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.

 

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.

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.

 

Happy Earth Day 2019!

Today, Monday, April 22, is Earth Day.

Nearly 50 years ago, on April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the US and around the world, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

The global ecological awareness was growing, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly.  In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

Earth Day is now a global event each year, and more than 1 billion people in 193 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.

The City of Irvine has been a leader in earth-friendly environmental policies, green technology, and environmental awareness.  Irvine’s environmental programs have been on the leading edge of advances in green building and construction, environmental education, recycling, water conservation, waste disposal, and energy-saving.

Irvine’s San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Geoff Fox.

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

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

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

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

One of the best — and most distinctive — qualities of Irvine is our commitment to preserving open space. The City of Irvine has more than 16,000 acres of permanently preserved parkland and open space – remarkable for a city of our size.

“The Sinks” — Irvine’s own Grand Canyon.

In 1974, early in our city’s history, voters approved multi-million dollar measures to fund public parks and recreational facilities, and for the acquisition and development of bicycle trail and hiking trail improvements.

In 1989, the City negotiated an historic agreement with the Irvine Company that set aside more than 9,500 acres as permanent open space marshlands, bike trails, parks, nature conservancies and agricultural areas, protecting fully one-third of the city from development.

In addition, in 2006, nearly 37,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch were selected as a National Natural Landmark, a designation which reflects the outstanding condition, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education of the natural resources on the land.

As our Irvine Open Space Preserve website explains, “Since its incorporation in 1971, Irvine has had a strong desire to balance the built and natural environment. As this incredible master-planned community has grown, each phase of development has been accompanied by the preservation and enhancement of natural open spaces, creating the network of parks, trails, and wildlands that residents and visitors may enjoy today and for generations to come.”

Bommer Canyon. Photo by Sanjay B. Dalal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote for Lauren Johnson-Norris for Irvine City Council!

Please join me in voting for Lauren Johnson-Norris for Irvine City Council

I’m voting for Lauren because she will fight along side me for more child careless traffic, and for bringing great improvements like Wild Rivers, museums, and botanical gardens to the Great Park.

Lauren is also strongly committed to keeping Irvine America’s Safest City — that’s why Lauren is the only Irvine City Council candidate endorsed by both the Irvine Police Association and Orange County Firefighters!

She is a respected lawyer, the mother of twin five-year-old girls, the wife of a veteran, and has served our community with dedication for nearly two years as a Community Services Commissioner, fighting for better parks making sure that our children and families experience the highest quality recreation.

Lauren has earned bipartisan support from the most trusted voices in our community. 

Now she needs your vote!

Irvine needs Lauren Johnson Norris — a smart, strong and independent council member fighting for our values and our future!

Find your polling place and see a sample ballot here.

You can learn more about Lauren here.

Vote for Lauren Johnson-Norris for Irvine City Council!

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!

The Veterans Cemetery: What Should Irvine Do Now?

Current view of the original (ARDA) site for a veterans cemetery.

The voters in Irvine recently rejected Measure B. The issues now are what, in rejecting Measure B, did the voters really decide, and what should the Irvine City Council do in response to the voters’ decision.

Some argue that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters said that the proposed veterans cemetery should be located at the ARDA site that was originally selected by the City Council in July 2014, and that the City Council should begin immediately to build a veterans cemetery at that location.

But the actual language of Measure B said nothing about the original ARDA site, except that the development previously zoned for the strawberry fields site would be moved there.

Looking at the specific language of Measure B, what the voters said No to was “allowing the previously planned development for the Bake Parkway Site to be relocated to the intersection of Pusan and Irvine Blvd and allowing the development of a veterans cemetery near the intersection of I-5 and Bake Parkway.”

Thus, by its express language, the no vote on Measure B rejects that zoning decision, but does not authorize the city to place a veterans cemetery on the ARDA site.

Sign used by Measure B opponents warning of thousands more cars on Irvine roads if Measure B passed.

In addition, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site in 2014 was based on the belief that the City would provide the land for the veterans cemetery, but the costs of construction and subsequent maintenance of the cemetery would be wholly paid by state and federal government.

Crucially, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site also came several years before we learned that construction of the veterans cemetery at the ARDA site would cost nearly $80 million, mostly due to the need for decontamination of the soil and the decontamination and removal of numerous existing structures, and that in addition to providing the land, the City would have to bear a significant portion of these construction costs.

In particular, Measure B said nothing at all about approving the spending of tens of millions of dollars that are now earmarked for creating the features of the Great Park that residents have said they want – such as museums, botanical gardens, a new Wild Rivers Water Park, and a permanent amphitheatre for live music – and, instead, using that money for a veterans cemetery.

My belief is that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters did not want a zoning change that, as the No on B campaign said, would have allowed “massive development projects” at the ARDA site, add “812,000 square feet of development,” and “bring 10,000 more cars and trucks to Irvine streets and neighborhoods every day.”

For me, the lesson of Measure B is that the voters did not want to risk the possibility that the land exchange would lead to more development and more traffic congestion, as well as the voters believing that it was too favorable a deal for the developer.

In other words, I see the rejection of Measure B as a vote against more development and traffic congestion, and not a vote in favor of spending $40 – $80 million dollars on a veterans cemetery rather than building other popular features of the Great Park.

In a survey of Irvine voters I conducted from my blog and through email, the great majority said that they voted against Measure B because they did not want more development and traffic.

Even more significantly, 64% said that Irvine should not spend $40 to $80 million dollars for a veterans cemetery, compared to only 13.5% in favor.

Current view of the original (ARDA) site for a veterans cemetery.

In a new and promising twist to the veterans cemetery saga, the Orange County Board of Supervisors has now agreed to have its staff study and advise whether county-owned open space outside Irvine might be a feasible location for an Orange County veterans cemetery. The approximately 234-acre site is in the city of Anaheim, near the 91 and 241, adjacent to Gypsum Canyon.

This site would provide a larger veterans cemetery for Orange County veterans, at no cost to Irvine, and be free from the divisive politics that has characterized the veterans cemetery debate in Irvine.

In fact, many of the veterans who initiated the fight for a veterans cemetery now favor this site, because, as Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran Nick Berardino has said, it appears that “veterans are removed from the political equation, and are now heading in a practical, reasonable direction to give all the brave men and women a final resting place.”

If the Irvine City Council approves Jeff Lalloway’s motion to spend $40 to $80 million dollars to clean up the original site for a cemetery, it will deplete the Great Park budget for at least a decade.

As the Irvine City News noted, “It sounds noble when [Jeff] Lalloway, [Larry] Agran and their followers hold up the service of our veterans. But when you understand that the veterans still can’t get what they were promised without taking away the gardens, the museums, the music, the culture and the future of the Great Park, it puts Lalloway’s political power move in perspective.”

I have been a strong and consistent supporter of a veterans cemetery in Irvine.  But I have also been a strong supporter of fulfilling the promises that the City made to residents when it created the Great Park, and I am not in favor of giving up on those promises.

