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.

Join Us on Friday, June 21, 2019, for Irvine’s Super Swim Lesson!

Kick off summer in the pool with the Irvine Super Swim Lesson on Friday, June 21, at William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center!

Adults and children of all swimming abilities are invited to participate in the Super Swim Lesson, a worldwide effort to raise awareness for drowning prevention.

Arrive at 5:30 p.m. to sign up for the one-time lesson to be held at 6:00 p.m., then stay for the free recreation swim that includes a water slide, giant inflatable, and diving boards.

At dusk, the movie Trolls plays on the big screen. Lifeguards will be on duty.

For recreation swim, children 6-years-old and younger must be accompanied by an adult one-on-one in the water.

What: Super Swim Lesson (and Free Movie)!
When: Friday, June 21, 2019, at 5:30 p.m.
Where: William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center,  4601 Walnut Ave, Irvine, CA 92604

For more information, call 949-724-6717.

Join “I Am Me” Teen Empowerment Program at Tilly’s Life Center!

Tilly’s Life Center in Irvine is starting a new round of its teen-empowerment program “I Am Me.”

The new course starts on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, and meets once a week for 12 weeks, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Tilly’s Life Center at 17 Pasteur, Irvine CA 92618.

Tilly’s Life Center is a youth-focused, 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable foundation aimed at empowering all teens with a “youth-focused nonprofit empowerment program for teens helping to change attitudes and mindsets in order to overcome adversity and ultimately find happiness and success.”

Teens are facing problems that are universal, affecting them at every socioeconomic level and in every community. Even in supportive environments, teenagers face confusion and uncertainty in life.

As young people come under increased pressure to excel in a highly competitive world, Tilly’s Life Center is  providing teens the support they need to thrive.

The “I Am Me” program teaches teens life skills that motivate them to pursue their dreams and to focus on improving their lives, including positive thinking, stress management, motivation, goal setting and effective communication.

Using experiential learning, including journal writing, open discussions, and self discovery in a safe and caring environment, the “I Am Me” program empowers teens by teaching life skills that build confidence, inspire compassion, and encourage them to pursue their dreams.

Space is limited (and there is a cost).

Call 949-394-0391 or email Christine@TillysLifeCenter.org for more information.

 

 

What I’m Listening for in the Mayor’s 2019 State of the City Address

Irvine Mayor Don Wagner will give his “State of the City” address at the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 26, 2019.

The Mayor will have many positive things to talk about, including the tremendous progress that we’ve made on fulfilling the promise of the Great Park — a new 80,000 square-foot ice arena, a 1200-seat Great Park Championship Baseball Stadium and new additional baseball and softball fields, a 5,000-seat Championship Soccer Stadium, a 2.5 mile nature corridor, plus an agreement with Wild Rivers to build a new water park and an exclusive negotiating agreement with Pretend City Children’s Museum to relocate in the Great Park

He will remind us that Irvine remains America’s safest city and was recently declared one of the safest cities in the world.

He will also note that Irvine was rated the number one city in the nation in fiscal strength.

He can also speak positively about the advances that our City Council has made in providing for greater openness and transparency in our budget process, pointing to our new two-year budget cycle, our new five-year planning program and our new Irvine Sunshine Ordinance that expands public notice of agenda items to four times longer than California law requires.

These are indeed wonderful accomplishments that the Mayor, the entire City Council, and all residents of Irvine should be proud of.

But much more remains to be done and problems remain to be solved.

Here is what I would like to hear the Mayor address:

Climate and the Environment

Irvine must become ever more environmentally responsible and should be a national leader in meeting the existential ecological demands of the future.

As Chair of the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, I have helped guide Irvine toward greener policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

But more must be done.

I would like to hear the Mayor commit to establishing a Climate Action Plan for Irvine, with the goal of eliminating half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city and aiming for all electricity used in the city to be from renewable sources by 2035.

Climate Action Plans make it easy for the public to see what cities plan to do to meet state targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sprinkling such actions throughout the General Plan is not as transparent and is not in the best interest of the public.

Other cities, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Seattle, Baltimore, Phoenix and Houston already have Climate Action Plans.  As the self-proclaimed City of Innovation, Irvine should be a leader in this national effort.

An Irvine Climate Action Plan would benefit both the environment and the regional economy, creating new jobs in the renewable energy industry, improve public health and air quality, conserve water, more efficiently use existing resources, increase clean energy production, improve the quality of life, and save taxpayer money.

Most importantly, a Climate Action Plan would fulfill our obligation to ensure that Irvine remains a beautiful green city for future generations.

