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Mega-Warehouse Development Coming to Irvine

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A pending mega-warehouse development in the Irvine Business Complex (IBC) is shining a light on a decision made by the City Council more than a year ago to not tighten City oversight of warehouse development within Irvine.
 
Just over 27,000 Irvine residents live in the IBC neighborhood, most of whom are young professionals. The neighbors have received a letter letting them know of a plan to replace nine office buildings within the Von Karman Corporate Center — on the northeast corner of Von Karman and Alton Parkway close to their homes — with a 541,000-square-foot warehouse complex. (That’s about the size of four Costco stores under one roof.)
 
One of the affected residents who received the letter, Valer Cupsa, told KABC-TV News that the mega-warehouse would drastically change the aesthetics of the neighborhood.
 
Cupsa said that the office buildings were pretty quiet, “but obviously, a half-million-square-foot warehouse would bring a lot of pollution, a lot of trucks, a lot of noise. … When someone might want to sell their house, if you have trucks coming in and out at all hours of the day, that can’t be good.”
 
The current and potential large warehouse developments are coming into the City at an unprecedented clip because of the explosion of retail delivery led by Amazon.
 
Most warehouse developments in Irvine are allowed “by right” in industrial, commercial or mixed-use areas — meaning they are only subject to a technical review to make sure they meet building standards. The City cannot alter or deny the plans based on potential impacts to surrounding areas.
 
However, the Council had an opportunity to impose restrictions on warehouse proliferation at its April 25, 2023 meeting when Vice Mayor Larry Agran brought forward a motion for an ordinance initiated by the City’s Planning Commission. Under that proposed ordinance, new warehouses larger than 100,000 square feet would require a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), which would allow the City to impose restrictions in the interest of public health and safety. For example, limits could be placed on lighting, noise, and hours of operation. The City could also require smaller, quieter electric trucks instead of typical diesel-driven 18-wheelers.
 
Landowners and developers were engaged with the Planning Commission and City staff, and were generally supportive of the proposed ordinance, said Irvine Principal Planner Bill Rodrigues.
 
In addition to Vice Mayor Agran, the Planning Commission’s proposed ordinance was supported by Councilmember Kathleen Treseder.
 
In making the motion for stricter controls, Agran called the growing number of applications for warehouse development a serious problem, stating: “I want to see us get a stronger hold on this. If we don’t, we’re simply not going to be able to make these mixed-use communities work. IBC can evolve into something quite wonderful, but not if it’s overwhelmed 24 hours a day with truck traffic, light pollution, and noise pollution.”
 
Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilmembers Mike Carroll and Tammy Kim all voted against the proposal, resulting in a 2-3 vote.

In opposing the motion, Councilmember Kim said: “We have certain areas that were intended to be mixed-use. When things change, I feel that is part of the mixed-use environment.” Kim went on to say that mega-warehouses should be thought of as adding to the “vibrancy” of a mixed-use community.

After his motion failed, Agran said: “We have a warehouse development bubble, 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.”

The mega-warehouse plan at IBC is still in its early stages, with the City’s Planning Commission expected to hold public hearings on this matter. When they do, we’ll be sure to alert our readers so that they can participate.

Roger Bloom

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