I believe the Great Park should have great gardens and a great museum, as well as other features for the enjoyment of all residents, and I do not believe that the City can afford to spend $40 to $80 million on a cemetery and continue with these other projects.

What do you think?  

Do you favor spending $40 to $80 million dollars to clean up the original site for a cemetery or should that money go to create other features for the Great Park?

The City Council will decide on Tues, July whether to approve Lalloway’s motion or whether some other course is more sensible and also responsive to the will of the voters and the needs of the community.

As always, the public is invited to attend and speak on these issues at the City Council meeting.

I also urge interested residents to contact the Mayor and the City Council by email and tell us in writing what you think we ought to do.

Here is how to contact the Mayor and the City Council:

Irvine City Council
949-724-6233 or irvinecitycouncil@cityofirvine.org

Mayor Wagner: donaldwagner@cityofirvine.org
Mayor Pro Tem Christina Shea: christinashea@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Jeff Lalloway: jeffreylalloway@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Lynn Schott: lynnschott@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Melissa Fox: melissafox@cityofirvine.org

Thank you.

Why Did Measure B Lose? What Should Irvine Do Now? Take the Surveys!

[Take the surveys below at the end of this blog post.]

The voters in Irvine recently rejected Measure B.

The issue now is what, in rejecting Measure B, did the voters really decide.

Sign used by opponents of Measure B, warning that passage of Measure B would mean thousands more cars on every road in Irvine.

Some argue that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters said that the proposed veterans cemetery should be located at the ARDA site that was originally selected by the City Council in July 2014.

But the actual language of Measure B said nothing about the original ARDA site, except that the development previously zoned for the strawberry fields site would be moved there.

Looking at the specific language of Measure B, what the voters said No to was “allowing the previously planned development for the Bake Parkway Site to be relocated to the intersection of Pusan and Irvine Blvd and allowing the development of a veterans cemetery near the intersection of I-5 and Bake Parkway.”

Thus, by its express language, the no vote on Measure B rejects that zoning decision, but does not authorize the city to place a veterans cemetery on the ARDA site.

Map used by opponents of Measure B, warning that passage of Measure B would lead to massive development and 10,000 more car and truck trips every day.

In addition, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site in 2014 was based on the belief that the City would provide the land for the veterans cemetery, but the costs of construction and subsequent maintenance of the cemetery would be wholly paid by state and federal government.

Crucially, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site also came several years before we learned that construction of the veterans cemetery at the ARDA site would cost nearly $80 million, mostly due to the need for decontamination of the soil and the decontamination and removal of numerous existing structures, and that in addition to providing the land, the City would have to bear a significant portion of these construction costs.

In particular, Measure B said nothing at all about approving the spending of tens of millions of dollars that are now earmarked for creating the features of the Great Park that residents have said they want – such as museums, botanical gardens, a new Wild Rivers Water Park, and a permanent amphitheatre for live music – and, instead, using that money for a veterans cemetery.

My belief is that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters did not want a zoning change that, as the No on B campaign said, would have allowed “massive development projects” at the ARDA site, add “812,000 square feet of development,” and “bring 10,000 more cars and trucks to Irvine streets and neighborhoods every day.”

For me, the lesson of Measure B is that the voters did not want to risk the possibility that the land exchange would lead to more development and more traffic congestion, as well as the voters believing that it was too favorable a deal for the developer.

In other words, I see the rejection of Measure B as a vote against more development and traffic congestion, and not a vote in favor of spending tens of millions of dollars on a veterans cemetery rather than building other popular features of the Great Park

I would like to know what you believe the rejection of Measure B means, especially if you were among the majority in Irvine who voted against it.

Please take the surveys below:

 

The City Council must now decide whether, and how, to proceed with a veterans cemetery.  What do you want the City Council to do:

 

Please share these surveys with your Irvine friends and neighbors. I would like as much resident input as possible.

Thanks!

Melissa

UPDATE:

The surveys are now closed.

While the surveys are not scientific, I believe their results are straight-forward and present an accurate view of why Measure B failed.

The survey results show that the main reason people voted No on Measure B was opposition to development and traffic, rather than a desire to return the veterans cemetery to its original site.

These results should not be unexpected since the No on Measure B campaign focused almost exclusively on the claim that Measure B would lead to more development and traffic (“B = Thousands MORE Cars on THIS Road!”).

Further underscoring the conclusion that Measure B failed because of perceptions about development and traffic rather than preference for the original site, the survey results show that few residents are in favor of spending the $40 – $80 million required to build the veterans cemetery on the original site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lesson of Measures B and D: No More Developer Giveaways!

The clear message sent by voters with the defeat of Measures B and D is that developers must not be allowed to continue runaway development without regard to our traffic, schools, and quality of life, and that Irvine residents must have a say in all future development decisions.

I agree.

I supported Measure B because I believed it would provide veterans with the best chance for a dignified military cemetery; that it would save Irvine taxpayers millions of dollars; and that it would reduce traffic congestion by restricting future development at the strawberry fields.

The voters, however, did not want to risk even the possibility that it would lead to more development and more traffic congestion.

In fact, Irvine residents are rightly concerned that runaway development and traffic congestion will forever change the character of our beautiful city – without their input or consent.  They are rightly distrustful of developers whose bottom line is their profit, not our quality of life.  I am distrustful as well, and I share the voters’ skepticism about giant developers and their motives. Developers spent millions of dollars trying to defeat me in the last election, and no doubt will do so again.

Here’s why:

As an Irvine City Councilmember, I have not voted for a single new entitlement or approved any new construction. The development that residents are now seeing all over town – from the Great Park neighborhoods to Quail Hill to Tomato Springs – was approved by prior City Councilmembers, and not by me. I have not approved any of it, and I was one of only two Irvine Councilmembers who voted against the Irvine Company’s proposed 1,960-unit apartment complex at the old Traveland USA site at the 5 Freeway and Sand Canyon. I opposed that plan because of its negative impact on traffic and schools, and I will not approve any future development without prior careful determination and consideration of its impact on our schools, traffic, and open space.

As an Irvine City Councilmember, I also voted against Measure D. I opposed Measure D because I believe that Irvine residents must have a strong voice in determining how our city grows.

Moving forward, I reaffirm my pledge to end runaway development. Irvine must return to its commitment to the wisdom of the Master Plan.  The current piecemeal approach to development favored by developers and some members of the City Council must end. Irvine needs to return to the principles of careful planning and measured, smart growth that not very long ago made Irvine the best place in America to live, work, and raise a family. There must be no more developer giveaways.  

