After nearly 8 years of service, I’ll be leaving the Irvine Child Care Committee (ICCC) at the end of the year. I step down with a sense of pride in our accomplishments, but with a serious concern about the future.
Families move to Irvine because of the City’s reputation for excellent planning and schools, including pre-schools. Here’s the problem: There simply are not enough pre-schools and enough “slots” for Irvine’s thousands of pre-school children.
Forty years ago, when Irvine was a new City and land prices were relatively low, it was possible for private pre-school operators and religious institutions to build pre-schools. Carefully planned residential growth kept supply and demand in balance.
Today, land prices are sky-high (nearly $4 million per acre in new residential areas), making the purchase of land for pre-school purposes extremely difficult. At the same time, developers have put their own bottom-line profits ahead of the community’s needs — they’ve backed away from their traditional responsibility to set aside parcels of land for pre-schools. Meanwhile, the explosive development of houses and apartments authorized by the Irvine City Council — some of us call it overdevelopment — has led to a surge in demand for pre-school slots for children 0-5 years old.
Several years ago, the ICCC met with developers to discuss our concerns. The lack of respect for our Committee and its work was evident throughout the process. Even before the meeting, one developer’s representative was seen rolling his eyes and actually complaining, “Now we have to talk to the housewives.”
In the course of our meeting, one ICCC member chided developers for “misleading marketing” in claiming that Irvine is family-friendly when, in fact, for pre-schoolers and their parents, that’s no longer true. The inability to find a decent, affordable pre-school is anything but “family-friendly.”
Our Irvine Child Care Committee advocacy led to the City’s commissioning of a professional study that bore out our claims of a serious shortage of hundreds of pre-school slots. Unable to deny the problem any longer, one of the developer representatives said, “Well, we agree there aren’t enough slots, but whose responsibility is it to take care of that?” Well, developers and the Irvine City Council used to think that provision of quality, affordable pre-schooling opportunities was a responsibility we all shared in Irvine.
He went on to say, “Women choose to work….Their childcare is not our problem, and besides, if there is a shortage of child care in one part of town, a parent can just drive the kids to another part of town.” But, there are waiting lists for pre-schools all over town, and good planning dictates that each of our villages and neighborhoods should have a nearby pre-school.
I’m going to miss being on the Irvine Child Care Committee and doing my part to urge Irvine’s big developers — mainly FivePoint Communities and The Irvine Company — to stop putting profits ahead of pre-school kids and their parents.
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