Traffic Congestion and Traffic Safety

We have made significant progress in alleviating Irvine’s traffic congestion.  We expanded the iShuttle to provide more transportation.  We’ve enabled left-hand turns in some intersections to allow traffic to move faster and more efficiently.  We’ve widened roads and made other improvements.

But we need to do more.

I would like to hear the Mayor announce a plan to create a greener, smarter, and more efficient transportation future by further expanding our iShuttle.  For example, a route that would take people from UCI to the Spectrum would be good for both Irvine traffic reduction, Irvine’s air quality, as well as for UCI students and Spectrum businesses.

Our roads are not only too often congested, they are also becoming too dangerous, as people fail to obey stop signs and follow the rules of the road.

I have been working with residents and the Irvine Police Department on improving the safety of our pedestrians and bicyclists, especially our children, and I held a Town Hall Meeting on Traffic Safety with the Chief of Police, but more must be done.

I would like to hear the Mayor propose a major comprehensive traffic safety project, focusing on ensuring motorists come to a full stop at stop signs.  This project would involve education, increased enforcement and deploying more advanced stop sign technology.

Many cities have lighted stop signs.  Irvine should have them as well.  Our Irvine Police should also receive a clear mandate from the Mayor and the City Council to take whatever enforcement actions are necessary to make our streets safer for our residents.

The Great Park

Irvine has made tremendous progress on fulfilling the promise of the Great Park and all of us should be proud of what we’ve accomplished.

I am looking forward to the Grand Opening of the new 270,000-square-foot Great Park Ice Area — the largest ice-skating facility in California and one of the largest in the United States.

I am also looking forward to the announcement of further progress on the return of Wild Rivers Water Park.

I also continue to support a veterans cemetery within the hallowed grounds of the former Marine Air Station El Toro, where so many brave men and women flew to Vietnam and other war zones, some never to come back.  My proposal (along with Christina Shea) to locate the veterans cemetery on land that had been intended as a golf course has been through the Commission process and will soon come before the City Council.

What I would like to hear the Mayor speak about tonight is a vision and a plan for completing the next crucial phase of the park – the Cultural Terrace.

The City Council entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement to bring Pretend City Children’s Museum to the Cultural Terrace.  When the relocation of Pretend City to the Great Park Cultural Terrace initially came before the City Council in 2017, I strongly supported it and was disappointed when we did not have the votes to act at that time.  I am extremely pleased that we have moved forward this year.

But much more needs to be done to truly create the Cultural Terrace as the jewel of the Great Park.

I believe the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace would be the ideal location for a natural history museum, showcasing the natural history of our area.

Importantly, the history of the Juaneno/Acjachemen and Gabrielino/Tongva — our County’s indigenous people — needs to be told!

In fact, while Orange County is the only county in Southern California that does not have a natural history museum, Orange County is already home to a fabulous collection of fossils and artifacts in the Dr. John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center, now located in several warehouses in Santa Ana.  This rich history of fossils and artifacts, perhaps one of the most important fossil-bearing areas in North America, if not the world, needs to be curated and displayed.

Our county’s rich store of fossils and artifacts ought to be open to all in a magnificent museum – a new Orange County Natural History Museum in the Great Park!

I have also made clear my support for the California Fire Museum and Safety Learning Center, and for preserving the heritage of our California firefighters in a permanent facility in the Great Park.

I have also long been a strong advocate for botanical gardens in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace.  In fact, every survey we’ve done has shown that gardens are among amenities that people most want in the Great Park.

I agree with the Great Park Garden Coalition that “We need places where children can experience nature and explore, where all can find refuge from the ever-increasing urban density and traffic, where people of all ages and abilities can experience beautiful outdoor spaces. All great urban parks have great garden spaces: Golden Gate Park, Central Park, Balboa Park.”

The Great Park in Irvine should, too.

Homelessness and Attainable Housing

As we all know, Irvine is among the most expensive real estate markets in the nation; for this reason, there is a tremendous need for, and tremendous obstacles to, affordable housing.

Finding solutions to the housing crisis and alleviating homelessness has been a priority for me, both as a member of the Irvine City Council and as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust.

Irvine has been a model in this area and the Land Trust concept, now being adopted by Orange County and many other cities, is something that Irvine has pioneered.  No other city has a Land Trust like we have, and other cities are working to copy ours.

I’m proud of what the Irvine Land Trust has accomplished in the past year.

In 2018, we opened Parc Derian, which brings 80 new units of housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine.  We also began work on Salerno, a new 80-unit rental community. Like Parc Derian, Salerno will provide permanent affordable housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine.

Significantly, we have begun to develop our first homes for ownership with help from a new partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. This new Irvine community, called Chelsea on Native Spring, located north of Irvine Boulevard, will include 68 affordable home for sale to income-eligible veterans, working families, and young professionals.