Irvine needs an effective traffic reduction plan, and not just a congestion management plan. Irvine had long been recognized as a national leader in city planning and innovation. Unfortunately, Irvine has failed to properly plan for the tremendous increase in traffic caused by the city’s explosive recent growth. As a result, Irvine residents have been forced to contend with unprecedented traffic congestion and less safe streets and roads.  Our City Council now needs to do more than try to manage the traffic congestion that is already out of control. We need to say clearly that the current level of traffic congestion is completely unacceptable and must be reduced.

Irvine needs more police officers.  As Irvine has grown, the need for more police officers has become critical, not just for preventing crime, but also for enforcing our traffic laws, which are essential to keeping our children safe as they play and go to school in our neighborhoods. I will work to add more police officers to ensure that our residents are as safe in Irvine now and in the future as they were before Irvine began to grow.

Irvine needs more childcare. We know that our great schools, beautiful parks, and safe environment attract many families with young children.  We also know that a critical part of any thriving community is safe, professional, reliable, and affordable preschool and childcare. Developers must be held accountable for including childcare as part of an overall city development plan, just as they are required to build schools. Irvine must become truly family friendly. No more waiting lists!

Let’s build the veterans cemetery.  I have been fighting for a veterans cemetery at the former El Toro Marine Base since 2014 and will continue to do so. Our veterans deserve a veterans cemetery close to their families and loved ones. Now that Measure B has been defeated, we need to find a site that honors our veterans and is approved by Irvine residents.  I am firmly committed to that task.

Let’s finish building the Great Park. For far too long, the residents of Irvine were given nothing but empty promises about building our Great Park on the grounds of the old El Toro Marine Base.  As Vice Chair of the Great Park, I am proud that we have finally succeeded in creating a Great Park that residents can enjoy, with terrific sports fields, a magnificent new championship soccer stadium, and the best community ice-skating facility in the West already under construction — but there is still much more to do.  Our residents have told us that they want a new Wild Rivers water park, and we need to ensure that happens.  We also need to fulfill our promise to build a city-owned amphitheatre on the Great Park’s cultural terrace, so that a developer’s decision can not deprive us of live music again. I will also insist that we follow the recommendations of residents and build world-class botanical gardens, museums, and a lake to make Irvine the home of a truly Great Park. Getting that job done is one of my main priorities.

I love Irvine and will continue to work to ensure that Irvine remains among the safest and most beautiful cities in the nation.  As your Irvine City Councilmember, I will fight to ensure that the public interest – in preventing over-development, over-crowed schools, and traffic congestion, and in preserving the character of our communities – comes before the private interests of developers, no matter how big and powerful those developers may be.

Melissa

Bicycling in Irvine — Great Trail System, But Where to Lock-Up?

By  Ken Montgomery

Chair, Irvine Transportation Commission

Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox appointed me to the City’s new Irvine Transportation Commission in May of 2017.  One of the missions of the Transportation Commission is to the advise the Planning Commission and the City Council on the traffic impacts of new development applications.

Another task for the Commission is to work with City staff on ways to improve traffic flow in Irvine.

Ken Montgomery Chair, irvine Transportation Commission

One way to reduce single occupant vehicle trips in Irvine is to increase the amount of people who will use a bicycle for their short trips around town when it is practical.

Irvine has the best bicycle trail system of anywhere in Orange County — it’s not even close.

Most of Irvine’s streets have bicycle lanes. Most of Irvine’s traffic signals have video detection cameras mounted on the mast arms. These cameras detect when there is a bicycle waiting at the red light. You don’t even have to push the bicycle push button anymore if you don’t want to. In Irvine you can legally ride on sidewalks, but you must yield to pedestrians. Thus, on the few streets where there are no bike lanes, you can ride on the sidewalks legally.

I ride all over Irvine everyday on my electric bike and I can get to every place in Irvine conveniently.

I know there are a few streets that have no bike lanes with narrow sidewalks like MacArthur near the airport, but for the most part I can ride a bike to any shopping center, professional office building, or recreational center or park in town.

The problem comes when you try to lock up your bike at one of these destinations!

Many private properties with big parking lots for cars have no bike racks. I frequently have to lock up to a handicap parking sign pole or a trash can with openings big enough for my cable bike lock.  Sometimes a destination will have a bike rack somewhere out of view, where no one can see the bike thief with the bolt cutters. This lack of bicycle parking often defeats the purpose of riding a bike if you can’t secure it properly.

The City requires new developments to have bike racks, but these racks often disappear after a few years or are relocated to an out of the way location. I feel that if I ride a bike, I should be able to lock up close to the building’s entry, not 500’ away.

The City is making efforts to get businesses to voluntarily provide bike racks near their building entries, but with over 25,000 businesses in Irvine, progress will be slow.  I encourage bike riders to let the business that you visit on your bike know that well placed bike racks is the “right thing to do” on many levels (customer service, environment, health).

The Transportation Commission meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month in the City Council Chambers at 5:30 pm.  I strongly encourage Irvine residents to bring any traffic concerns, ideas or comments to the Commission meeting.  You will be welcomed to speak at the beginning of the meeting.  The full City traffic engineering staff attends these meetings and they will hear your ideas and can respond to your questions.  Check here for Transportation Commission agendas.  The public is welcome to speak on all agenda items as well as non agenda related comments.

If you can’t wait for the next meeting, feel free to email me your questions, comments and ideas about transportation and traffic in Irvine.  I will forward your comments to the appropriate City staff member.

Let’s work together to improve Irvine’s traffic and make Irvine an even better place to ride our bikes!

Thank you for the privilege of serving the residents of Irvine.

Ken Montgomery – Chair, Irvine Transportation Commission
kemontgomery@cityofirvine.org

City Councilmember Melissa Fox Appoints Traffic Expert Kenneth Montgomery to Irvine’s New Traffic Commission

I am pleased to announce that I have selected Kenneth Montgomery as my appointee to Irvine’s new Traffic Commission.

Kenneth Montgomery is a retired Civil Engineer with more than 40 years of experience in managing public works and traffic and transportation issues as Director of Public Works for 3 Southern California Cities: Norwalk, Redondo Beach, and Laguna Niguel.  Ken retired from the City of Laguna Niguel in 2009 after 18 years as that City’s first Director of Public Works/City Engineer.  He has been closely following transportation issues in Irvine for decades.

I am delighted that Ken Montgomery will be contributing his expertise and insights to fixing Irvine’s traffic problems and building a transportation system that will serve Irvine in the 21st Century.

When I ran for election to the Irvine City Council, I promised to reduce Irvine’s traffic congestion both in the long and short term, while providing more transportation choices for Irvine’s residents and commuters, and to reduce travel time, reduce noise, improve safety, improve resident access to employment and entertainment centers, improve parking and reduce emissions. Ken Montgomery is also deeply committed to these goals – and he has the expertise, experience, and vision necessary to achieve them.

