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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning Commission Decision Dooms Irvine University Center Farmers’ Market

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

Now it appears that soon there may be one less.

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

The reason?

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

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

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

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

Fast-food and too fast growth.

Bad planning has bad consequences.

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.

Saving the Irvine Barclay Theatre is Up to You

One of the first things that Mayor Steven Choi and Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway did when they captured the majority on the Irvine City Council was attempt to slash the City’s funding for the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Choi and Lalloway asserted that the City’s contribution to the Irvine Barclay Theatre is “wasteful spending” and proposed to cut it by more than half, from $925,000 to $425,000.

Doug Rankin, president of the Irvine Barclay, warned that if the City’s contribution to the Barclay was cut as Choi and Lalloway wanted, the impact on the Barclay would be  “Somewhere between completely adverse and catastrophic.

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World Famous Diavolo Dance Theatre performing at the Irvine Barclay Theatre

Founded in 1990, the Irvine Barclay Theatre is a unique collaboration among the City of Irvine, the University of California, Irvine, and the private sector.  The Barclay has earned “a reputation for wide-ranging programming in the fields of contemporary dance, music, and theater arts . . .  The Barclay’s 750-seat Cheng Hall is now virtually in constant use.  The Irvine Barclay Theatre has gained a national reputation for its great acoustics, intimate feel, and the high quality of its production facilities. Among artists, it is a venue of choice when performing in southern California.”

Choi’s and Lalloway’s attempt to impose “catastrophic” cuts in the Barclay’s funding failed when dozens of citizens – from across the political spectrum – including former Irvine Mayor Sally Anne Sheridan, UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts Dean Joseph Lewis, Bluestone Communities President Michael Kerr, Arts Orange County Executive Director Richard Stein, and Philharmonic Society of Orange County President Dean Corey – showed up at the City Council chambers to protest.

Republican Councilmember Christina Shea then voted with Democratic Councilmembers Beth Krom and Larry Agran to restore the Barclay’s funding – to much audience applause.

Angry over losing the vote and undeterred by the overwhelming popular sentiment in favor of restoring the Barclay’s funding, Lalloway responded by publicly insulting Councilmember Christina Shea, saying she had deceived the voters when she claimed to be ‘fiscally responsible.

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China National Opera and Dance Company performing this month at the Irvine Barclay Theatre

Now, the Barclay is again in danger.

If Choi and Lalloway are re-elected this November, they will again try to inflict catastrophic cuts in the City’s funding for the Barclay Theatre.

The result would be, in Doug Rankin’s words, “catastrophic” for the Barclay, as well as many other City of Irvine programs.

In contrast, if I am elected to the Irvine City Council, I will ensure that the City continues to support the Irvine Barclay Theatre – where I have seen numerous wonderful performances from both UC Irvine students and touring professionals from around the globe, most recently last week’s performance of the China National Opera and Dance Drama Company – so that it continues to be Irvine’s most treasured cultural center for at least another 25 years.

The fate of the Irvine Barclay Theatre depends on who the voters elect this coming November.

Whether the Barclay survives for another 25 wonderful years – and more – is up to you.