In all, that’s 466 households, and more than a thousand people, who can comfortably live, work and raise families in Irvine directly because of the work of the Irvine Community Land Trust.

In addition to my work on the Irvine Land Trust, I have traveled to Pittsburgh and San Antonio to see what other cities have done to successfully combat homelessness, and I have traveled to Sacramento to encourage the legislature to revise regulations and the tax code to make it easier to build affordable housing.

I would like to hear the Mayor reaffirm Irvine’s commitment to support the Irvine Community Land Trust as successful model for other cities to emulate in providing housing for diverse income levels.

I would also like to hear the Mayor present his vision for alleviating the homelessness crisis, and especially what role he envisions Irvine should play in providing shelter and services, especially in light of the case in federal court.

How will he work with the federal court and Board of Supervisors to tackle this crisis on a truly regional basis, and how will he get the Board of Supervisors to spend the money and resources that they have been given specifically to deal with homelessness on an actual solution?

Working Together in an Inclusive Democracy  

Our City Council is no longer gridlocked in the partisan bickering that prevented progress for so many years; we have seen that we need to work together to improve the lives of all of Irvine’s residents.

I would like to see our city leaders display the truly democratic spirit that united all decent people in our community in condemning religious and racial bigotry, and not the divisiveness that is created when wedge issues, outside our jurisdiction and purview, are brought before the City Council.  Focusing on these wedge issues does not produce positive policies that bring our city together, but instead a theatrical politics of division that can only drive us apart.

I would like to hear the Mayor reach out to those of us on the other side of the aisle, as he has often done, recognizing that it is best for our city and our residents when we work for the common good by looking for common ground.

A Vision for our Great City of Irvine

Our great City of Irvine is truly blessed with wonderful people, a beautiful natural environment, thriving businesses, and remarkable schools.

What Irvine needs is a vision for the future that focuses and energizes our continued quest for being the very best place in the world to live, work and raise a family.

The event begins with a reception at 5:00 p.m., followed by the Mayor’s address at 6:00 p.m.

Both the “State of the City” address and the reception are open to the public. No RSVP is necessary to attend.

The Civic Center is located at 1 Civic Center Drive, Irvine CA 92606-5207.  Call 949-724-6077 for more information.

I hope to see you there!

Join Me for the Grand Opening of Los Olivos Community Park and Center!

Join me on Saturday, March 2, 2019, for the Grand Opening of Los Olivos Community Park!

The dedication event will take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The new 12.5-acre Los Olivos Community Park features lighted baseball and soccer fields, a lighted basketball court, four tennis courts, and a musical-themed playground inspired by the former Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.

In addition, the 6,700-square-foot community center features a large multipurpose room, warming kitchen, and patio area.

The dedication event will include:

  • Self-guided tours of the facility;
  • On-site tennis pro to answer questions about tennis programming; and
  • Entertainment by Concerts for Charities Club.

The sports fields, playground, and trails will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Los Olivos Community Center will be open to the public 9 a.m.– 9 p.m. Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday, and noon – 6 p.m. Sunday. Programming will include early childhood programs, youth camps, adult classes, and a variety of recreational offerings.

Los Olivos Community Park is located at 101 Alfonso, Irvine, CA 92618

No RSVP is needed for this free dedication event.

For more information, visit cityofirvine.org/specialevents or call 949-724-6814.

See you there!

Wanted: Licensed Nonprofit Child Care Provider Needed for Irvine’s New Loma Ridge Elementary School!

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Welcome Tilly’s Life Center to Irvine! — Empowering Teens to Thrive!

Welcome Tilly’s Life Center to Irvine!

Tilly’s Life Center is a youth-focused, 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable foundation aimed at empowering all teens with a “youth-focused nonprofit empowerment program for teens helping to change attitudes and mindsets in order to overcome adversity and ultimately find happiness and success.”

Teens are facing problems that are universal, affecting them at every socioeconomic level and in every community. Even in supportive environments, teenagers face confusion and uncertainty in life.

As young people come under increased pressure to excel in a highly competitive world, Tilly’s Life Center is  providing teens the support they need to thrive.

Through the Center’s “I Am Me” program, teens are taught life skills that motivate them to pursue their dreams and to focus on improving their lives, be it through more positive thinking, stress management, motivation, and purpose.

I am delighted to welcome Tilly’s Life Center to our City. Through increased engagement with our teens, we can aim to relieve their stress and promote healthy, happy, and productive lifestyles!

Tilly’s Life Center is located at 17 Pasteur, Irvine, California 92618.