As Laguna Niguel’s Director of Public Works/City Engineer, Ken managed transportation and traffic issues for this new and developing city, including hiring the traffic engineering staff and managing their Transportation Commission.  He has also worked with Caltrans for years on redesigning freeway interchanges to minimize impacts on city streets.  Ken is an expert on traffic control devices such as stops signs, new traffic signals, street striping changes and school zone traffic management, and has designed and implemented dozens of major and minor street improvement projects to improve traffic safety, capacity and traffic flow.

Ken is a strong advocate for increased transportation choices as a means of traffic reduction.  He was instrumental in building train stations in each of the cities he has served.  He was personally responsible for the Metrolink station that serves Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo, and has worked closely with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) on the bus lines and bus stops and shelters that serve Laguna Niguel.

He is also an avid bicyclist, who knows and champions the Irvine bike trail system.  Like Councilmember Fox, he is an advocate for making bicycle commuting safer and more practical.

Ken holds a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He and his wife Judy have resided in Irvine for 37 years and have lived in the same Woodbridge home since 1980.

Ken is an active member of Irvine Rotary Club and serves on its board.  He is also an Irvine CERT member, has served on the Arborlake Home Owners Association Board of Directors, and was a volunteer for the two Solar Decathlons held in Irvine’s Great Park.

“I’m excited to seriously tackle Irvine’s traffic and transportation issues, “Montgomery said. “I look forward to working with Councilmember Melissa Fox, my fellow traffic commissioners, city staff, and all our community stakeholders in getting Irvine moving again.”

The first meeting of the Irvine Traffic Commission is scheduled for Tues., May 16, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. at the City Council chambers.  Like all Irvine commission meetings, it is open to the public.

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

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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.

Let’s Get Irvine Moving Again!

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Just about everyone in Irvine agrees that our recent explosive residential growth has led to unprecedented traffic congestion.

mail-01And every candidate for Irvine City Council now promises to control over-development and keep our traffic moving.

But no other candidate has offered a practical, concrete plan to accomplish this goal.

The key elements of my traffic plan are:

– Provide immediate relief for Irvine commuters by speeding up road and street repairs and prioritizing improvement projects throughout the city.

– Ensure Irvine residents and commuters have access to multiple safe and efficient transportation choices, including automobiles, bicycling, walking, iShuttle, ride-sharing, streetcar, and student transportation to Irvine’s schools.

– Restore Irvine’s village planning model requiring that housing developments include grocery stores, shopping, entertainment and childcare within one mile.

– Aggressively push for Irvine’s fair share of transportation funds from local, state, and ederal agencies — make sure that Irvine gets our fair share of Measure M, Measure S and Measure T funds for transportation to start — and seek out grants for fuel efficient and clean transportation projects.

These are concrete and practical steps that can be taken right now to help get our traffic and transportation problems under control, unsnarl our roads and provide Irvine residents with more transportation choices.

We must do something effective now about Irvine’s traffic, not just appoint a bureaucratic traffic commission to kick the can down the road.

The Fox Traffic Plan will reduce travel time, reduce noise, improve access to employment and entertainment centers, improve parking and reduce emissions, and make our streets safer for children, bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Contact me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com

Visit my campaign website at votemelissafox.com.

Let’s get Irvine moving again!

 

 

 

 

Listen to Melissa Fox’s Interview on KUCI’s ‘Ask a Leader’

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“I’m going to be bringing my 25 years of advocasy to bear for the residents of Irvine in negotiating with our partners in development, our major developers, FivePoint Communities and the Irvine Company.” — Melissa Fox, on KUCI’s “Ask a Leader.”

Here is the interview I did on October 4 with Claudia Shambaugh on the program “Ask a Leader” on KUCI-FM about my campaign for Irvine City Council and the future of the City of Irvine.

We discussed development and over-development, my plan to fix Irvine’s traffic congestion and make our streets safer, protecting Irvine’s villages and local businesses, improving our bikeways and the iShuttle, environmental issues, and more.

My interview begins at 1:30 and ends at 22:50.

I hope you’ll listen and let me know what you think!

 

Council Member Lynn Schott Endorses Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

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I’m thrilled to share this press release with you:

IRVINE COUNCIL MEMBER LYNN SCHOTT ENDORSES MELISSA FOX FOR IRVINE CITY COUNCIL

IRVINE, CA   Irvine Community Services Commissioner and City Council candidate Melissa Fox today announced an endorsement from Irvine Councilwoman Lynn Schott. This is a major endorsement from a sitting Council Member and gives the Fox campaign huge momentum going into the final month of the campaign.

“Melissa Fox is committed to keeping Irvine a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Councilwoman Schott said. “As a Community Services Commissioner, Melissa has proven to be fiscally responsible and concerned about protecting our tax dollars and quality of life in Irvine. I am proud to endorse Melissa Fox’s campaign for City Council and I hope you will join me in voting for her on November 8th.”

Council Member Lynn Schott was the top vote-getter in the 2014 city council elections and is a 29-year resident of Irvine. She has long been a champion of fiscal responsibility in the city and has a record of service to her community, as well as proven leadership on policy issues important to Irvine residents.

“Council Member Lynn Schott’s endorsement gives me great hope for the future of Irvine, a future of working together in the best interests of the community.” Fox said in response.  “I look forward to working closely with her on fixing Irvine’s traffic congestion and creating real transportation solutions for Irvine.”

In addition to Lynn Scott’s endorsement, Melissa is also the only candidate for Irvine City Council who has been endorsed by both the Democratic Party and retiring Democratic City Council Member and former Mayor Beth Krom, as well as by the Orange County Firefighters Association, the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.

Melissa Fox is an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, attorney, and small business owner in Irvine. To learn more about her campaign visit www.votemelissafox.com.

Related: Melissa Fox Announces Traffic Reduction and Transportation Choice Plan for Irvine

Melissa Fox Announces Traffic Reduction and Transportation Plan for Irvine

melissa-irvinemap

Irvine has long been recognized as a national leader in city planning and innovation.

Unfortunately, Irvine has failed to properly plan for the tremendous increase in traffic caused by the city’s explosive recent growth.

As a result, Irvine residents have been forced to contend with unprecedented traffic congestion and less safe streets and roads.  Irvine’s traffic jams are not only frustrating, they are also a major contributor to increased air pollution, and that’s bad not just for our climate, but our health too.

My plan offers concrete and achievable recommendations to unsnarl our roads and make our city a better place to live, work and raise a family.

Here is the press release announcing my traffic plan:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jason Mills (714) 576-4303

Melissa Fox Announces Traffic Reduction and Transportation Choice Plan for Irvine

 IRVINE, CA        Irvine Community Services Commissioner and City Council candidate Melissa Fox announced today a Traffic and Transportation Plan for the City of Irvine. Fox said that her plan is designed to reduce Irvine’s traffic congestion both in the long and short term, while providing more transportation choices for Irvine’s residents and commuters. The Fox Plan is intended to reduce travel time, reduce noise, improve safety, improve resident access to employment and entertainment centers, improve parking and reduce emissions.

