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.

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.

My Response to the Grand Jury Report on Housing Orange County’s Homeless: Irvine Offers Leadership in Providing Real Solutions for the Homelessness Crisis

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

At our recent Irvine City Council meeting on August 26, 2018, the City Council was presented with our city staff’s response to the Orange County Grand Jury Report “Where There’s Will, There’s a Way — Housing Orange County’s Chronically Homeless.”

Councilmember Melissa Fox preparing to lead a meeting of the Irvine Community Land Trust.

Following the staff presentation, I made the following remarks, which I’d like to share with you here:

“Thank you very much for a terrific response.

I did feel that there needs to be some additional information in the response, however, and Mayor Wagner touched on much of it, in particular the $29.2 million that we’re putting aside, as well as land, and the additional permanent supportive housing, potentially as many as 80 units, which we are set to break ground on in the very near future with the Irvine Community Land Trust.

In addition, there’s another project stacked right behind the first project for the Land Trust, which will be unique in that it will provide an ownership for affordable housing, and all of this backed by services, so we will be creating permanent, supportive housing.

Irvine has been a model in this area, and what I think the Grand Jury, and even our own response misses, is that the Land Trust concept is something that Irvine has pioneered.

No other city has a Land Trust like we have, and other cities are working to copy ours. Our executive director is a national leader, and we have a great deal of experience in the Land Trust area, so I think what we have best to contribute to the ACC-OC (Association of California Cities – Orange County) and a potential Joint Powers Agreement is leadership.

In Irvine, we don’t need an additional Land Trust.  We already have one, and we paved the way, and we already have a vehicle to receive the funds that are ready to come forward from the State. The reason that the Joint Powers Agreement for a Land Trust for the County needed to be created is that the County didn’t have one.  In Irvine, we already did.

And so I would notify, and let the Grand Jury know, that we could be of assistance and leadership in this area.  Our executive director for the Irvine Community Land Trust, Mark Asturias, is an executive director of the national Land Trust Alliance, and so he’s leading the way.

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox speaking with homeless people at the former Riverbed encampment with Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva, Huntington Beach Councilmember Billy O’Connell, and Santa Ana Councilmember Michele Martinez.

I also want to comment on the allegation of NIMBYism in Irvine, which I thought was very pejorative and unfair.

Irvine has never said we don’t want to help homeless people in our community. Rather, we’ve said we’ll be the first to form this Land Trust and move forward with it.

So just last year, Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris and I traveled with ACC-OC to San Antonio to look at what was really an exceptional program (Haven for Hope) helping the homeless community in San Antonio that has been held up as a model.  We went with many other stakeholders. One thing we learned on that trip was that neighbors are important.  And it was very important for the success of this homeless shelter in San Antonio to be located in a community that their services also served, to prevent the community members from becoming homeless.  So the shelter has to be located in an area where the neighborhood is receptive, and sees it as a benefit because they’re providing social services to the neighborhood, they’re providing schooling, they’re providing medical clinics, they’re providing dental services, and so on.

Location is very important, and what we heard our residents in Irvine saying is that there was a problem with placing homeless people in tents adjacent to the Great Park as proposed by the Board of Supervisors.  And, in addition, what Irvine residents and the Irvine City Council said is that human beings should not be housed in tents with no water, no electricity, and no transportation.

So, I think to denigrate Irvine and the residents who came together as not compassionate and full of NIMBY sentiment is absolutely incorrect, and we need to put forward that our residents came together, not only to say that they were opposed to the County’s tent city plan for a homeless shelter, but they literally hired their own attorneys to put together solution packages, and they came to the same conclusions that the experts did, that you must have permanent supportive services that go along with the housing.

They weren’t just saying we don’t want it here, they said we want to help fix this program, and I think we can reach out to that same group to work with us on this issue.

I have also traveled to Sacramento and worked with many of our legislators to increase the number of units that we can move forward with under the Land Trust by creating legislation (Senate Bill 1056) that would give us favorable tax treatment.