Contact Tilly’s Life Center: (949) 246-3067

Join Me for the Grand Opening of Portola Springs Community Park and Center!

Join me at the Grand Opening and Dedication Ceremony of Portola Springs Community Park and Center on Saturday, January 26, 2019, from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

The 32-acre Portola Springs Community Park features a nature-themed playground, native garden, two lighted softball fields, two lighted soccer fields, one warm-up field, one sand volleyball court, six lighted pickleball courts, three lighted tennis courts, and a concession building.

It also features an expansive community center (more than 14,000 square feet), including a multipurpose room, large patio area, two classrooms, and a Native American Wing.

The dedication event will include:

  • Self-guided tours of the facility
  • Cultural display in the Native American Wing
  • Light refreshments
  • Pickleball courts open for play
  • Softball demonstrations by Irvine Girls Softball Association
  • Entertainment by Concerts for Charities Club, which includes a string quartet, piano quintet, violin and piano duet, and saxophone quartet made up of students from Trabuco Hills, Northwood, and Portola high schools

I am especially excited about the Center’s Native American Wing, which was a combined effort of City staff, representatives of our local Native American tribes, the California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance and the Irvine Company.

The Portola Spring Community Center will be open to the public from 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, and 12:00 noon – 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Classes at the center will be available beginning in February, and programming will include after-school and camp activities as well as recreational activities and sports programs.

Portola Springs Community Park and Center are located at 900 Tomato Springs, Irvine, CA 92618.

No RSVP is needed for this free event.

For more information, visit cityofirvine.org/specialevents or call 949-724-6192.

See you there!

Help Shape the Future of Irvine’s Community Programs! Take Our Resident Activity Survey Today!

The City of Irvine, through the Community Services Department, is conducting a Resident Activity Survey about recreational activities offered to the community.

Results from the survey will be used to assess how City activities and programs meet the needs of the community, and how the City can continue to accommodate future needs.

We value input from the community and welcome you to take this important survey.

Questions cover City activities that you and members of your household may have participated in, and those you might want to see offered in the future.

The survey may be taken in English, Chinese, Korean, Persian, Spanish or Vietnamese.

Share your feedback and take the online survey here!

For questions, contact 949-724-6156.

Help shape the future of Irvine programs and take our survey today!

“Should Donald Trump Have a Twitter Account?”: An Amazing Class on Tackling Controversial Topics at Plaza Vista School!

This Thursday, I had the honor of participating in an amazing class on tackling controversial topics at Plaza Vista School in Westpark.

The class was Ms. Natalie Elliott’s “Scholars’ Writing Celebration.”

The fifth-grade students were required to present their written opinions on a controversial topic.

To do so, they were first required to research a controversial topic, organize their facts, and write a five paragraph essay with an introduction, three reasons in support of their claims, and a conclusion.

Wow!  I was impressed!

The controversial topics chosen by the students included “Is kneeling during the National Anthem disrespectful?,” Are the oceans over-fished?,” “Is heath care a right or a privilege?,” Should museums be free to the public?,” “Should the U.S. amend the 2nd Amendment?,” “Is climate change really happening?,” “Should school uniforms be mandatory?,” “Should professional athletes get paid less?,” “Should the U.S. government spend more on arts or on STEM?,” and “Should Donald Trump have a Twitter account?”

Each of the students orally presented their position paper, then took questions from other students, parents, and me.  Every one of the position papers was well argued and ably defended! Every one of the presenters was impressive in their passion and their poise.

Leaving the classroom, I felt extremely positive about the future — knowing that these Irvine young people will soon be running the world!

 

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!

Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris: My Commitment to Irvine’s High Quality Parks and Recreation

Guest Post by Irvine Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris

[Note: Lauren Johnson-Norris has served Irvine for nearly two years as my appointee to the Community Services Commission. She recently wrote a blog post describing her work on the Commission, particularly her efforts to renovate the beautiful and rustic Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp and to ensure high quality recreational park space in the urban-feeling Irvine Business Complex. I am proud of the work that she has done what she has accomplished as my appointee to the Community Services Commission and I want to share her post with you. — Melissa]

As an Irvine Community Services Commissioner for the past year and 10 months, my number one priority has been making sure that our children and families experience the highest quality recreation. With over 90 unique parks, Irvine has won awards for being one of the best places to live and raise a family. As a Commissioner, I am proud of the work I have done making sure that our parks live up to Irvine’s high standards.

That is why I am so proud to have voted to begin improvements to Bommer Canyon’s Cattle Camp.

Bommer Canyon has been surveyed to be Irvine’s most loved and used community park space for excellent reasons. Bommer Canyon is a quintessential example of Irvine’s successful weaving of open space with world-class recreation. What was once an active cattle camp only 30 years ago is now a cherished, rustic hiking area.