“My plan is designed to make our streets safer for children, bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists,” Fox said. “The residents of Irvine are exasperated by the tremendous increase in traffic in the last few years and rightfully infuriated by the lack of concern shown by the current City Council.”

The key elements of the Fox Plan are:

– Provide immediate relief for Irvine commuters by speeding up road and street repairs and prioritizing improvement projects throughout the city.

– Ensure Irvine residents and commuters have access to multiple safe and efficient transportation choices, including automobiles, bicycling, walking, iShuttle, ride-sharing, streetcar, and student transportation to Irvine’s schools.

– Restore Irvine’s village planning model requiring that housing developments include grocery stores, shopping, entertainment and childcare within one mile.

– Aggressively push for Irvine’s fair share of transportation funds from local, state, and federal agencies and seek out grants for fuel efficient and clean transportation projects.

“My plan offers concrete steps that can be taken right now to help get our traffic and transportation problems under control, unsnarl our roads and provide Irvine residents with more transportation choices.” Fox concluded. “The Fox plan will make Irvine a model of transportation efficiency and safety in the future.”

The Fox Plan is intended to be brought to the City Council for comment and consideration.

Melissa Fox is an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, attorney, and small business owner in Irvine. To learn more about her campaign visit www.votemelissafox.com

Related: Council Member Lynn Schott Endorses Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

Irvine’s Growing Child Care Crisis

talking-to-kids There is a serious child care crisis in Irvine.

At present, nearly 2,500 Irvine families do not have adequate child care.

Recently, the City of Irvine received a Child Care Needs Assessment that it had commissioned — at my urging — from an expert private consultant. school

The Assessment revealed a current city-wide shortfall of 2,433 child care spaces across all age groups, with the most acute shortage for children under 2 years-old and children 6 to 12 years-old.

The majority of the shortfall was found to be in the northern and most recently developed part of the city.

The Assessment further projected that Irvine will need an additional 4,551 child care spaces by 2035, due to the increase in housing development and the concomitant increase in the number of families with young children moving to Irvine.

What this means in plain language is that the current City Council and Planning Commission have not zoned sufficient areas of the city — in particular in the northern and most recently developed part of the city — for churches and houses of worship, instead zoning nearly everything for more profitable residential development.

Churches and other houses of worship traditionally provide a third of all child care. The Irvine City Council and the Planning Commission have approved thousands of new homes, but have not zoned sufficient areas for churches and houses of worship to meet our growing child care needs.

As a direct result of these shortsighted decisions of the City Council and Planning Commission, there are far more people and families in Irvine — and therefore more need for child care — but far less child care available.

This child care crisis is an easily foreseeable and direct consequence of the zoning and land use decisions of the current City Council and Planning Commission, which have put the short term profits of developers ahead of the longer term needs of Irvine’s families.

The problem is not that simply that we are building homes and developing Irvine, which was always intended to grow, but that we are building and developing homes out of balance with any other concerns, and with thousands more homes approved by the current City Council and Planning Commission without adequate child care, as well as without adequate school spaces, adequate local shopping, or adequate transportation choices.

And, as the Child Care Needs Assessment shows, this crisis will only get worse until we elect a City Council that puts families first and insists on a balanced approached to development .    

Irvine’s Biggest Challenge

An article in the L.A. Times highlights Irvine’s recent housing boom, especially the rise of enormous apartment complexes — “so large that you can see them from space.”

The Times article points out the spectacular recent growth of housing in Irvine and the consequent explosion of Irvine’s population. Some facts: Irvine accounts for more than half of all the new houses, condos, and apartments built in Orange County in the last six years. More than 4,500 apartments were built in Orange County in 2015, a nearly 60% increase from 2014, most of them in Irvine. “Irvine now has nearly 260,000 people, but long-range estimates top 300,000. This type of staggering pace is not new. From 2000 to 2012, Irvine’s population grew at 56%, far outpacing nearby communities . . . In its 2013-2021 housing element, the city of Irvine expects about 13,000 new residential units, with more than 5,000 in high-density zones that have more than 30 dwelling units per acre.”

1558533_856661157775873_5256657880293126135_nUnquestionably, Southern California, and specifically Irvine, needs more housing, especially affordable housing. As Irvine’s economy grows, our housing must also grow. Younger families and Millennials too often priced out and feel left out of Irvine’s economic and housing boom.

How Irvine manages its housing and population growth will determine whether Irvine remains a great city to live, work and raise a family.  

In fact, Irvine’s biggest challenge is ensuring that our infrastructure and public services – roads, schools, shopping, police, recreation, and utilities – keeps up with the city’s explosive housing and population growth.

Growth is good, when there is proper planning and adequate infrastructure. But in Irvine we have seen too much runaway development without regard to planning, infrastructure, or quality of life.  The result has been snarled traffic and overcrowded schools, lack of local shopping and crowds everywhere.  Every Irvine resident knows that Irvine’s increasing traffic congestion is taking a toll on our quality of life, economic competitiveness, driving safety and air quality.

This recent abandonment of thoughtful long-term planning is very un-Irvine.  Smart growth has been our tradition in Irvine for decades. Our general plan provides for local villages with their own close-by schools and retail centers. We appear to have forgotten one of the main reasons that Irvine is so special — the principle that growth must be properly planned and balanced so as to preserve and improve our quality of life.  We need to return to that highly successful model as we build out the remaining city areas. We need to return to well planned, balanced development in order to preserve our quality of life, prevent unnecessary taxation, keep the local cost of living in check and maintain healthy positive economic growth.

When I am elected to the Irvine City Council, I will fight for development decisions based on proper planning and concern for the quality of life of Irvine’s residents.

Please visit my website — votemelissafox.com — to learn more about my campaign for Irvine City Council and how you can help Irvine return to balanced, smart growth — so that our quality of life is sustained and enhanced as Irvine grows.

Irvine Must Return to Our Traditions of Smart Growth and Planning

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Since 2010, Irvine’s population has grown by 21.2 percent – or by 45,021 people.  The Irvine City Council has approved 10,000 new housing units at the Great Park. Of the 21,197 building permits issued by Irvine from 2010 through 2015, 13,079 – more than half – were for apartments or condos.

Growth is good, when there is proper planning and adequate infrastructure.  But in Irvine we have seen our City Council allow runaway development without regard to planning, infrastructure, or quality of life. The result has been snarled traffic and overcrowded schools.

The fault is with a City Council that has abandoned Irvine’s longstanding commitment to smart growth and planning.

When I am elected to the Irvine City Council, I will fight for development decisions based on proper planning and concern for the quality of life of Irvine’s families

I am pro-smart growth, which has been our tradition in Irvine for decades.  Southern California, and specifically Irvine, needs more housing, especially sustainable housing.  As Irvine’s economy grows, our housing must also grow.

What I am against is runaway development without adequate planning, without adequate infrastructure and without adequate schools and local shopping, leading to traffic gridlock, school overcrowding, and the loss of our quality of life – all of which we are now experiencing in Irvine.

