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Five-Part Series: Irvine Through the Decades — The Beginning of Our Planned Community in the 1970s

by

Beautiful Bommer Canyon

On December 28th, Irvine will commemorate its 50th anniversary! To mark the occasion, I sat down with two of our City’s longtime leaders — Mary Ann Gaido, former Councilmember and current Planning Commissioner and Larry Agran, former Mayor and current Councilmember to discuss highlights from the past five decades.

Both Gaido and Agran were integral in crafting and implementing policies that have made Irvine one of the greenest cities in the nation.

Our City’s story began in the early 1960s when world-renowned architect William L. Pereira, who had designed San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid and Los Angeles International Airport, was brought in by the Irvine Company (which owned the land) to coordinate the design for the brand new UCI campus and our planned community, which would soon become the City of Irvine.

Time magazine cover spotlighting William L. Pereira

Pereira’s design included a self-contained community of villages, where families could live within walking distance of shops, schools, recreational areas and community parks.

Throughout most of the 1970s, Irvine’s first elected leaders focused on the business of establishing the City’s Master Plan, which began as a collaborative effort with the Irvine Company but transitioned to the City’s own Master Plan, which was adopted as the City of Irvine General Plan in 1976. That same year, Gaido won a seat on the Irvine City Council.

Two years later, Agran joined Gaido on the Council.

Gaido and Agran — who have a long record of environmental leadership — credit Irvine’s first residents with our City’s beautiful parks system.

Agran told me: “In the middle of a national recession in 1974, Irvine’s first residents made a commitment —  by passing a major park bond issue — to build our community parks in accordance with the Irvine General Plan.”

Irvine’s University Park dates back to the 1970s

The residents’ early commitment to building community parks — coupled with the work of future leaders like Gaido and Agran who insisted on adhering to the City’s General Plan — has resulted in Irvine continuing to be included in the list of the “Top 10 Greenest Cities in America.”

As Irvine’s first decade came to a close, Gaido and Agran focused their efforts on making sure that the City followed a controlled growth path. They also began to rally residents to join them in the fight to establish the City’s permanent Open Space Preserve.

Next week, we will take a look at the 1980s in Irvine.

Franklin J. Lunding

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