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A Quarter Billion Dollars and a Decade Later: Where’s the Park?

Posted by Chris Emami on November 21, 2013

Great Park BalloonAs I said in my last post on the topic, I was surprised by the 3-2 vote by the Irvine City Council on November 12 to delay consideration of the Great Park construction plan. Conservative Republican Jeff Lalloway unexpectedly joined liberal Democrats Larry Agran and Beth Krom in voting to delay for two weeks over the dissenting votes of Steven Choi and Christina Shea.

I like Lalloway, and Lalloway is a good conservative. Let me be unequivocally clear: I support Jeff Lalloway’s re-election to the Irvine City Council next year, just as I support Steven Choi’s re-election as Mayor in that same election, and I plan to support Christina Shea’s re-election to the Council in 2016. I just disagree with Lalloway on this one vote. Those who would attack Lalloway need to remember this: he only voted on a two-week delay to have more time to review this plan. I am confident that when he has fully examined the plan, he will be supportive of this effort to build the Great Park.

Lalloway made the motion to delay the item solely to have two more weeks to iron out the plan details. Choi and Shea voted against his motion to move the plan forward. Agran and Krom voted to delay in an attempt to kill this plan.

Irvine has already spent a quarter of a billion dollars and a decade since Measure W stopped the El Toro Airport in favor of the Great Park. What do they have to show for it? A giant orange balloon, a merry-go-round, a farm, an art display, and some soccer fields, ponds, and lawns.

The proposal by developer FivePoint Communities to build the Great Park would be a giant step forward. FivePoint Communities proposes to build 65% of the Great Park with a huge sports park, an 18-hole golf course, an agricultural site, and a woodland “Bosque” area.

What does FivePoint Communities want in exchange for these gifts to the City of Irvine? The right to build more homes on its own land. FivePoint Communities would only build homes on land that FivePoint already owns. This is a property rights issue. Protecting private property rights are a core principle of conservatism. FivePoint should have the right to build on its own land. It wishes to build an additional 4,600 homes on its own land and will construct a substantial proportion of the Great Park for the City of Irvine.

This seems like a very reasonable trade: FivePoint can build more homes on its own land and will build nearly 2/3 of the Great Park for the City of Irvine.

What’s often forgotten in the history of this land is that Lennar bought nearly the entirety of the old El Toro base from the Navy for $649.5 million. Then, Lennar gave 1,347 acres to the City of Irvine for the Great Park. (FivePoint Communities is a spin-off of Lennar.) Many of the significant steps forward that have occurred in the last decade in relation to the Great Park have been driven by the private sector.

My fellow OC Political co-founder, Chris Nguyen, often says, “The public sector exists only to do that which the private sector cannot do.” I believe that’s a core principle of limited government. If the Irvine City Council votes against the FivePoint Communities plan, then they will turn this on its head. That would mean the City of Irvine would try to build the park itself and reject an attempt by the private sector FivePoint Communities to do it.

The private sector generally does things more efficiently than the public sector. FivePoint Communities will not spend a quarter million dollars and a decade like the Agran majority did. Let FivePoint help build the Great Park.

Let’s not forget that the criticisms of the FivePoint plan in both the staff report and from the Council dais are being leveled by the people who spent a quarter billion dollars over a decade to build a balloon, a merry-go-round, a farm, an art display, and some soccer fields, ponds, and lawns. Agran and Krom’s nitpicking perfectionism is reminiscent of the busybody neighbor who calls the homeowners association when someone paints their house eggshell white instead of pearl white.

Agran and Krom are your classic big government liberals who believe in governmental centralized planning of all aspects of our lives. Just listen to Krom’s quote from the November 12 meeting in this Voice of OC video. It’s just frightening what she says about the FivePoint plan’s differences from the original master plan: “If you take the master plan and you blow it up, then the money we invested in the planning, you’re going to tell me we won’t even have a plan. So why would I support you destroying my plan, and then telling me ‘you wasted money on the plan?'”

It was Jeff Lalloway who put it best back in October, when the Orange County Register quoted him saying, “No master plan is sacred.”

