2035.org for more information regarding the General Plan Update project.

You can find more information about Irvine City Council meetings HERE.

 

Join Me at the Woodbridge Village Center Summer Party!

Join me on Saturday, July 28, 2018, for the Woodbridge Village Center Summer Party!

The Woodbridge Village Center is having a Summer Party and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony celebrating the beautifully revitalized Center. There will be loads of activities and entertainment — including electric bike tours of the North and South Lakes, games, music, dancing, face painting, prizes and giveaways!

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox with Irvine Pedego Electric Bicycle owner Bob Bibee

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

In 2014, Woodbridge residents were gravely concerned that the Village Center would be demolished, and that in its place new development would add unwanted housing and traffic congestion to Woodbridge and forever change the character of their beautiful community.  In response, a group of residents calling themselves Friends of Woodbridge Village Center formed to fight for their neighborhood.

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

Happily, the residents’ concerns were heard.

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

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

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

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

In addition, Woodbridge’s beloved frog statues “Woody” and “Bridget,” which generations of kids have climbed, received fresh paint. They are joined by a new frog statue — and the winner of an online contest to name it will be revealed during the party!

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

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

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

See you there!