On Tuesday (April 11th), the Irvine City Council gave final approval of a massive land deal for the City to acquire and remove the All American Asphalt (AAA) plant in north Irvine. The 12-acre asphalt plant and hundreds of acres surrounding it will become part of a 700-acre open space preserve that has been dubbed the “Gateway Preserve.”
The asphalt plant has been the subject of swirling controversy for years as its noxious odors and chemical emissions affected nearby residents, who organized and demanded City action. Under the agreement, the City will acquire the plant for $285 million and close it down later this year.
The key to the deal is the Irvine Company’s dedication to the City of 475 acres of land surrounding the plant. The dedication includes 80 acres that the City will entitle for residential use consistent with the City’s Master Plan. The proceeds from the sale of the 80 acres to residential developers — estimated to generate around $300 million — will cover the cost of acquiring and dismantling the asphalt plant, as well as the establishment of the Gateway Preserve. Accordingly, the deal will not cost Irvine taxpayers anything.
The Gateway Preserve will include an extension of the Jeffrey Open Space Trail to the City’s northern open space; new hiking and biking trails; native habitat restoration areas; and two parks featuring interpretive displays, native gardens and other amenities.
The City staff report presented to the Council pointed out that the deal is not without some risk, specifically the state of the real estate market when the City sells the land, and whether the plant site is contaminated with hazardous chemicals that could require costly mitigation. City Manager Oliver Chi said the City is purchasing an insurance policy to cover unexpected cleanup costs.
The Council took note of the risks but voted unanimously to proceed. With regard to the possible site contamination, City staff assured residents that no homes will be built on the existing asphalt plant site.
Councilmember Larry Agran — who serves on the AAA City Council subcommittee — stated: “The acquisition of the All American Asphalt plant is a significant milestone for the City of Irvine and our entire community. The closure of the plant and the restoration of the site to its natural state will greatly enhance the quality of life for our residents. The process was complex and challenging, but City staff and many individuals involved have worked commendably to ensure that the outcome will be a benefit to all Irvine residents for generations to come.”
Agran’s colleague on the AAA subcommittee, Councilmember Mike Carroll said that the agreement has allowed the City to “create a dedicated open space and eliminate a public nuisance, while creating a hub for hiking, biking, and enjoyment of the outdoors.”
“I’m pleased with this plan,” said Councilmember Kathleen Treseder. “We absolutely have to shut down that plant. I think it’s worth taking the risk to protect our residents.”