What follows is the January 26th testimony of Mary Ann Gaido, asking the City Council to reject accelerated development.
Forty years ago, as a young Irvine Transportation Commissioner and later a City Councilmember, I proudly voted to approve the development of Irvine’s third major residential community — the Village of Woodbridge. Then, and now, Woodbridge stood as an example of what good planning could achieve. Together, the Irvine Company, the Mayor and City Council, and hundreds of Irvine citizens who were involved in the planning process, agreed to go forward with a beautiful residential village that would eventually include 9,000 homes and nearly 30,000 people.
For decades, our outstanding planning in Woodbridge and elsewhere stood the test of time. Our residential villages were approved and built in accordance with our City’s General Plan — with ample infrastructure, especially roadway capacity to ensure that traffic moved smoothly and the quality of life in Irvine remained second to none.
I thought about that history when, on Dec. 17 — the week before Christmas, late at night and without public participation — the Planning Commission quickly rubber-stamped tentative tract maps permitting developer FivePoint Communities to go ahead with the accelerated development of 4,184 new houses at the Great Park. I was the only Planning Commissioner to vote NO. I voted NO because approval of those tentative tract maps was in complete disregard of our General Plan standards — and was certain to put thousands of additional cars and trucks on our streets, bringing near-gridlock conditions to Irvine’s older center-city villages.
In the case of Woodbridge, the added traffic will make traffic along Jeffrey — especially at Alton — much worse than it already is. One proposed “mitigation” is to widen Jeffrey and Alton — adding lanes of traffic along the village edge of Woodbridge, bringing traffic and noise and localized air pollution that much closer to our residents. These new lanes of traffic will displace the beautiful 40-year-old streetscape, sidewalk, and landscaped berm and trees that have been a hallmark of good planning for Woodbridge — and for the rest of us in Irvine.
It’s unclear who will pay for this costly, multi-million-dollar “mitigation.” What is clear is that we’ll all pay the price of a diminished quality of life that comes with the abandonment of our planning standards.
I’m proud that, over the years, I’ve said YES to many outstanding development projects in Irvine — when the time was right, and when those development plans conformed to the high standards in our City’s General Plan. But I’ve also been proud of those occasions when I’ve said NO to accelerated development — development that was too much, too fast, would bring too much traffic, and would diminish our quality of life. This is a time to say NO. Unfortunately, the Planning Commission failed to say NO. But the people of Irvine, through their elected Mayor and City Council, can still say NO.
Mayor and Members of the City Council: I urge you to uphold our planning standards by voting NO on the accelerated development proposal before you tonight.
Editor’s Note: The City Council voted 4 to 1 to approve 4,184 new houses at the Great Park. Only Councilmember Beth Krom voted NO.