As many of my friends and neighbors know, right now I’m wearing a number of public service “hats” in Irvine. Recently, I found myself wearing two hats at once. One hat I wear is writer of this regular SchoolWatch column. Another hat I wear is that of president of my homeowners association — the Village Park Community Association (VPCA), in University Park, Irvine’s oldest residential village.
University Park and the VPCA are right next to the I-405, one of the most crowded freeways in California. And the Rancho San Joaquin Middle School in University Park backs up to the I-405, as well.
So, what’s the problem? The I-405 generates tremendous noise and air pollution. And the localized noise pollution and air pollution are about to get worse. Why? CalTrans and the Orange County Transportation Agency (OCTA) are planning the so-called “I-405 South Improvement Project.” As it turns out, the “improvement” is the proposed widening of the freeway, bringing an additional lane closer to our homes and to the Rancho Middle School in
order to accommodate yet more freeway traffic.
An “improvement” project? What will not be improved is the health and well being of residents and Rancho Middle School students, teachers and staff who will be enduring worsening levels of noise and air pollution.
My husband, John Inmon, and I have a personal stake in all this. Not only do we live close to the freeway, John served as Principal of Rancho Middle School, and I taught for many years in the Irvine Unified School District. We are deeply concerned about this freeway-widening project and its effects on children.
The plain truth is that official reports confirm that many locations along the entire length of the southbound side of the I-405 will approach or even exceed permissible noise levels.
Meeting Format Prevents Public Comment
Caltrans and OCTA held a meeting on December 5th. The University Community Park meeting room was packed. But the “Open House” format — with multiple “stations” — actually was designed to preclude oral testimony. It discouraged any sense of real community involvement. Worse yet, none of our local elected officials was present — no School Board members, no City Councilmembers.
Frank McGill, a highly respected, retired County planner and long-time homeowner association board member, voiced the frustration of many when he asked: “Where are the decision makers? I came here to talk to the decision makers.”
Yes, where are our local elected officials? Why aren’t they proactively meeting with their constituents and advocating for noise abatement procedures such as higher and thicker sound-walls? (Now, that’s a Wall I can get excited about!) And how about installing indoor air monitoring equipment at Rancho Middle School? Let’s keep track of indoor air pollution levels so we know just how bad things are, and whether they are getting worse.
It’s time for the City and IUSD officials to show up, get involved, and start doing their jobs — looking after the health and welfare of their constituents! Meanwhile, instead of waiting for our elected officials to act, you and your neighbors can stay involved on your own by checking the OCTA website — www.octa.net/oc405south. Be sure to get on their mailing list.