Congratulations to Irvine on Earning Top Parks Rating in California and 7th in the Nation!

The City of Irvine park system has been ranked 7th in the nation by the Trust for Public Land annual ParkScore Index, effectively making Irvine the top-ranked city in California.

This is the third consecutive year the City’s parks have ranked in the top 10 nationally.

The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore rankings assess the nation’s 100 largest cities on factors such as park access, acreage, investment, and amenities.

Irvine earned a perfect sore in park spending per resident, and is second in the nation for basketball hoops per 10,000 residents.

Among the factors considered in the evaluation is the fact that 82 percent of Irvine’s residents live within a 10 minute walk of a park (compared to a national average of 54 percent) and that 27 percent of Irvine’s city land is used for parks and recreation (compared to a national average of 15 percent).

Of special note, the ParkScore Index did not find any significant difference regarding closeness to parks in Irvine based on the race, nationality, age, or income level of Irvine residents.

The Trust for Public Land works to protect the places people care about and to create close-to-home parks — particularly in and near cities, where 80 percent of Americans live. It’s goal is to “ensure that every child has easy access to a safe place to play in nature. We also conserve working farms, ranches, and forests; lands of historical and cultural importance; rivers, streams, coasts, and watersheds; and other special places where people can experience nature close at hand.”

Congratulations to my City Council colleagues, our City Manager and City staff, and our Community Services Commissioners, especially my appointee to the Irvine Community Services Commission, Lauren Johnson-Norris, who has worked so hard to improve the experiences of our residents in our parks and open spaces.

Watch Melissa Fox’s ZOOM Town Hall with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Director Mike O’Connell!

I’ve always been an outdoors person, and I love going hiking and exploring in Southern California’s beautiful wild lands, mountains, and deserts.  Long before I entered politics, I served as a volunteer Ranger with the Orange County Park Ranger Reserve.  This past week, I had the pleasure of talking with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Executive Director Michael O’Connell last week during a ZOOM meeting Town Hall.  

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization, committed to the highest possible standards of long-term land stewardship. Based in Orange County, California, the mission of the IRC is to ensure the protection, restoration and enhancement of the natural resources of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks forever and to provide diverse opportunities for public participation by conducting and supporting scientific, recreational and educational initiatives and programs.

Michael O’Connell, Irvine Ranch Conservancy President and Executive Director, oversees all aspects of stewardship, public programs and business operations for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. He has 25 years experience in land protection and conservation science including senior positions with The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund. He has served on the Board of Governors of the Society for Conservation Biology, and the Advisory Board of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. He is currently on the Dean’s Leadership Council for the School of Biological Sciences at UC Irvine. Michael has co-authored two books on conservation and a number of scientific and popular articles. He has a bachelor’s degree in Geology from Carleton College and a Master’s in Conservation Biology from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

After we talk about the history and the special character of this incredible land, Mike leads us on a tour of this incredible natural resource in our backyard.

 Watch our Town Hall on the Irvine Ranch Conservancy here:

Join Melissa Fox’s ZOOM Town Hall with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Director Mike O’Connell. Thurs., May 14 at 4:00 PM!

Join Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox in a ZOOM Town Hall with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Executive Director Mike O’Connell

Thurs., May 14, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. — 5:00 p.m.

ZOOM Meeting ID 951-321-0807

Note: We will also be streaming live from Melissa Fox’s YouTube Channel HERE.

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization, committed to the highest possible standards of long-term land stewardship.

Based in Orange County, California, the mission of the IRC is to ensure the protection, restoration and enhancement of the natural resources of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks forever and to provide diverse opportunities for public participation by conducting and supporting scientific, recreational and educational initiatives and programs.

Michael O’Connell, Irvine Ranch Conservancy President and Executive Director, oversees all aspects of stewardship, public programs and business operations for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. He has 25 years experience in land protection and conservation science including senior positions with The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund. He has served on the Board of Governors of the Society for Conservation Biology, and the Advisory Board of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. He is currently on the Dean’s Leadership Council for the School of Biological Sciences at UC Irvine. Michael has co-authored two books on conservation and a number of scientific and popular articles. He has a bachelor’s degree in Geology from Carleton College and a Master’s in Conservation Biology from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Melissa Fox has been a member of the Irvine City Council since 2016. She is life-long hiker, outdoors person, and fierce environmental advocate. She also served as a Ranger in the Orange County Park Ranger Reserve.

For more information, contact Allison Binder at abinder@cityofirvine.org

To see the Facebook event for this Town Hall, click here.

UPDATED: Watch the ZOOM Town Hall with Mike O’Connell here.

We look forward to you joining us!

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.

 

Today is Korean American Day!

