Join Me to Celebrate Irvine’s Winter Wonderland as Snow Falls on the Civic Center!

Join me and my Irvine City Council colleagues on Saturday, December 7, 4:00 – 6:30 p.m., as we celebrate the season as “snow” falls over the Irvine Civic Center and the community gathers for our traditional Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony and an evening of holiday cheer!

This free event will include visits with Santa Claus, live holiday music, games, crafts, and winter-themed train route.

Guests to Winter Wonderland are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped gift suitable for infants or children up to age 12. Toy donations aid the Irvine 2/11 Marine Adoption Committee Holiday Drive, which benefits the families of Irvine’s adopted 2/11 Marine Battalion. Help bring joy to these families during the holidays by donating a new, unwrapped gift suitable for infants or children ages 12 and younger. Donations can be dropped off at the Civic Center.

What: Irvine Winter Wonderland Celebration

Where: Irvine Civic Center Plaza

When: Saturday, December 7, 2019 – 3:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Don’t miss this wonderful community event!

See you there!

For more information, call 949-724-6606.

P.S. Don’t forget about our annual Home for the Holidays pet adoption event on Sunday, December 8, 2019, at the Irvine Animal Center.

And don’t forget that the City of Irvine will deliver your letters to Santa Claus!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Fox Family! Thanksgiving is a Time to Give to Those In Need

We have much for which we are grateful.

We are grateful for this great nation, for our freedoms, and for those whose sacrifices, past and present, have made those freedoms endure for generations.

We are grateful for our families and friends, and for the love that makes life worthwhile.

We are grateful for our beautiful City of Irvine.

We are grateful for the blessings of our beautiful planet and our beautiful state of California.

We are grateful for our Police and Firefighters, our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Airmen.

We are grateful, too, for everyone in our community and our nation who protects us and serves those in need.

We are grateful for the volunteers who comfort the sick, care for the young and the aged, share their knowledge and skills, and keep us moving forward.

We are also grateful that we are fortunate enough to be able to help others.

Our family, especially during the holidays, supports ClothingDonations.org, a service of Vietnam Veterans of America.  ClothingDonations.org will pick up your used clothes and household goods at your convenience and use them to support programs that address the needs of all our veterans.

We also support Families Forward, an Irvine-based organization that assists Orange County families in financial crisis to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency and helps these families to once again become independent, productive residents of the community. During the holidays, Families Forward also provides in-need families with festive food baskets and personalized holiday gifts.

Another worthy organization is the California Association of Food Banks, founded in 1995 to help hungry people throughout California, including our local Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and the Community Action Partnership of Orange County Food Bank.

Our City of Irvine proudly and gratefully supports the Irvine 2/11 Marine Adoption Committee, which provides charitable and educational activities and support for the benefit and welfare of the United States Marines and their families assigned to Camp Pendleton, California, with special emphasis on the Marines and families of the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines.

Donations of toys can be made to the 2/11 Marines Holiday Toy Drive benefiting families of Irvine’s adopted 2/11 Marine Battalion. Help bring joy to these families during the holidays by donating a new, unwrapped gift suitable for infants or children ages 12 and younger.  Donations can be dropped off through December 14 at the Irvine Civic Center, Irvine Police Headquarters, and the Great Park Visitors Center.

We also endorse giving to Socks for Heroes, which ships socks along with other essentials to United States Marine Corps combat infantry units, provides Marine children the ability to take advantage of swimming lessons, sports, and camps, and provides other programs for single Marines and Marine families during deployments.

Gift cards for Firefighters can be mailed or delivered to the OCFA Firefighter’s Benevolent Association for Firefighters in need.  Monetary donations can be made to Firefighter organizations such as the OCFA Foundation and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.  Donations can also be made to the California Fire Museum and Safety Leaning Center,

Many other worthy non-profit organizations that provide assistance to the residents of Irvine and surrounding areas can be found on the Charity Directory of the City of Irvine’s website.

Each year at Thanksgiving, we remember our friend Michael Kinslow and his beautiful Prayer of Thanksgiving for those who protect and those who serve:

Thank you God for every woman and man who risks their life for my freedom and safety.

Please bless their families with peace.

Thank you God for every child, woman, and man who volunteers in my community. All of those who feed the hungry, provide shelter, and all who put their hearts, minds, and souls into building up others and caring for all of your creatures.

Please bless them in their own time of need.

Amen.

Melissa

Irvine Delivers Letters to Santa Claus!

Irvine will deliver your letters to Santa Claus!

Santa is busy getting ready for the holidays, and he would love to hear from his friends in Irvine!

Heritage and Turtle Rock community parks will be accepting and sorting Santa’s mail this holiday season. All letters will receive responses, which can be picked up where the letter is dropped off.  Allow one week for individual responses; for classrooms, allow two weeks.