Our priorities must be a return to Irvine’s commitment to smart growth and planning, reducing traffic congestion, keeping education and innovation our city’s highest priorities, ensuring that our kids are safe, and celebrating the diversity that makes Irvine such a special place.

Residents Work Together to Save Woodbridge Village Center — and Win!

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It feels good when we work together and win!

This week, the Irvine Company announced plans to spend $30 million to revitalize the Woodbridge Village Center, which has not been updated since it was built in 1979.  The Center is in the middle of Irvine’s Village of Woodbridge, which encompasses about 9,600 homes and 30,000 residents.  According to the Irvine Company, the $30 million reinvestment will “upgrade the retail, dining and entertainment mix to complement longtime favorites, freshen the architecture for a coastal California feel, and create an expansive outdoor setting for dining, relaxing and community gatherings that overlooks North Lake.”

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox and her son, Max, bicycling in Woodbridge.

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox and her son, Max, bicycling in Woodbridge.

Last year, 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 – without their input or consent.

In response, a group of residents calling themselves Friends of Woodbridge Village Center formed to fight for their neighborhood.

In an email, they warned that “Big changes are in the works for the Woodbridge Village Center. The Irvine Company is presently evaluating options to replace the Village Center with either a residential development (most likely condominiums), or with a standard shopping center. Regardless of the option selected, the current Village Center will most likely be destroyed.”

The group mobilized residents to oppose any move to demolish the Village Center or change the character of the neighborhood.  Students from Lakeside Middle School marched with protest signs to tell the Irvine Company that they loved the Village Center.

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. . . The public interest – in preventing over-crowding, increased crime and congestion, and in preserving the character of our communities – comes before the private interests of developers, no matter how big and powerful those developers may be.”

Now it appears that the residents’ concerns have been heard.

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.

Congratulations to the Irvine Company for listening to Woodbridge’s residents and for re-investing in the Woodbridge Village Center.

Now we must continue to work together to ensure that the beauty, safety and character of our communities are preserved in all of Irvine.

Help Irvine Win the Wyland Foundation’s National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation

Wyland-mural

Help Irvine win the Fourth Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by the Wyland Foundation.

My Water Pledge is a friendly competition between cities across the US to see who can be the most “water-wise.”  Mayors nationwide challenge their residents to conserve water, energy and other natural resources on behalf of their city through a series of informative, easy-to-use pledges online.  Cities with the highest percentage of residents who take the challenge in their population category win.  Participants in the winning cities are eligible to win hundreds of prizes.

“Whether it’s drought conditions in the West or the high costs of energy related to water use in the East, saving water has become one of the most talked about issues facing the nation today,” said the artist Wyland, president and founder of the Wyland Foundation. “This contest gives city leaders a way to supplement their awareness efforts in a friendly, spirited way.”

my water pledge.02

Your own city’s mayor does not have to participate for your city to win.

Unfortunately, Irvine Mayor Steven Choi has decided not to be a participating mayor – but you and I can still make a difference!

Last year, the challenge awarded more than $50,000 in prizes to nearly 1,000 residents in U.S. cities.

Last year, residents from over 3,600 cities in all 50 U.S. states pledged to reduce their annual consumption of freshwater by 1.4 billion gallons, reduce waste sent to landfills by 36 million pounds, prevent more than 179,000 pounds of hazardous waste from entering our watersheds, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5.3 billion pounds. Participants have included mayors from Seattle, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Diego, San Francisco, Long Beach and Miami.

Currently, Irvine is not in the top 10 cities in our population size in water-saving pledges.  We can fix that – and save water.

And maybe win some prizes, too.

Take the Water Conservation Challenge pledge here.

Planning Commission Decision Dooms Irvine University Center Farmers’ Market

We were excited to report last June that Irvine, which has long has two certified farmers’ markets, was getting two more.

Now it appears that soon there may be one less.

The farmers’ market at University Town Center, which has been serving the University area and all of Irvine for nearly 20 years, is scrambling to find a new location.

The reason?

In January 2014, the Irvine Planning Commission, by a close vote of 3-2, approved the development of another drive-through fast-food restaurant at the University Town Center, including the removal of 58 parking spaces.

Voting in favor of the fast-food drive-through restaurant development and the removal of the parking spaces was Jeffrey Lalloway appointee Lynn Schott, now seeking her own seat on the City Council.

The loss of these parking spaces is what is now causing the University Town Center farmers’ market to struggle to find another location.

I certainly hope that the farmers’ market at University Town Center finds a new location in time for a 20th anniversary celebration and continues to serve Irvine for another 20 years.

Fast-food and too fast growth.

Bad planning has bad consequences.

Important Message from Seven-Year-Old Amin, My Favorite Campaign Volunteer!

Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox Irvine, melissafoxblog, melissafoxblog.com, votemelissafox, votemelissafox.com, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox

Here is a message to all Irvine voters from seven-year-old Amin, my favorite campaign volunteer.

As Amin says: “I am seven-years-old. I can not vote, but YOU CAN! Vote! Vote! Vote! Vote Vote!”

Listen to Amin: 

Click here to visit Melissa’s campaign website.

Listen to Melissa Fox’s Interview on KUCI’s ‘Ask a Leader’

radio-tower-full

Here is the interview I did on October 14 with Claudia Shambaugh on the program Ask a Leader on KUCI-FM about my campaign for Irvine City Council and the future of the City of Irvine.

We discussed development and over-development, traffic congestion, infrastructure, protecting Irvine’s villages and local businesses, the Irvine Barclay Theatre, improving our bikeways and the iShuttle,  environmental issues, losing one of farmers’ markets, my Irvine Food Tours, the OCTA’s irresponsible toll road decision, and more.

I hope you’ll listen and let me know what you think!

 

Traffic Congestion Causes Irvine to Drop to 14th Place in America’s Best Places to Live

Irvine’s national standing as one of America’s best places to live has declined sharply in the last few years, from 4th place in 2008, to 6th place in 2012, and now a precipitous drop out of the Top Ten to 14th place in Money Magazine’s recent “Best Places to Live 2014.”

The problem: while Irvine still receives raves for its “more than 54 miles of bike paths and 20,000 acres of parks and preserves” as well as for our master plan, “median home prices top $650,000, and traffic can be a brute during rush hour.”

What this means is that Irvine’s terrible – and increasing – traffic congestion problem is no longer our own little secret.

The rest of the country has noticed, and is re-evaluating the desirability of living in Irvine accordingly.

In the short run, Irvine’s drop to 14th best place to live – slotted between Centennial, Colorado, and Newton, Massachusetts – will primarily impact our civic pride.

But in the middle and longer run, the decline in Irvine’s reputation because of traffic congestion – and the serious underlying problem of over-development without adequate planning – could have far more dire, and costly, consequences.