And so I think we have a lot to teach the cities that haven’t done this kind of work.  We blazed that path, and I’d like this report to make that clear, especially the work that the Irvine Community Land Trust has done, that prior city councils have invested in this, and that the Mayor himself has expended countless hours in looking forward to a solution, and I think that at the very least, the Mayor’s comments should be incorporated as a preface to our response.”

You can read the Orange County Grand Jury Report “Where There’s Will, There’s a Way — Housing Orange County’s Chronically Homeless,” and the original proposed response of the City of Irvine here.

 

Irvine Community Land Trust Opens New Affordable Housing for Working Families, Veterans, and Special Needs Residents

As Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, I am extremely proud of the Land Trust’s most recent affordable housing accomplishment, Parc Derian, which brings 80 new units of housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine.

Perc Derian officially opened on August 3, 2018.

Here is a news report from Affordable Housing Finance that I am delighted to share with you:

AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE
Development to Help Fill Housing Need in Irvine, Calif.

Parc Derian will serve working families and others with special needs.

By Donna Kimura

August 13, 2018

The recently completed Parc Derian brings 80 units of housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents in Irvine, Calif.

The development is a public/private partnership between C&C Development, Innovative Housing Opportunities (IHO), Lennar Corp., the city of Irvine, and the Irvine Community Land Trust.

Located in the heart of the Irvine Business Complex, a major economic and job hub for the city, Parc Derian had 2,000 households on its interest list, from which 80 households were selected by lottery and all moved in within 30 days. Twenty percent of the units are designated for veterans

Developed on a 2.2-acre urban infill site as part of Irvine’s inclusionary zoning plan, the apartment community features almost a half-acre of open space, and residents are served by 5,000 square feet of community space with such amenities as a fitness room, a community room, on-site laundry facilities, and secured bicycle storage. A second-floor exterior podium deck encompasses a tot lot, an outdoor barbeque and fireplace pavilion, a swimming pool, and a community garden.

Designed by KTGY Group, the $33.6 million Parc Derian is a four-story structure featuring contemporary architecture that incorporates urban-inspired elements and finishes and is designed to achieve a LEED Gold certification. It utilizes sustainable building methods such as low-e energy-conserving windows, water saving plumbing fixtures, and LED lighting throughout the property. Advent Cos. is the general contractor.

“Parc Derian underscores our mission to design and build affordable housing that is indistinguishable from market-rate housing and provides a secure and comfortable environment for families and individuals that improves their lives and lifestyle,” said Todd Cottle, a C&C Development principal. “Design and quality of craftsmanship that is represented by Parc Derian play an important role in our properties, especially in inclusionary zoning environments such as the city of Irvine.”

Ranging in size from approximately 635 to 1,203 square feet, the one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments have private balconies and patios and are designed to accommodate large families and special-needs individuals with household incomes between 30% and 50% of the area median income (AMI). Monthly rents range from $527 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,218 for a three-bedroom unit, significantly lower than monthly rents for comparable market-rate apartments in the Irvine area.

To provide housing for residents with special needs, C&C Development and IHO have partnered with Families Forward to set aside apartments that are designed for family households that are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness. Families Forward assists people in crisis to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through housing, counseling, and education.

The developers have also partnered with the Regional Centers of Orange County and United Cerebral Palsy to set aside apartments for developmentally disabled residents. The organizations help residents with disabilities reach their full potential, improve their quality of life, and foster an attitude of acceptance and inclusion.

Residents will further benefit from social services such as health and education enhancement programming offered by Lighthouse Community Center and IHO.

Parc Derian is an excellent example of public-private partnerships working creatively to provide affordable housing for Irvine’s workforce, according to Mark Asturias, executive director of the Irvine Community Land Trust, which provides land that is leased to developers such as C&C Development to build housing that will remain permanently affordable.

“Every family and individual deserves the ability to afford a home in their community,” Asturias said in a statement. “Parc Derian is a tremendous accomplishment for all the partners involved and for the Irvine community. It demonstrates how a city can partner with a home-grown nonprofit such as the Land Trust and developers to bring permanently affordable housing into the community. By providing homes people can afford, they commute less, spend more time with their family, and give back to the community they live in. Irvine is stronger with affordable housing.”

