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Open Forum: May 2016


Are You Angry at IUSD? Join the Club.

As Publisher and Editor-In-Chief of Irvine Community News & Views, I’m familiar with the very large number of Irvine residents who are angry at the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) officials who decided several years ago to move ahead with construction of the $300 million Portola High School — on property that was known to be contaminated with dangerous toxic petrochemicals. You can count me among those who are angry.

Now, in my capacity as a journalist and a practicing lawyer for more than 50 years, I have reviewed what appears to be a sweetheart deal that IUSD struck with developer Heritage Fields/FivePoint Communities in purchasing the 40-acre Portola High School site. The deal is shocking in the way that it favors the developer, while jeopardizing the safety of the school’s students, teachers, and staff — and jeopardizing Irvine taxpayers as well.

I recently read the August 29, 2011 “Purchase Agreement,” covering the site of the new Portola High School, and I cannot remember ever reviewing a more one-sided agreement.

By the terms of the agreement, IUSD was given two years to investigate the property and back out of the deal if it deemed the risks (toxic chemicals included) to be too great. But, in the end, IUSD bought the 40-acre site “AS IS” — no matter what dangers the property may have contained. And worse, read these terms that appeared on page 20: “District [IUSD] expressly waives any claims for damages or other relief against those individuals and FivePoint arising out of or relating to any matters disclosed or not disclosed by them pursuant to this Agreement.” To me, this means Buyer Beware! The Seller (Heritage Fields/FivePoint Communities) can even lie as to the condition of the property, and the Buyer (IUSD) has no recourse.

But that’s not all. Section 7(a) of the Purchase Agreement provides, in part, “District hereby waives on its behalf all claims and demands against [Heritage Fields/FivePoint]…for any…loss, damage, cost, injury, claim or demand, against [Heritage Fields/FivePoint]…and agrees to indemnify, defend and hold harmless [Heritage Fields/FivePoint] from all such loss, damage, cost (including cost of suit and attorneys’ fees and expenses), injury, claim or demand, and all liabilities related thereto, whether incurred or made by District or any other person(s).”

So, not only did IUSD buy land from developer Heritage Fields/FivePoint, which they knew — or should have known — contained toxic chemicals; they also released the Seller from any liability, including liability caused by toxic chemicals. They further agreed to indemnify them [Heritage Fields/FivePoint Communities] against all damages that they might incur because they sold the land to IUSD, even if they knew the land was dangerously contaminated.

Bottom line: This very bad deal means that teachers, staff and students may be exposed to toxic contamination that poses cumulative risks of disease, disability, and even death. Liability — which can be massive — falls on IUSD, and therefore, the Irvine taxpayers.

If you weren’t angry before, how about now?

Franklin J. Lunding
Publisher and Editor

Thank You, Irvine!

With the help of hundreds of Irvine volunteers — and the signatures of thousands of voters — a remarkable citizen initiative to raise the minimum wage has become law. Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the nation’s highest minimum wage, boosting the statewide California minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next 5 years.

As a result, millions of Californians, including several thousand in Irvine, are now on the path out of poverty.

Consider where we were just one year ago. Decent Irvine citizens were shocked to learn that a majority of the Irvine City Council, led by Councilmember Christina Shea and Mayor Steven Choi, voted to actually cut the Irvine Living Wage for City contract workers — mostly landscape workers, janitors, tree-trimmers and childcare workers — from $11.25 per hour down to just $9 per hour!

Fortunately, Irvine citizens took action, launching a local initiative and gathering thousands of voter signatures to overturn the mean-spirited Council decision and restore Irvine’s Living Wage. Together, we built the Irvine Living Wage Coalition — a broad alliance of Irvine religious and community leaders committed to social justice and respect for all workers.

As our own local efforts made progress, we joined the statewide initiative campaign to raise the State minimum wage, in annual steps, to $15 per hour. After gathering more than 500,000 signatures, the essential elements of the initiative were adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Specifically, the successful initiative/legislative effort means that the State minimum wage will be raised, in steps, from its current level of $10 per hour to a level of $15 over the next five years. After that, there will be annual cost-of-living adjustments.

What has been achieved is truly remarkable. Standing together, we are lifting millions of families and children out of poverty. We should all be proud that Irvine citizens have been in the forefront of this historic achievement.

Thank you!

Mary Ann Gaido
Irvine Living Wage Coalition

Franklin J. Lunding


Irvine, CA
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