Our real estate market could be adversely affected, as well as our ability to attract companies and business that are looking for the best quality of life for their executives and employees.

Most important, Irvine’s fall to 14th place in Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” is the canary in the coal mine, warning us of worse to come, as the rest of the world notices our rapid over-development without proper planning or infrastructure and our increasingly over-crowded schools.

We should take heed now, while we still can, and return to the principles of planning and measured , smart growth that not very long ago made Irvine Number One.

We want Irvine to be America’s “Best Place to Live” now and in the future, not just in the past.

Save Woodbridge

Woodbridge.01

Woodbridge residents are gravely concerned that new development will soon add unwanted housing and traffic congestion to Woodbridge and forever change the character of their beautiful community – without their input or consent.

Here is what the group Friends of WVC (Woodbridge Village Center) recently said in an email: “Big changes are in the works for the Woodbridge Village Center. The Irvine Company is presently evaluating options to replace the Village Center with either a residential development (most likely condominiums), or with a standard shopping center. Regardless of the option selected, the current Village Center will most likely be destroyed.”

Melissa and her son, Max, bicycling in Woodbridge.

Bicycling with my son, Max, in Woodbridge.

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.

By any measure, Woodbridge has been a fantastic success.

Community spirit has been,and continues to be tremendously high. Sure, there are a few problems and some things that people would like to see changed or improved.  For example, many people would like to see a new anchor store in the Village Center and new coffee houses and restaurants.

And, like most of Irvine, the WVC could use more ample and more secure bicycle parking, especially since Woodbridge has some of the most used and beautiful bikeways in the City.

But these few problems and suggested minor changes are very small in comparison to the great sense of community belonging and community pride shared by the residents of Woodbridge. Woodbridge remains one of Irvine’s most walkable, bikeable, and beautiful communities.

And, as someone wrote in OC Housing News, “the Woodbridge Center is an integral part of Irvine, connected to both lakes, Woodbridge high school and walking trails, literally in the center of Irvine.”

With Woodbridge Village Center business owner Bob Bibee at Pedego Electric Bikes Irvine.

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

What people may not realize is that the City Council has the full legal power to tell the developer that it can’t do whatever it wants to the Woodbridge Village Center, and specifically that it can’t unilaterally change the fundamental character of the community.

In fact, I believe it is the obligation of the City Council to ensure that the public interest – in preventing over-crowding, increased crime and congestion, and in preserving the character of our communities – comes before the private interests of developers, no matter how big and powerful those developers may be.

As another Woodbridge resident put it in OC Housing News, “The great recession is behind us. Time to dial back to measured growth and masterful planning such as the community was built on.”

I could not agree more.

Questions and Answers with Irvine City Council Candidate Melissa Fox

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox

Irvine Community Services Commissioner and City Council candidate Melissa Fox

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, votemelissafox.com, Melissa Fox Irvine

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

 

Q. What are the three things people should know about Melissa Fox?

I’m a wife, mother and daughter. I’m an attorney and I run my own law firm in Irvine. And I’m Irvine’s most enthusiastic cheerleader.

Q. What kind of law do you practice?

I’m a litigator – a lawyer who actually goes to court. My clients are usually businesses, large and small, as well as individuals who have business and contract issues. I’m also a specialist in fighting fraud – preventing bad guys from stealing, scheming or taking advantage of people through deceit and misrepresentation.

Q. Why do you choose to live in Irvine?

I was born in Orange County and first came to Irvine when I was 16 years old as a freshman at UCI. I moved away to finish school at Brandeis University in Boston and then Tulane Law School in New Orleans. I moved back to Irvine with my husband Michael when he was selected to be among the first Ph.D. students in the UCI School of the Arts. Irvine’s great schools and stellar public safety record were major factors in choosing to live here. And we loved the commitment to open spaces and parks and amazing cultural diversity. Our neighborhood is composed of people from all over the world. Irvine truly is a global village.

Q. How do you like being an Irvine Community Services Commissioner?

I love being an Irvine Community Services Commissioner! I was brought up to believe in public service. My father was in the United States Air Force flying bombers in the Korean War. Afterwards, he became a police officer and then an inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. My mother was a nurse and then a librarian. My parents instilled in me a strong belief in public service. I’ve been an Orange County Reserve Park Ranger, a volunteer with Cub Scouts and Sea Scouts, and a board member of Beckman High School Football and Wrestling Boosters. I’m an active member of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce, where I love celebrating new business openings. So when I had the opportunity to become an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, I jumped at the chance.

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, votemelissafox.com, Melissa Fox Irvine

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox welcoming OC Blues FC to Irvine

As a Commissioner, I’ve been able to make sure that new developments provide ample open space and park facilities for both children and adults. I’ve also been able to work with community leaders on planning and getting the go-ahead for a new Adventure Playground. Plus, I really love supporting Irvine’s community events — from the Irvine Korean Festival to the Diwali (Indian) celebration to New Year’s at the Irvine Chinese School to the Memorial Day ceremonies at Bill Barber Park and the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial. I have the privilege of representing our City at many of these events.

Q. Tell us about the “Irvine Food Tours” you’ve led as a Commissioner.

Irvine is home to scores of remarkable locally-owned restaurants featuring cuisine as diverse as Irvine’s population. But many people who live in Irvine aren’t aware of the great restaurants we have, or perhaps they’re a little uncertain about trying food they haven’t eaten before. So UCI Professor Catherine Liu and I decided to create the Irvine Food Tour, where we visit a local restaurant and the owner or chef selects the menu and explains the food as it is brought to us. So far, we’ve done Food Tours to Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, and Middle Eastern restaurants. The Irvine Food Tour is also a great way to support local businesses and to connect local business owners with the community. I definitely plan to continue with the Irvine Food Tour after I’m elected to the City Council.

Q. You were very active in the movement to create a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park. Why does that cause matter so much to you?

rvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox with her father, Korean War veteran Stan Kay, at Memorial Day ceremony at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox with her father, Korean War veteran Stan Kay, at Memorial Day ceremony at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park

As the daughter of a combat veteran, I know what veterans have sacrificed for our nation. Orange County veterans do not have their own official military cemetery and those who want to visit a veteran’s grave in a veterans cemetery must travel to Riverside, San Diego or Los Angeles. When a bill introduced in the Assembly to remedy this problem by creating a Veterans Cemetery in Orange County, I decided to do whatever I could to make it a reality. It’s time that Orange County offered its veterans a final resting place close to their families and loved ones. And, as an Irvine resident, I strongly believe that a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, is the perfect location for a Veterans Cemetery and a fitting memorial to Irvine’s proud military heritage.