However, the structures have been out of code and out of ADA compliance for many years. Termites and rodents have made these structures home and there is no real restroom in this community park. I am excited to have been able to vote to approve the beginning of a rehabilitation project that will make this space safer, and ADA compliant, without sacrificing its rustic feel and aesthetic.  I am also happy to share that I fought to make sure that the final design plans and materials will come back for approval in front of the Community Services Commission before they go to the City Council.

All of the Commissioners want to make sure that we preserve the unique character of the cattle camp for residents to enjoy a true piece of Irvine’s history.

I love how Irvine’s parks are as diverse as the members of our community. During my term as a Commissioner, I have fought for park space in the Irvine Business Complex and approved several parks that met Irvine residents’ high standards in this uniquely urban-feeling space.

Unfortunately, not all park proposals from developers that come before the Commission are up to Irvine’s high standards. Some have to be voted down because their design is faulty and fails to meet the standards that Irvine requires for a park.

This year, all five Commissioners voted not to approve a proposed park in the Irvine Business Complex that would have been on the roof of a building, with a swimming pool and tot lot, that the public would have had to access by taking the building’s elevators.

In reality, this proposal was not a feasible park plan and putting park space on the roof is not consistent with the character of any Irvine neighborhood.  Rejecting this faulty plan was a unanimous decision of the Community Services Commission and one we made with the best interest of Irvine residents in mind.

It has been a privilege to work to make sure Irvine’s parks and recreation are of the highest quality and live up to our residents’ standards. Careful planning and sound decision-making is critical to preserve and protect Irvine’s excellent quality of life and I am proud of my work to contribute in this way.

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!

Irvine History Happy Hour: Meet Irvine’s New City Manager John Russo!

So what exactly does a City Manager do anyway?

Come this Sunday, September 23 to the Irvine Historical Society’s Let’s Talk History Happy Hour and find out!

Irvine’s new City Manager John A. Russo will be on hand to introduce himself and to share his goals for the future of Irvine.

John A. Russo was hired by the Irvine City Council to be City Manager on July 10, 2018.

Russo began his career in public service as an elected official with the City of Oakland, first as a Councilmember from 1994-2000, and then City Attorney from 2000-2011. While in Oakland, he authored the open government law and the “Sunshine Ordinance” to ensure public transparency and full residential access to public information. He then moved to the City of Alameda, where he served as City Manager from 2011-2015.

The Brooklyn native, 59, graduated with honors in economics and political science from Yale University, and earned his law degree from New York University School of Law. He was a Legal Aid attorney in St. Louis before moving to Oakland in 1987, where he was president of Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, treasurer of the East Bay League of Conservation Voters, and pro bono attorney for neighborhood associations and nonprofits. In 2002, Russo served as League of California Cities president; he also was a Board member for the National League of Cities.

Russo is Irvine’s fifth City Manager.

Join us on Sunday, September 23 for this month’s “Let’s Talk History” Happy Hour.
We will meet at the Irvine Historical Museum from 3:00 -5:00 pm and learn how trains once played a pivotal role on the Irvine Ranch.

Light refreshments will be served.  A $5 donation is requested.

The Irvine Historical Society is located in the San Joaquin Ranch House, commissioned by James Irvine in 1868 and considered the oldest standing structure within the original boundaries of Irvine Ranch.

Standard hours of operation are Tuesday and Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 pm; closed holidays. Members are free; a $1.00 donation per non-member is appreciated.

One-hour walking tours of Old Town Irvine are available on the first Sunday of each month at 11:30 a.m. Free for members; $5 for non-members.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the General Plan Update?

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

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

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

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

This update will also incorporate changes required by state law.

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

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

 

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.

Irvine Slated to Name John Russo as New City Manager!

The following is a press release from the City of Irvine:

The Irvine City Council has chosen John A. Russo as its finalist for City Manager, and will formally consider hiring him at its July 10 meeting.

Russo has 23 years of results-oriented public service gained through leadership positions in Oakland, Alameda, and Riverside. Having served as a City Councilmember, City Attorney, and City Manager, Russo’s combination of experience at three California cities gives him a unique perspective as he prepares to lead Irvine in implementing the vision at the direction of its City Council.

“It is an extraordinary honor to be selected to serve in this position in a city known across America for its foresight, commitment to public safety, and adherence to financial stability,” said Russo. “Consistent with Irvine’s values, I am committed to open and transparent decision-making – listening to all stakeholders (citizens, business, university, public sector, and faith communities) with an open mind, and equally committed to decisive action and a long-term approach to policy. Process matters. Results matter more.”