January 13 has been designed “Korean American Day.”   On this day in 1903, a group of 102 courageous Korean men, women, and children  arrived in Honolulu from Japan aboard the steamship RMS Gaelic to work in the Hawaiian sugar cane fields.  In the next few years, they would be followed by more than 1,000 Koreans entering the mainland from Hawaii through San Francisco.

This date is traditionally regarded as marking the first Korean immigration to the United States and celebrated as Korean American Day — although several individual Koreans had immigrated to the United States earlier, including Philip Jaisohn (Seo Jae-pil), a journalist and medical doctor and a noted champion for Korea’s independence, who in 1890 became the first Korean to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

From these humble beginnings, a large and vibrant Korean American community has grown, now numbering nearly 2 million people of Korean descent in the United States, including nearly half a million people in California.

Irvine is proud to celebrate our thriving Korean American community each year in our annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, designed to share Korean culture with the entire community by showcasing its customs, heritage, cuisine, and arts.

Our city has adopted the South Korean city of Seocho-gu as one of Irvine’s four “Sister Cities.

Irvine is also the home of the King Sejong Institute and the Korean American Center of Orange County, dedicated to promoting Korean language and culture.

As the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran and proud recipient of the Republic of Korea Ambassador for Peace Medal, the cousin of a United States Marine who was killed in action in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir fighting for freedom for the Korean people, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans hve made to our city, our county, our state, and our country.

I am proud to live and serve in a city that celebrates and treasures our Korean American community and I join my many Korean American friends and neighbors in celebrating Korean American contributions to our shared American heritage and way of life.

Happy Korean American Day!

Irvine Police Use Drone to Catch Burglary Suspect on Christmas Eve

Last year, I joined three of my colleagues on the Irvine City Council to approve establishing an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) by the Irvine Police Department. The UAS program provides aerial video of active crime scenes, traffic collisions, and natural disasters.

On Tuesday night, December 24, 2019, the Irvine Police Department employed the drone to locate and arrest a commercial burglary suspect at a construction site in the 2900 block of Warner Avenue around 10:20 PM.

Following reports of a burglary in progress, police units arriving on the scene located a self-storage facility under construction and learned that a suspect was inside.

Officers then established a perimeter around the site and made announcements ordering the suspect to surrender.

The suspect hunkered down and was eventually located after police employed a number of resources including a small unmanned aircraft system, commonly referred to as a drone, along with a police helicopter and K-9 to search for the suspect.

A male suspect was located and arrested without incident.

Firefighter paramedics evaluated the man on scene before officers transported him from the location.

No other suspects were believed to be outstanding but officers were nonetheless conducting a protective sweep of the site.

Great work, IPD!

In October 2019, the FBI for the 14th year in a row, named Irvine as America’s Safest City among cities with a population of 250,000 or more.

You can watch a video of the incident from ONSCENE TV here:

Irvine Ranked “Safest City in U.S.” by 24/7 Wall St. Public Safety is Linked to Irvine’s Economic and Population Growth in “Virtuous Cycle.”

Recently, using data from the FBI, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the violent crimes rate in the 294 U.S. cities with populations of at least 100,000 — a population-adjusted measure of incidents of rape, robbery, homicide, and aggravated assault — to identify America’s safest cities. Irvine, California, was found to be the safest city in the United States.

Here is their report published on October 23, 2019, on public safety in Irvine:

“1. Irvine, California
> 2018 violent crime rate: 55.5 per 100,000 people
> 2018 homicides: 0
> Poverty rate: 13.2%
> 2018 unemployment rate: 2.8%

According to the most recent FBI data, there were zero murders, 40 rapes, 53 robberies, and 67 aggravated assaults reported in Irvine in 2018. Adjusted for population, there were just 56 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Irvine residents, by far the lowest rate of any U.S. city with a population of at least 100,000 and less than one-sixth the national violent crime rate.

The low prevalence of crime may have been a pull factor for the large influx of residents who moved to Irvine over the past decade. From 2009 to 2018, the population of Irvine grew by 33.6%, more than five times the 6.6% national growth rate.”

As the Orange County Register’s distinguished business and real estate columnist Jon Lansner reports, “when you compare the safety rankings with local housing prices, it’s no surprise that these safe cities are also among the nation’s priciest places to buy a residence.”

Lansner also notes that Irvine’s public safety success is connected to its economic and population growth in what University of Chicago Senior Fellow John Roman calls a “virtuous cycle.” “Growing cities tend to grow because they’re perceived as safe and that safety compounds in a virtuous cycle,” Roman said. “Safe places get safer.”

Congratulations to our outstanding Police Chief Mike Hamel and to all the dedicated professionals of the Irvine Police Department.  I know that Irvine continues to be recognized as America’s safest city because the men and women of the Irvine Police Department perform their duties every day at the very highest levels of professionalism and integrity.  Our community knows that our police officers are dedicated to ensuring the safety of our residents and treating everyone with fairness and respect.

Thank you, Irvine Police Department!