I spoke to the City Council in support of a Veterans Cemetery in March, April and May, and attended the subcommittee meetings. It often seemed to me that the Council majority cared more about developers’ desire for more profit than about the veterans. I was thrilled when the City Council in July voted 5-0 to approve 125 acres in the Great Park as a military cemetery. Our veterans won a great victory, but the battle isn’t over. The developer still will not allow a Veterans Cemetery to be located in the Great Park unless the pressure from the veterans continues and the Council backs the veterans. That’s not going happen with the current pro-developer Council majority. So we need to stay vigilant and we need to make our support for a Veterans Cemetery clear with our vote in November.

We also need to do more for our veterans across-the-board. Irvine is home to thousands of military veterans. They should be represented within Irvine’s city government by an advisory committee expressly dedicated to the unique needs and perspective of the men and women who have served and are serving in our nation’s armed forces. That’s why one of the very first things I’ll do once I’m elected to the City Council is create a permanent Irvine Veterans Advisory Council to provide advocacy for veterans and to advise the Council on issues of importance to veterans and their families.

Q. Why are you running for Irvine City Council?

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, votemelissafox.com, Melissa Fox Irvine

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

As a business owner, attorney and City Commissioner, I understand the relationship between strong, pro-resident leadership and our Irvine quality of life. Runaway development is negatively impacting our schools, traffic flow, public safety, and our quality of life – all the reasons we choose to make Irvine our home.  We need smarter growth that protects and preserves what has made Irvine such a special place to live, work and raise our families.

I also want to safeguard Irvine’s standing as a world-class city in education and public safety. I want to ensure every public dollar is wisely budgeted and accounted for, using my skills as a business attorney specializing in fighting fraud. I want to promote Irvine businesses, large and small.

And, finally, I’m going to make very sure that a Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery is actually created in the Great Park.

I will keep my eyes focused on Irvine’s future – creating opportunities, solving real problems, and producing concrete results.

UCI Sets “Green” Example for City of Irvine

UCI aerial.01

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.

It’s Official! Melissa Fox Files for Irvine City Council

Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, votemelissafox.com, melissajoifox,

It’s official!  Yesterday I filed the paperwork to qualify as a candidate for Irvine City Council.

Here is the press release we sent out:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jason Mills (714) 576-4303

Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox Files for Irvine City Council

Irvine Business-Owner and Attorney the Top Fundraiser Among Candidates

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox announced her filing for Irvine City Council on Friday. Fox has also filed her campaign finance reports, showing her to be the top fundraiser among all candidates – even outpacing two council incumbents running for re-election.

“I’ve been tremendously encouraged by the support our campaign has received,” Fox said. “People in Irvine are responsive to a message that focuses on restoring smart growth and community-oriented planning. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done so far and excited about ramping up our campaign and focusing on the November election.”

An Irvine business-owner and attorney, Fox has also been holding neighborhood meet-and-greets across the city after opening up her campaign committee last year. In listening to residents from across the political spectrum, she has heard the same complaints about the direction of the city.

“People think that the current council is rubber-stamping too much development in the city. New housing tracts and apartment buildings are springing up over-night — they aren’t seeing the thought and planning that has made Irvine so special,” Melissa added. “People don’t move to Irvine to sit in traffic and send their kids to over-crowded schools. As a member of the City Council, I pledge to address the runaway development that’s threatening our quality of life.  I will be a strong pro-resident voice on the Council.”

Fox also pledges to ensure every public dollar is wisely budgeted and accounted for using her skills as a business attorney specializing in fighting fraud; promote Irvine businesses, large and small; and safeguard Irvine’s standing as a world-class city in education and public safety.

Melissa Fox is the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran and has been active in advocating for a Veterans Cemetery and Memorial Park in the Great Park.

Melissa Fox lives with her husband, Dr. Michael Fox, their son, Max, and their Siberian Husky, Scout, in the Northwood Park area of Irvine.

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

irvine-skyline

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 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.

Irvine’s Open Spaces

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.

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In 1974, early in our city’s history, voters approved multimillion dollar measures to fund public parks and recreational facilities, and for the acquisition and development of bicycle trail and hiking trail improvements.

In 1989, the City negotiated an historic agreement with the Irvine Company that set aside more than 9,500 acres as permanent open space marshlands, bike trails, parks, nature conservancies and agricultural areas, protecting fully one-third of the city from development.

In addition, in 2006, nearly 37,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch were selected as a National Natural Landmark, a designation which reflects the outstanding condition, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education of the natural resources on the land.

As our Irvine Open Space Preserve website explains:

“Since its incorporation in 1971, Irvine has had a strong desire to balance the built and natural environment. As this incredible master-planned community has grown, each phase of development has been accompanied by the preservation and enhancement of natural open spaces, creating the network of parks, trails, and wildlands that residents and visitors may enjoy today and for generations to come.

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The Irvine Open Space Preserve comprises a significant portion of this landscape, protecting thousands of acres of native habitat, and providing linkages between natural resources found in the region, including the Cleveland National Forest, the San Joaquin Marsh, and the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park among many others. The City’s commitment to preservation of local natural resources is reflected in the mosaic of native habitats, including chaparral shrub thickets, riparian wetland, native grass meadows, oak woodlands, and extremely rare coastal sage scrub. Here – in this wildlife sanctuary – deer, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, and hundreds of endangered birds, mammals, and reptiles thrive. A protected habitat for flora and fauna alike, the Preserve also provides a rare recreational opportunity for the community. Irvine’s residents and visitors may explore the land through myriad activities – from hiking, biking, and equestrian treks, to plein air painting, to stewardship and restoration programs – or may simply retreat into the open space to find peace and solace.”

Some of the things you can do in the Irvine Open Space Preserve are:

  • Hike, bike, or ride your horse along the trails and across the bridges in beautiful Bommer Canyon, where you can also see remnants of the old cattle ranch that operated here until the second half of the 20th century. If you want to push yourself a bit harder, continue onto the trails in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, a beautiful nature preserve operated by Orange County Parks.
  • Sign up for a guided sunset hike along the Orchard Hills Loop Trail, where you will be rewarded for your exertions with a gorgeous view of the city from Loma Ridge. On clear days, it’s also possible to see Camp Pendleton, Catalina and San Clemente Islands, and the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the distance.
  • Sign up for a guided sunset hike along the Orchard Hills Loop Trail, where you will be rewarded for your exertions with a gorgeous view of the city from Loma Ridge. On clear days, it’s also possible to see Camp Pendleton, Catalina and San Clemente Islands, and the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the distance.

Please visit the Irvine Open Space Preserve website to find out more.  You can also visit the website for the Irvine Ranch National Landmarks, which has a terrific interactive map, explaining more about the nearly 40,000 acres of open space on the historic Irvine Ranch that have been designated a Natural Landmark by both the State of California and the U.S. Department of Interior.

If you have any questions, contact our City of Irvine staff, who will be happy to help you enjoy Irvine’s parks and open spaces.

You can also contact me at mefox@cityofirvine.org (for Irvine Community Service Commission matters) or melissa@melissafoxlaw.com.

Please visit Irvine’s open spaces!

Let me know about your adventures!