Russo most recently served as City Manager for the City of Riverside for nearly three years. His experience in municipal government fits well with Irvine’s priorities.

Among the City Council goals in 2018:

  • Traffic improvement initiatives that include 16 capital improvement program projects now underway. The City Council has approved more than $71 million for traffic management and congestion improvements, with construction scheduled over the next 12 months.
  • City Council support of public safety. For a 12th consecutive year, Irvine is the safest city with a population of 250,000 or more for Part 1 violent crime, according to FBI data.
  • The City Council’s ongoing support of its public schools. The City Council provides $10.2 million annually in direct and indirect support.
  • The opening of large sections of the Orange County Great Park, including soccer fields, baseball and softball stadiums with multiple playing fields, basketball courts, and the $100 million public ice facility.
  • Continued high service to the community.

Highlights from Russo’s background align with Irvine’s focus areas:

  • Maintaining Irvine’s renowned employment base – one of the highest jobs-to-population ratios in the country – driven, in part, by major business headquarters such as Edwards Lifesciences and Blizzard Entertainment. Russo last year helped bring the California Air Resources Board’s headquarters and testing facilities to Riverside.
  • Developing of the 1,300-acre Orange County Great Park, a former Marine base. While in Alameda, Russo expeditiously implemented all land use entitlements for redevelopment of the closed Alameda Naval Air Station, a 1,000-acre waterfront property across the bay from San Francisco.
  • Continuing Irvine’s fiscal health, including its recognition as the No. 1 fiscally responsible large city for two straight years. During Russo’s tenures in both Alameda and Riverside, he eliminated structural deficits, significantly increased financial reserves, and presided over improvements in those cities’ bond ratings.

Russo began his career in public service as an elected official with the City of Oakland, first as a Councilmember from 1994-2000, and then City Attorney from 2000-2011. While in Oakland, he authored the open government law and the “Sunshine Ordinance” to ensure public transparency and full residential access to public information. He then moved to the City of Alameda, where he served as City Manager from 2011-2015.

The Brooklyn native, 59, graduated with honors in economics and political science from Yale University, and earned his law degree from New York University School of Law. He was a Legal Aid attorney in St. Louis before moving to Oakland in 1987, where he was president of Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, treasurer of the East Bay League of Conservation Voters, and pro bono attorney for neighborhood associations and nonprofits. In 2002, Russo served as League of California Cities president; he also was a Board member for the National League of Cities.

Russo would become Irvine’s fifth City Manager. Sean Joyce retired in February 2018 after a nearly 13-year career in Irvine. The first City Manager, William Woollett Jr., served from 1972-1989, followed by Paul Brady (1990-1999) and Allison Hart (1999-2005).

Russo has agreed to a base salary in Irvine of $303,014.

###

Since its incorporation in 1971, Irvine has become a nationally recognized city, with a population of 267,086 that spans 66 square miles and is recognized as one of America’s safest and most successful master-planned urban communities. Top-rated educational institutions, an enterprising business atmosphere, sound environmental stewardship, and respect for diversity all contribute to Irvine’s enviable quality of life. This family-friendly city features more than 16,000 acres of parks, sports fields and dedicated open space and is the home of the Orange County Great Park. For more information, please visit cityofirvine.org.  

 

 

Join Us on Friday, June 22, for Irvine’s Super Swim Lesson!

Kick off summer in the pool with the Irvine Super Swim Lesson on Friday, June 22, at William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center!

Adults and children of all swimming abilities are invited to participate in the Super Swim Lesson, a worldwide effort to raise awareness for drowning prevention.

Arrive at 5:30 p.m. to sign up; on-site lesson starts at 6 p.m. Then, stay for a recreation swim that includes a water slide, giant inflatable slide and diving boards.

At dusk, watch the movie Despicable Me 3 on the big screen.

All activities are free!

Lifeguards will be on duty. Ages 3 and older; children age 6 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.

Learning to swim is important.  Drowning is the leading cause of accidental injury and death in children under the age of five and the second leading cause of death in children under the age of 14. More than 80 percent of these drownings occur in residential backyard pools or spas, but drownings can occur anywhere there is water. These deaths are preventable!

Swimming is fun and healthy, and we’re blessed here in Irvine with terrific weather for swimming much of the year.  Now let’s do everything we can to protect our children and enjoy swimming safely.

If you can’t attend our Super Swim Lesson, or want more instruction, the City of Irvine’s Learn-To-Swim Program offers lessons for all ages and swimming abilities. Classes are available for infants through adults.

Let’s make Irvine America’s Safe Swimming Capitol!

 

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 Best Summer Camps for Your Kids This School Break!

The City of Irvine offers hundreds of summer camps for children of all ages during summer break, now through Aug. 24.