8 Responses to “A Quarter Billion Dollars and a Decade Later: Where’s the Park?”

  1. junior said

    It was never about a park – it was about stopping an international airport for Orange County.

  2. Ltpar said

    Continuance for two weeks is acceptable and makes sense. Can’t argue with Lalloway on that. If however, he had discussed it with Shea and Choi before the meeting, they would have removed it from the agenda and saved eight hours of wasted public dialogue. Instead, Lalloway did his usual “stand alone” routine and left Shea and Choi out in the cold. If Lalloway votes for the agreement nextTuesday, he may get a pass on his prior conduct. If he does not support the agreement and Five Points pulls it off the table, Broadcom bails on their Campus development, Lalloway is in a world of hurt with the public. As far as supporting him in the next election, at this point I will not be doing so. If he cleans up his act, starts playing as a Team Member rather than a one man band, I will forgive and forget. While speaking only for myself, I suspect there are other conservatives who are thinking the same thing. A year is a long time and for the conservatives to keep their election pledge, we need to see Park development, not more foot dragging.

  3. Craig P. Alexander said

    Chris – I agree with most of the statements you have made in this post including your support of Jeff Lalloway for re-election and supporting Steven Choi and Christina Shea for re-election as well. However, I also am willing to give Jeff the benefit of the doubt about his vote to delay the final decision for two weeks to obtain clarifications he believes are needed to move forward. Jeff, Steven and Christina have done more in less than two years to move the Great Park forward than the old liberal government knows best majority did in a decade and a quarter of a billion dollars wasted mostly on PR, a big orange balloon and what appears to be pay offs to their political supporters. Plus they are moving the park forward by bringing the city into partnership with a private sector company to get the job done in a most cost effective and efficient manner. Jeff has been a real leader with Steven and Christina to get this done with the first step to thank and excuse all of the non-elected Great Park board members last year who were appointed by the old council majority.

    As you said Chris – Jeff only voted for a two week delay. Not a No vote which is ultimately what Ms. Krom and Mr. Agran want – to kill the project and go back to wasting taxpayer money and time. I have not spoken to Jeff, Steven or Christina or anyone that works for them but I would imagine that the “drama” of Jeff’s vote with Steven and Christina voting the other way is very overblown. First the Ralph M. Brown Act prevents the majority from discussing this matter or any other city business with each other privately. Therefore Jeff had to do his deliberations and vote in open session likely with his decision to allow the staff two more weeks expressed for the first time at that meeting. Secondly Jeff Lalloway, Steven Choi and Christina Shea are all very intelligent conservative thinkers. To expect them to always vote the same on each and every issue is not realistic. Personally I want them to be independent and that means sometimes they will disagree with each other. As long as the disagreements are the exception and not the normal state of affairs – that is OK.

    Obviously when the vote comes back shortly I hope Jeff will then vote to move the project forward having given the staff the two weeks to iron out the details. Knowing Jeff I suspect if someone on the staff whats another two weeks they will find Jeff cross examining them and having to answer some very pointed questions about their foot dragging. Then I suspect they will see Jeff voting with Steven and Christina to move the Five Points project plan forward overriding requests for more delays.

    The bottom line for me is knowing Jeff Lalloway and watching him over the last three years he has been in public office, I have come to trust Jeff and am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in this last vote for a minor delay.

  4. junior said

    Control over the former El Toro Marine Base should not have been given to the City of Irvine – it more rightly belongs to the people of Orange County.

  5. Allan Bartlett said

    Jeff is not keeping his end of the bargain. Remember when he said all he wanted at the last meeting was a two week delay to finish the staff report? That was a lie it turns out. Jeff is now saying he won’t support the Park without having the city control operations and maintenance. This idea has never even been vetted yet! We have no idea what the financial ramifications of this are.

  6. Dan Chmielewski said

    The developer wants too much and aren’t playing ball with the city. The city should not turn over control of our parks to a private developer. That’s nut

  7. […] Part two of the trilogy contained Emami’s attack on former Irvine majority’s attempts to build the Great Park and more waxing poetic on the glories that the new developer would offer, and reassurances that Lalloway had sought a two week delay “solely to have two more weeks to iron out the plan details.”  Behold the knives: […]

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