A drop-off and pick-up box will be located at both parks.

Send letters to:

SANTA CLAUS SANTA CLAUS
c/o Heritage Park Community Center c/o Turtle Rock Community Park
14301 Yale Ave., 1 Sunnyhill
Irvine, CA 92604 Irvine, CA 92603

For more information, call Heritage Community Park at 949-724-6750 or Turtle Rock Community Park at 949-724-6734.

Also, join me for Irvine’s Winter Wonderland Celebration on Saturday, December 7, 4–6:30 p.m. as “snow” falls over the Irvine Civic Center and the community gathers for games, crafts, entertainment, food, and a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony!

And don’t forget to join the City of Irvine and the Irvine 2/11 Marine Adoption Committee to support the Irvine 2/11 Marine Corps Holiday Toy Drivebrightening the season for military families by donating a new, unwrapped gift suitable for infants or children ages 12 and younger.

Now Available: The 2020 Irvine Animal Care Center Calendar! All Proceeds Benefit Animal Care!

The 2020 Irvine Animal Care Center Calendar is on sale now for $15.

Get the perfect holiday present for your loved one (person or pet)!

Proceeds from 2020 Irvine Animal Care Center Calendar sales go toward providing shelter and care for the animals at the center.

You can purchase your calendar at the center during regular business hours, weekdays from noon to 6 p.m., and weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Center is closed on Tuesdays and holidays.

Each year, the Irvine Animal Care Center provides shelter, care, and enrichment for approximately 3,000 animals. Support from the community helps the center provide high-quality daily care and enhanced medical treatment to animals in need.

Visit the Center’s Programs and Services webpage to learn more about how your contributions and support allow the Animal Care Center to help the animals in our care find the new adoptive homes they deserve.

The mission of the Irvine Animal Care Center is to provide a safe, clean, caring and enriching environment that meets the high standards of our community and provides the community a resource of trained and knowledgeable staff and volunteers; place all adoptable animals into permanent, loving, responsible pet homes and reunites owner-identified animals with their owners; and promote human responsibility for companion animals.

Click here to learn more about the Center’s adoption program and to see the dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals available for adoption.

We are so fortunate to have the Irvine Animal Center in our community!

For questions about the Irvine Animal Care Center Calendar, call 949-724-7740.

 

Read the Irvine Community Land Trust Q4 2019 Newsletter: New Affordable Housing, Tax Reform, Affordable Housing Conference, and More!

I am honored to serve as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust (ICLT), guiding its mission of providing secure, high-quality affordable housing for the benefit of income-eligible families.  

Since I joined the ICLT, we’ve built two below-market rate apartment communities, Parc Derian and Doria, for families making no more than 80 percent of the area’s median household income; some residents earn less than 30 percent of the median income, which in Orange County is $97,900 for a family of four.

ICLT Chair Melissa Fox speaking at the groundbreaking of Salerno, our newest affordable housing community in Irvine.

Recently, we celebrated the groundbreaking for Salerno, our newest affordable housing community in Irvine. On schedule to be completed in the Fall of 2020, Salerno will offer affordable rents as low as $550 for a one-bedroom, $625 for a two-bedroom and $695 for a three-bedroom.

Thirty-five of the homes will be reserved for those earning less than 30 percent of the area median income: 15 for veterans; 10 for individuals with developmental disabilities; and 10 for families at risk of homelessness.

As the Orange County Register observed, these affordable communities offer “a new beginning for veterans, developmentally disabled people and families at risk of homelessness.”

New Communities, the first modern land trust, started 50 years ago in Georgia by the descendants of slaves.

As Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust (ICLT), I have been actively working with members of the California State Legislature to enact tax reforms to make it it much easier to create affordable housing throughout California.

The new legislation, SB 196, which ICLT and I worked on with Senators Jim Beall, Mike McGuire, and Bob Wieckowski to pass in Sacramento, and which has now been signed into law by the Governor, allows properties slated for affordable rental homes to get a tax exemption sooner, saving nonprofit builders between millions of dollars that can instead go toward building more affordable homes.

The new law also extends this property tax break to land for owner-occupied affordable home projects.  As I told the Orange County Register, “It’s really hard to build these [affordable housing] projects. You have to have a lot of funding, and property taxes can take a significant bite out of that. Even if it didn’t prevent us from doing the [Salerno] project, it lowered the number of units we could do.”  Now that’s been changed.  Under the new law, property tax rates will be lower at the outset for below-market rate, affordable housing, making it much more practical to build more housing for more people in need.

Mark Asturias, Melissa Fox, and Leon M. Nappier at New Communities.

