Like a squirrel who picks the wrong time to cross the road just as an Amazon truck approaches, an effort to give the City more say in the development of new warehouses and logistical centers was abruptly flattened by an Irvine City Council majority last month.
On April 25th, Councilmember Larry Agran brought forward an ordinance amending the City’s zoning code to require any new logistical center projects and new warehouse projects totaling 100,000 square feet or more to gain approval of a conditional use permit (CUP).
The CUP process allows the City — through the Irvine Planning Commission and City Council — to consider a project’s compatibility with neighboring uses and place conditions on the development, such as limiting the facility’s hours of operation or the amount of noise or truck traffic it generates.
These conditions can come into play when a project is near a residential area or in a high-traffic part of town, both of which describe the Spectrum Center and the Irvine Business Complex (IBC), which are the two hubs for new warehouse development in the City.
Speaking in support of his proposed ordinance, Councilmember Agran said: “The Irvine Business Complex is about much more than business and commerce. It now includes a burgeoning and thriving residential community, with more than 20,000 people. Warehouses without strict controls to protect Irvine residents are simply incompatible with our quality-of-life values. We need to control and manage development carefully in our planned City.”
There are currently four warehouse projects of 129,000 square feet or less under construction. And, there are another six projects — ranging from 48,000 square feet to 650,000 square feet — going through the City’s planning and permit process.
Councilman Agran’s proposed zoning ordinance amendment came to the City Council after nearly a year of work by the Irvine Planning Commission, City staff, landowners, and local developers who crafted the proposed changes. Those changes were then recommended to the Council by the City’s Planning Commission.
In pressing for passage of his zoning ordinance, Agran said: “IBC can evolve into something quite wonderful, but not if it’s overwhelmed with truck traffic 24 hours a day, and inundated with light pollution and noise pollution.”
Councilmember Tammy Kim opposed Agran’s motion, saying: “We have certain areas that are intended to be mixed-use and that is part of the mixed-use environment. As long as our residents are shopping online, we have to look at what we as a City can do to accommodate them.”
In the end, the City Council majority of Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilmembers Tammy Kim and Mike Carroll voted against Agran’s proposed ordinance, while Councilmember Kathleen Treseder supported it.
After the meeting, Councilman Agran said: “So where does this leave us? We have an out-of-date zoning ordinance, and absolutely no controls in place for the massive warehouses being approved by this Council. Three of my Council colleagues don’t seem to understand the concept of a master planned community.”
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