Sign up at yourirvine.org.

Not sure which camp is best for your child? Here are our top five recommendations for this summer:

PLAY-WELL TEK

Children will take on real-life engineering challenges that explore physics, architecture, and mechanical and structural engineering. Themes include Jedi Robotics, Girl-Powered STEM Challenge and more.

Ages 5-12.

Register Here.

Browse all Educational camps here.

CS DANCE FACTORY

Watch your child’s self-confidence boom while performing onstage. Different workshops cater to beginners learning basic acting techniques and those looking to expand their stage presence and dance moves.

Ages 4-12.

Register Here.

Browse all Dance, Music & Drama camps here.

EDUTAINMENT ARTS

Classic crafts, games and activities are enveloped in worlds of fantasy, role-playing and fun. Each camp features a different theme, including sewing, Star Wars, cooking, Harry Potter, Project Runway and more.

Ages 7-12.

Register Here.

Browse all Crafts & Art camps here.

GREAT PARK CAMPS

The Orange County Great Park is now offering summer camps. Whether your child is interested in learning chess strategies, engineering a virtual world or playing tennis, there is a camp perfect for them.

Ages vary by camp.

Register Here.

Browse all Great Park camps here.

TRIFYTT SPORTS

Introduce your child to sports in a fun, safe environment. Young athletes develop basic skills while learning sportsmanship and teamwork. Sports include tee ball, soccer, basketball and flag football.

Ages 4-12.

Register Here.

Browse all Sports camps here.

Browse all Irvine summer camps in the summer issue of Inside Irvine, or at yourirvine.org.

Make sure to fill out a Participant Emergency Form for each child before signing them up for camps.

For questions, call 949-724-6610.

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

Watch My Town Hall Meeting!

I held a public Town Hall Meeting at the Irvine Championship Stadium in the Great Park on Saturday, October 21, where we discussed traffic, childcare, the Southern California Veterans Cemetery, affordable housing, and other issues of interest to Irvine residents.

I was joined by several of my city commissioners, as well as by members of the Irvine Police Department, who were also there to answer questions.

Several dozen Irvine residents spoke and asked questions, and I thank everyone who attended.

Here are some photos from the event:

I really enjoyed the open, public dialogue with Irvine residents, and I intend to make these Town Hall Meetings a regular part of my work as an Irvine City Councilmember.

You can watch the complete October 21 Town Hall Meeting on my YouTube channel (Melissa Fox, Irvine City Council) here:

 

 

 

 

 

Irvine’s Kids Need You! City of Irvine Seeks Applicants for Four Positions on Child Care Committee!

The Irvine Community Services Commission is accepting applications to fill two government, civic, or community agencies vacancies, and two child care provider vacancies on the Irvine Child Care Committee.

There is a serious child care crisis in Irvine.  At present, nearly 2,500 Irvine families do not have adequate child care. 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.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I have made it a priority to increase childcare and early childhood education opportunities in Irvine. By volunteering to serve on the Irvine Child Care Committee, you can serve our community and help me and others work to alleviate our childcare crisis.

The Irvine Child Care Committee is a 15-member advisory body to the Irvine Community Services Commission, and works cooperatively with the Irvine Children, Youth, and Families Advisory Committee, Child Care Coordination staff, and Community Development to enhance the quality of childcare and school readiness in the City of Irvine.

Committee meetings  are held on the second Tuesday of January, March, May, September, October and November, from 9:00 am to 10:30 am at Heritage Park Community Center, or other designated Irvine location.

Staff and committee members will interview candidates in October 2017.  Following interviews, recommendations will be presented to the Community Services Commission for appointment effective January 2018.

Applications are available here, or at the Irvine Civic Center (on the 2nd floor in the Community Services Department), and at the Irvine Child Resource Center.

If you would like more information, please contact my Lead Council Executive Assistant, Allison Binder, at abinder@ci.irvine.ca.us.

Thanks!

Listen to Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox’s Interview on KUCI’s “Ask a Leader”

Irvine, CA — Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox was recently interviewed by Claudia Shambaugh on KUCI’s award-winning program “Ask a Leader.”

The topics covered include the new composition of the Irvine City Council, Irvine’s recent progress on environmental issues, traffic, Melissa Fox’s goals for the Great Park,  and the Orange County Veterans Cemetery.

To listen to the podcast of the interview, click here.

Melissa Fox’s section of the podcast starts at 29:30, right after “Amazing Grace.”

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.