The $33.6 million Parc Derian was financed with low-income housing tax credits from the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, a construction loan provided by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and a permanent loan through the California Community Reinvestment Corp.

The housing tax credits, which were syndicated by National Equity Fund, generated approximately $18.4 million in equity. Additional financing was invested by the City of Irvine and Lennar Corp.

 

 

Councilmember Melissa Fox Receives Award on Behalf of the Irvine Community Land Trust for Opening of New Permanent Affordable Housing in Irvine

Irvine, CA — Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox today received an award on behalf of the Irvine Community Land Trust for the opening of new permanent affordable housing in Irvine.

The new housing project is Parc Derian, an 80-unit,100% permanent affordable housing community.  Eight units (10%) are reserved for veterans, four units are reserved for “at risk” families through Families Forward, and four units are reserved for disabled individuals.

Councilmember Fox is the Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust.  She has made creating more affordable housing a priority.  In addition to her work on the Irvine City Council and the Irvine Community Land Trust, Councilmember Fox has made numerous trips to Sacramento to testify before legislative committees and to work with the state legislators, including State Senators John Moorlach, Jim Beall, Scott Wiener, and Janet Nguyen, and Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva on solutions to the California housing crisis.

In addition to the Irvine Community Land Trust, other partners in the Parc Derian project included the City of Irvine, the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, the National Equity Fund, the Bank of America, C & C Development, Lennar Corporation, Innovative Housing Opportunities (IHO), Orange County and United Cerebal Palsy, Familes Forward, and Lighthouse Community Centers.

Parc Derian is located within the Irvine Business Complex (IBC).

At the opening ceremony, Councilmember Fox made the following remarks:

“Good afternoon and welcome. I’m delighted that you have come to enjoy the grand opening of our latest affordable housing project.

Many of you may wonder what is the Irvine Community Land Trust and why are we involved in this project.  The Irvine Community Land Trust was established by the City in 2006.  We were the City’s homegrown nonprofit created to hold land in perpetuity for affordable housing.

Three years ago, in partnership with the City and C&C Development, we started development of our second affordable housing project – Parc Derian.  Today you see the finished product.  But what you may not realize is that this property will always be affordable.  This is because the Irvine Community Land Trust, as a nonprofit, holds land for the community in perpetuity. This was and is the vision the City had when it created the Irvine Community Land Trust.

Today, the Irvine Community Land Trust remains committed to implementing the City’s vision of creating permanent affordable housing. It bears repeating that the City’s vision of housing for Irvine is that we have “a full spectrum of housing types to meet the needs of all income groups at all stages of life that will be permanently affordable.”

You have heard how Parc Derian serves families, special needs residents, and veterans.  You will hear from some of these residents shortly.  Remember, because of the Irvine Community Land Trust’s commitment to permanent affordable housing, these residents will never fear that they might be displaced from their homes because of market rate rent increases. These homes provide a high quality of life for today’s and tomorrow’s residents.

And we have made these homes wonderfully affordable to residents with rents as low as $570 per month. Parc Derian gives individuals and families a sense of community; it is not a coincidence that “community” is part of our name.

As we celebrate the successful completion of this project and the partnership we have with the City,  we also look forward to our next housing permanent affordable developments.  A new 80-unit rental project along Sand Canyon is in the design phase and should break ground this time next year.  And looking beyond that project, we are anticipating more land and funding from the City to the Land Trust to create more permanently affordable housing.

As the City’s nonprofit we will develop future properties and assure the community that they will never be lost or converted to market rate housing.

We call this commitment “stewardship” — and you have our solemn promise that we will always strive to meet the vision of creating and managing a full spectrum of housing opportunities for families, as the Irvine Community Land Trust continues to work with the City to create more permanent affordable housing for our residents.”

 

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

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

The voters in Irvine recently rejected Measure B.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please take the surveys below:

 

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

 

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

Thanks!

Melissa

UPDATE:

The surveys are now closed.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

I agree.

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

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

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

Here’s why:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa