Environment, Veterans Cemetery, Growth and Development
Irvine is “ground-zero” for a surge in citizen activism. Many hundreds of outspoken civic activists are taking action on major issues — national issues, and state issues and local issues — often directing their anger at specific elected officials and the unpopular policies they are pushing.
The 2017 Summer of Discontent came early to Irvine. It arrived on a scorching spring day, April 29th, one week after Earth Day. The temperature soared to 89 degrees, and Santa Ana winds made it seem even hotter. The Orange County Climate Action March was organized along Alton Parkway through the center of Irvine. Instead of the 300 to 500 people that march organizers hoped for, an estimated 2,000 citizens showed up. Although the marchers were good-natured and the event took place without incident, there was a hard-edged political subtext that long-time environmentalists pointed out: President Donald Trump and U.S. Representatives — including Irvine’s Mimi Walters (R-45th CD) — were part of what one marcher called a “do-nothing, good-for-nothing President and Congress that won’t even accept the fact that we are facing a global climate crisis of potentially catastrophic proportions.”
Just ten days later, on May 9th, Congresswoman Mimi Walters was a Town Hall “no-show,” but that didn’t keep 1,000 people from gathering at Northwood High School gymnasium in Irvine for what was dubbed a “Town Hall Meeting — With or Without Congresswoman Mimi Walters.”
Walters wasn’t at the Town Hall, but her record on healthcare was. In fact, Walters was ridiculed at the Town Hall for leading the effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which would cause more than 50,000 people to lose their health insurance in her south Orange County congressional district, including an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Irvine residents.
The Veterans Cemetery
On June 6, 2017, Irvine activists showed up again — this time 100 – 150 of them at City Hall on less than 24-hours notice — for a “special” hurry-up meeting called by Irvine Mayor Donald Wagner, with the support of Councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox. Their purpose? To kill the previously approved 125-acre Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery in the Great Park, so that the land could be given to developer FivePoint Communities with entitlement to build a massive, highly-profitable complex of offices, commercial/retail businesses, and thousands of residential units. This development would generate an estimated 10,000-20,000 daily auto trips, adversely affecting all of north Irvine. Meanwhile, the Veterans Cemetery would be “swapped” to an undesirable, less valuable site at the junction of the I-5 and I-405 freeways, two miles from the Great Park.
The proposed FivePoint land-swap scheme appears to be motivating many hundreds of citizens — especially in north Irvine — to get involved with the Veterans Cemetery issue, signing the Veterans Cemetery Petition, and speaking out whenever possible. Many have vowed to show up at City Council meetings in August, September, and into the fall, addressing not just the Veterans Cemetery issue, but also the larger issue of uncontrolled growth and development that seems to be provoking anger in every corner of the City.
2017…Fastest Growth Yet
The first six months of 2017 may have been a period of the fastest residential growth in the City’s history, with as many as 2,500 newly-built housing units occupied, producing an astonishing, additional 10,000 average daily rush-hour trips in Irvine, according to the “1-2-3-4” analysis developed by ICNV.
Confirming the veracity of the 1-2-3-4 analysis, a senior Irvine planning and traffic consultant, speaking on condition of anonymity, put it this way: “Irvine’s unrestricted growth and overdevelopment of the last 5 years has produced a traffic tsunami. It’s wrecking the City’s reputation for good planning and diminishing the quality of life for residents.” The long-time consultant, noting that nearly 5,000 newly built residential units were coming on line each year, observed: “This rate of growth, coupled with Irvine’s expanding job centers, means that by 2020 there will be an added 50,000 to 100,000 cars on Irvine streets during rush-hour every day.”
Asked about Mayor Donald Wagner’s initiative to re-establish Irvine’s Transportation Commission and hire a “traffic czar” to come up with solutions to Irvine’s traffic nightmare, the consultant laughed. “Way too little. Way too late. It’s like trying to stop King Kong with a pea shooter,” he said.