Last month, I traveled to Georgia with ICLT Executive Director Mark Asturias and fellow board member Leon M. Napper for the Reclaiming Vacant Properties and Grounded Solutions Conference. While we were there, we visited New Communities, the first of the modern land trusts, founded in Leesburg, Georgia, in 1969, a former plantation is now owned by the descendants of slaves and dedicated to conservation and racial reconciliation. This land trust went on to inspire the hundreds of community land trusts that exist today, ourselves included.

All of these recent events are covered in our Q4 2019 Irvine Community Land Trust Newsletter HERE.

The affordable housing we’ve created with ICLT profoundly and positively impacts the health and education outcomes for hundreds of people. That’s why I volunteer to serve as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust. The affordable housing crisis isn’t just about buildings. We’re building communities for all the people who desperately need a place to live, including children who need a positive environment to thrive.

You can learn more about the Irvine Community Land Trust at our website HERE.

In May 2019, the Irvine Community Land Trust was awarded the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, the world’s most respected source of information on nonprofit organizations.  You can read about it HERE.

UCI Named No. 1 College in U.S. for Sustainability. The City of Irvine Should Follow UCI’s Example and Adopt the Community Choice Energy Program and Stand-Alone Climate Action Plan We’ve Been Promised!

Congratulations to the University of California, Irvine (UCI), on being named the No. 1 “Cool School” in the nation by the Sierra Club in its annual ranking of sustainability leaders among U.S. colleges.

UCI is the only university to score in the top 10 for 10 consecutive years.

“As UCI is the only university to have ranked in the top 10 ‘Cool Schools’ for an unprecedented 10 years and counting, we’re continually impressed with its commitment to modeling, teaching and embodying excellent environmental stewardship in all areas,” said Katie O’Reilly, Sierra Magazine’s adventure and lifestyle editor. “The Anteaters are truly standouts in this increasingly important space.”

Colleges were ranked according to which ones offer the best sustainability-focused courses and carbon-neutral land and energy policies, as well as the most opportunities to engage with the environmental movement. UCI was recognized for EV charging stations and converting its central-cooling plant to a system that conserves over 80 million gallons of potable water per year while cooling campus buildings —17 of which are certified LEED Platinum and seven of which are zero-waste facilities. UCI also was recognized for creating a new pilot project to provide free insulation retrofits and solar installations in nearby low-income communities.  In addition, UCI researchers were recognized for their work in  adapting medical and public health curricula to better prepare students to treat tropical diseases as they expand in range due to climate change.

You can listen to a podcast on UCI’s “Cool School” Award, including UCI’s efforts regarding sustainability and achieving reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions here.

The City of Irvine has a lot to learn from UCI’s accomplishments.

Under Irvine Mayors Larry Agran, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang, Irvine was indeed a world leader in environmental programs and innovation. One of the highlights of Irvine’s environmental engagement was presence of the U.S. Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. The Solar Decathlon is an international competition held every two years that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The houses are assembled at a central location for display, evaluation, and awards. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The Solar Decathlon was held at the Great Park in 2013 and 2015.

Another highlight of Irvine’s environmental leadership was the creation of the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee in 2012.  The Green Ribbon Committee was charged with the crucial task of developing and recommending environmental policy initiatives and programs, including sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

Unfortunately, when Steven Choi became mayor of Irvine in November 2014, both the Great Park Solar Decathlon and the Green Ribbon Committee became victims of Choi’s climate change denial and hostility to environmental action.

As I’ve detailed in How Orange County Lost the U.S. Solar Decathlon, Steven Choi was hostile to the very premises of the Solar Decathlon — the need for replacing burning fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy.  In sharp contrast to the previous three Irvine mayors who championed environmental and climate concerns, Choi “completely question[ed] the idea of global warming being caused by human intervention.”  Rather than recognizing the importance of environmental action,  both as an opportunity for technological innovation and as an existential imperative, Choi saw all environmental concerns as anti-business and climate change as wholly unconnected to human activity. You can read the full story of the Solar Decathlon here.

Similarly, Choi sabotaged the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee. In fact, when I was elected to the Irvine City Council in November 2016, the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee had been inoperative for several years because Mayor Steven Choi and his allies on the Irvine City Council did not appoint sufficient members to constitute a quorum. In fact, the Committee did not meet during all of 2014 and 2016, cancelling every scheduled meeting. The words “climate change” and “global warming” were not permitted to be used in official City of Irvine publications or staff reports. Choi didn’t even allow the City of Irvine to participate in the Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by the Irvine-based Wyland Foundation.

