The Nov 8th election will be changing the composition of the IUSD Board and the Irvine City Council. Hopefully, it will also change their politics and policies to be more resident-friendly and less developer-friendly.
What won’t be changed is the fact that our City has serious toxic-contamination problems of still undetermined extent.
• First, there is the newly opened Portola High School (PHS), which we now know has been built on a site with widespread petrochemical contamination from decades of military aircraft operations and dumping of fuels and solvents.
• Second, the immediately adjacent property — slated for residential development — is untested for the toxic and carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have already been found in large quantities on and near the PHS site.
The sad fact is that our entire community has suffered from an irresponsible School Board and a City Council beholden to the giant Irvine land developer, FivePoint Communities. As a result, the City has no capacity to deal intelligently with the toxic contamination issue.
In the November 8th election for Mayor, only Mary Ann Gaido publicly declared that she would have the City pay for the required testing for VOCs on the PHS site to protect the health of the students, teachers and staff. Moreover, Gaido says she would have the City require FivePoint to pay for toxics testing on the adjacent properties before thousands of new houses are built.
Mary Ann, who was a City Councilmember for 8 years beginning in 1976, and then a Planning Commissioner for more than 20 years, was responsible for the original City ordinances that required developers to provide the many parks and trails in Irvine, and permanently set aside and preserve Bommer Canyon and thousands of acres of natural open space.
It’s no wonder that FivePoint Communities and other big developers are spending more than a million dollars to defeat Mary Ann Gaido in her bid to become Irvine’s next Mayor. Instead, they’re funding Don Wagner’s campaign for Mayor, and for Council they’re bankrolling Planning Commissioner Anthony Kuo and incumbent Councilmember Christina Shea, who support each and every developer demand.
To address this conflict-of-interest, the City of Irvine, once a leader in hazardous materials detection and management, used to employ a Hazardous Materials Program Administrator, Sylvan Hersh, who held a Ph.D. in chemistry. He truly represented the public interest. Unfortunately, his position was eliminated in the 1990s. If his position existed today, we would not have the toxic contamination scandal that is jeopardizing human health and also tarnishing our City’s reputation for good planning.
An IUSD candidate who has promised to do all in his power to address the PHS toxic contamination problem is Mark Newgent. Personally, I am also voting for Naz Hamid and Geri Zollinger, because they are not incumbents and are unconnected to the existing regime that is responsible for building a school on a contaminated site. Incumbents Paul Bokota and Lauren Brooks, running for re-election, have thwarted every opportunity to protect the school’s coming generations of students, teachers and staff.