Irvine Unified School Board President Paul Bokota Endorses Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

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For Immediate Release

Contact: Jason Mills (714) 576-4303

IRVINE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD PRESIDENT PAUL BOKOTA ENDORSES MELISSA FOX FOR IRVINE CITY COUNCIL

mail-01IRVINE, CA   Irvine Community Services Commissioner and City Council candidate Melissa Fox today announced an endorsement from Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) Board President Paul A. Bokota. Coming on the heels of Melissa Fox’s recent endorsement by Irvine City Council Member Lynn Schott, the endorsement of IUSD Board President Bokota gives the Fox campaign further momentum going into the final weeks of the campaign.

“As IUSD Board President, and an IUSD parent, I know that the School Board needs allies on the Irvine City Council who care about ensuring Irvine’s tradition of educational excellence,” Bokota said. “Melissa Fox shares my passion for education excellence in Irvine and is committed to helping us continue the success of our Irvine schools.”

“Paul Bokota’s endorsement means a lot to me,” Melissa Fox said, “because I know how hard he works to keep our Irvine schools exceptional. As a member of the City Council, I look forward to working with Paul to support our schools and maintain excellence.”

IUSD Board President Paul A. Bokota was first elected to the Board in November 2012 and was selected to serve as Board President for 2016. Prior to his election, he served on the IUSD Finance Committee for six years, including serving as the chairperson of the Revenue Enhancement Committee.  He is a graduate of Harvard University and the Indiana University School of Law, presently serving as Division Vice-President and Division General Counsel for Spectrum Brands, Inc.

He is currently a candidate for re-election to the IUSD Board and is endorsed by the Irvine Teachers Association (ITA), the Irvine Chapter of the California School Employee Association (CSEA), IUSD Board Member Sharon Wallin, IUSD Board Member Ira Glasky, IUSD Board Member Lauren Brooks, IUSD Board Member Michael Parham, former IUSD Board Member Gavin Huntley-Fenner, former Irvine School Board Member Carolyn McInerney, and Past Chair of the Irvine Public Schools Foundation (IPSF) Lita Robinow, among many others.

Melissa Fox is an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, attorney, and small business owner in Irvine. To learn more about her campaign for Irvine City Council, 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

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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 .    

It’s Official: Melissa Fox Qualifies to Run for Irvine City Council!

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It’s official — I’ve filed to run for Irvine City Council!  Here is the official press release:

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox announced today that she has officially filed for an open seat on the Irvine City Council and qualified for the ballot in the November 8th General Election.

“As a business owner, attorney and Irvine Community Services Commissioner,” Fox stated. “I understand the relationship between strong, pro-resident leadership and our quality of life. Our city needs a new vision for unsnarling our roads and creating melissa.smilebetter economic opportunities.”

Fox starts her campaign with great momentum, having already received the support of the Orange County Professional Firefighters, the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council, numerous Irvine businesses and community members and Councilmember Beth Krom.

“Over the next 83 days,” Fox continued, “I plan to talk directly to Irvine voters about my plan for for restoring good planning. Irvine residents can count on me to work everyday to make Irvine an even better place to live and raise our families.”

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

To keep in touch with campaign updates, please “like” Melisss Fox for Irvine City Council’s Facebook page.

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.

Come Listen to a Free Jazz Concert and Support Woodbridge Village Center this Thursday, April 30

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Come listen to a free jazz concert and support Irvine’s Woodbridge Village Center this Thursday, April 30!

The Irvine Public Schools Foundation and The Irvine Company are sponsoring a jazz band performance by Irvine High School from 6:00-7:00 pm.  There will also be in-store specials and drawings.

Enjoy a meal with family and friends in the beautiful outdoor courtyard while listening to the musical talents of Irvine High School’s Jazz Band.

There is also a contest drawing and discounts from participating Woodbridge Village Center merchants.

It’s fun for the whole family!

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.

Now, forty successful years later, Woodbridge Village Center remains an integral part of Irvine, connected to both lakes, Woodbridge high school and walking trails, literally in the center of Irvine.

Please join your neighbors this Thursday, April 30, to support your Woodbridge Village Center and local businesses!

Irvine Unified Presents Free Public Concert Series!

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The Irvine Unified School District, in partnership with the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, presents the Music Series, which features four free performances by two Irvine high schools.

University High School’s string quartet and Irvine High School’s jazz band will perform on the following dates:

April 9, 6-7 p.m. – Quail Hill Shopping Center (University High School String Quartet).

April 16, 6-7 p.m. – University Center (Irvine High School Jazz Band 1).

April 23, 6-7 p.m. – Orchard Hills Village Center (University High School String Quartet).

April 30, 6-7 p.m. – Woodbridge Village (Irvine High School Jazz Band 1).

Bring your family and friends to enjoy a fun-filled evening of music!

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’

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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

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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.

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.

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.