As a longtime environmental activist, I wasn’t going to allow the City of Irvine to continue to ignore environmental issues and global warming. I convinced newly elected Mayor Donald P. Wagner, who replaced Steven Choi, to re-invigorate the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee and appoint me to the Committee as the City Council’s representative.  I then appointed Krishna Hammond, a young progressive scientist, as my representative to the Committee and encouraged the other Councilmembers to make appointments.  At our first meeting, I was elected Chair of the Committee and Krishna was elected Vice Chair.  The Green Ribbon Environmental Committee was out of Choi-imposed exile and was off and running.

I am extremely proud of the work we’ve done and the things we’ve accomplished since then.

Perhaps most important, we commissioned a study of Community Choice Energy (CCE) and then recommended that the City Council follow its recommendation to implement a CCE plan with an expected savings of $7.7 million per year in citywide electricity cost savings for Irvine residents and businesses, and a $112,000 per year savings for the City itself in municipal energy costs, as well as driving additional local economic development benefits, such as new jobs and $10 million in annual economic output. 

Now I am concerned that the work we’ve done on CCE is about to be undermined by the current City Council leadership.  I have learned that CCE advocates have been getting “push back” from the City and the City Manager.

The Green Ribbon Committee also recommended swift adoption of a stand-alone Climate Action Plan, so that, in the words of climate activist Robin Raeder Ganahl, “Irvine residents know what the City’s plan is to reduce emissions, meet state targets, and protect our quality of life.” Again, I am now concerned that the current City Council leadership has no intention of adopting a stand-alone Climate Action Plan, and is simply sitting on the Green Ribbon Committee’s recommendation with no intention to move forward.

Melissa Fox attending the 2013 U.S. Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park as an Irvine Community Services Commissioner.

We’ve made progress since the days when Steven Choi drove the U.S. Solar Decathlon out of town, shut down the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, refused to participate in the Wyland Foundation’s Water Challenge, and banned the words “climate change” and “global warning.”

But there is still much to be done. In particular, the current Irvine City Council leadership needs to show that its professed concern for action on climate change and protecting the environment isn’t just lip service and a public relations smokescreen.

Instead, the City Council needs to adopt a stand-alone Climate Action Plan that we’ve been promised and implement the Community Choice Energy program that we’ve shown to be a tremendous benefit to both the City and the planet. 

 

Show Your Support for a Great Park Botanical Gardens at our Board Meeting on Tues., October 22, 2019!

If you’re a supporter of botanical gardens in the Orange County Great Park, please attend the important Great Park Board Meeting on Tues., October 22, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. in the Irvine City Council Chambers.

This meeting is scheduled to include a development status update and accounting of projects currently proposed in the Orange County Great Park.

Of special concern to supporters of Great Park Botanical Gardens is the fact that there is no funding or acreage currently allotted or proposed for a botanical gardens.

You can read the Great Park Board Meeting agenda HERE.

You can read the staff report on Great Park development HERE.

It is crucial that supporters of a Great Park Botanical Gardens show up to the meeting and make your voices heard!

I have long been a strong advocate for botanical gardens and museums in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace.  Every survey we’ve done has shown that gardens are among amenities that people most want in the Great Park. The Orange County Register reported that “Gardens were among the most popular features in the surveys, according to the city staff report. Eighty-two percent of Orange County residents said they are at least somewhat interested in having botanical gardens at the Great Park, when they were asked specifically about the feature.”

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.”

I also continue to agree with what Joyce Mann wrote in the Voice of OC in 2017: “Gardens are an inclusive, a-political opportunity to bring community together for generations. They are a public benefit that becomes a lasting legacy. Besides being beautiful to look at, education is fundamental to the mission of botanical gardens. Through them, we have an opportunity to teach students of all ages about developing environmental awareness and to learn about plant science, gardening and the ecology of our local forests, rivers and wetlands. Botanical gardens become a living plant museum that will inform visitors about the importance and often-irreplaceable value of plants to the well-being of humans and to the earth’s fragile ecosystems. Isn’t that the very definition of a legacy?”

My top priorities for the Great Park Cultural Terrace are a world-class Botanical Gardens and a California Natural History Museum. I want them moving forward without any more unnecessary delays or unnecessary layers of bureaucracy. I will continue to fight for them until they are a reality.

I appreciate that gardens and museums are not necessarily revenue-producing amenities. But as reported in OC Weekly, “Great Park Director/City Councilwoman Melissa Fox said that, ‘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.’ But most heartening, on May 22, Fox pushed back on the notion that everything in the Cultural Terrace must generate a lot of revenue. ‘The Cultural Terrace is the Cultural Terrace,’ she told Irvine planners and consultants at the Great Park board meeting. ‘Not the Commercial Terrace.'”

Please show up at our meeting at 1:00 p.m. on Tues., October 22, 2019, and give voice to the strong community support for a Great Park Botanical Gardens!