Mayor Kang’s 2010 State of the City Address for Irvine

Irvine has really weathered the storm of the current economic downturn due to smart fiscal planning and by squeezing more from every tax dollar.  Progressive leaders have had the majority for a decade and the visionary leadership makes Irvine’s fiscal picture one that’s envied throughout Orange County. And despite Irvine’s good fortune, potential pitfalls do exist.  The city is fortunate to have the exceptional management skills and leadership of Mayor Sukhee Kang.

Tonight, Mayor Kang delivered the 2010 State of the City address from city hall.

When any of us travel east or west, north or south, we reinforce our knowledge that the world is a diverse place. But we don’t need to travel beyond the streets of Irvine to experience the transformation we have seen as a nation – culturally, socially, and economically. The mirror of the world is best reflected here. Tonight, I address a community that is an inspiration to a new America. You need look no further than this podium to understand the power of possibilities.

“One year ago, I became the Mayor of Irvine. This is a dream come true, with all the weight of this position’s responsibility as well as the wonderful opportunity to represent more than 212,000 residents.

 From the comfort of this home, Irvine’s Council Chamber, thank you for being here this evening. I am humbled by your presence and honored to present my second State of the City address. It embodies my experience here, as a citizen, as a City Councilmember, and as your Mayor.

I would like to recognize my City Council colleagues for their great work over the past year, and for their commitment to making Irvine one of the greatest cities in the nation: Mayor Pro Tem Larry Agran; Councilmember Beth Krom; Councilmember Christina Shea; and Councilmember Steven Choi.

I also would like to thank each and every City employee, including our management staff who oversee our daily operations, for their commitment to excellence and for maintaining the highest level of public service.

In November 2008, on Election Night, I recall thinking that my time was no longer my own. Each day now belonged to you, the citizens of Irvine. In making that adjustment, I knew the best way to help govern this fully integrated City was to understand and get to know as many people as possible … young and old; longtime City residents and newly arrived citizens and recent immigrants; workers and retirees; students and CEOs.

I have had the opportunity to walk throughout Irvine’s beautiful open space during my quarterly “Hike with the Mayor.” I have held 80 meetings with residents through my weekly “Meet the Mayor” meetings. We have discussed parking issues, public transportation, child care, affordable housing, community diversity, meet and greet with Boy and Girl Scouts, and public safety, to name a few. These meetings provide me the opportunity to know first-hand the pulse of the community. So I have a good understanding of what is most important to the residents of Irvine. 

I have learned the importance of being diplomatic; it is an essential component for leading a well-run city. I like to have a hand in each project, to bring together various interests to make us more efficient.

One year ago, I gave my first State of the City address. We were in unprecedented times; the future uncertain; the economy in a free-fall. We hit the “Great Recession.” Today, we slowly move into economic recovery. Every day, we work to ensure that Irvine remains a premier city. And I will keep the promise I made last year, that we are positioned to preserve all core services at the highest level. 

We have met the challenges presented to us a year ago, and we are doing everything we can to mitigate the uncertainties.

Where are we today? How have we met those challenges?

Here, now, is our State of the City.

I’m pleased to report, in a year where economic fallout has impacted millions of Americans and thousands of cities across the country, that Irvine remains on sound financial footing.  Operational efficiency and, above all else, quality customer service, remain our guiding principles.

Given these challenging times, the City Council adopted a “Bridge Plan” that carefully uses our anticipated revenues while addressing our expenditures. We strategically spend reserves that the City Council had carefully put aside during the good times. The Plan calls for prudent fiscal management and careful use of our human resources to achieve savings wherever possible.

We are of the mindset to budget and spend each City dollar as if it were our own. As a result, we expect to have more than $21 million in reserves heading into the next fiscal year. This will put us in a better position to implement years two and three of the “Bridge Plan.” But as City Manager Sean Joyce has reminded me, we need to be ever-diligent.

In fact, Sean recently consolidated some of our staff operations to realize increased efficiencies and cost savings. While we continue to be committed to preserving jobs in this difficult economy, this consolidation enables us to reduce management and administrative positions that have become vacant through retirement and promotion. 

As we move forward, initiatives including public safety, preserving our infrastructure, and caring for our youngest, oldest and most vulnerable residents will remain top priorities.

But we cannot do it alone.

Tonight, as a call to action, I ask each and every one of you to walk with me, to celebrate the high points and work together on the challenges that we continue to share.

I remain confident that our efforts to prudently manage our finances will continue to prove successful. Today, it is more important than ever to maintain our commitment to fiscal discipline. Our goal – to demonstrate that Irvine is not only a model planned community but also a model of efficiency in government operations.

In my first State of the City address, I spoke of a number of priorities for the City and for the community. I would like to report on some of those priorities now.

In an environment of such economic uncertainty, our efforts to attract and support business growth in Irvine took on new relevance. I pledged that we would help Irvine businesses succeed and that 2009 would be a year of action to spur economic growth.

Last year, I held a series of meetings with Irvine hotel general managers and the Chamber of Commerce to identify how the City might help to increase hotel stays and bring in more revenue. We leveraged shared resources and focused on customer service. Those meetings led to a new Irvine Visitors Guide that was designed specifically to help business and other travelers navigate our City. The City also developed a comprehensive Business Resource Guide for new and existing businesses, to provide helpful information on City and regional services, contacts and other important information.

And recently, I led a Trade Mission to Korea and Japan. Along with Councilmember Krom, our delegation included a number of key Irvine business leaders, including UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake; representatives from the Chamber of Commerce; from the Irvine Company; from Five Point Communities; and from Churm Media.

The trip proved to be successful in our efforts to promote relationships to benefit Irvine in terms of economic development and business attraction. I can tell you that the economies of Korea and Japan are running at a very accelerated pace. The common thread between us is that we want to do business together. We liked what we saw and who we met. They admired our entrepreneurial spirit, our business track record, and our commitment to an integrated master plan. The Trade Mission provided an opportunity for some of our key business leaders to bring home achievable ideas to stimulate business in Irvine.

I am especially pleased with the ongoing partnership between the City and the Chamber of Commerce. We want to inspire new ventures and innovative programs to keep Irvine’s economy vibrant and growing. For that reason, I am reaching out to the business community. I will continue hosting a series of business roundtable meetings. I will engage business leaders in the areas of business incubators, technology trade shows, business exchanges, and new venture capital. I believe we can all benefit from Irvine’s global reputation.

And, of course, back home, the business of government and community involvement continues.

Improvements to roadway systems, and the care and growth of our 53 community and neighborhood parks, have been top priorities. Sweet Shade Neighborhood Park, our newest City Park, is now open and being enjoyed by the public.

The City’s efforts to implement and en­hance public transit last November led to the launch of the LAX FlyAway service at Irvine Station.

The FlyAway is a non-stop bus service between Orange County and Los Angeles International Airport.

It is good for the business traveler; it is good for the vacationer; and it is good for the environment. As one of the first passengers, I can attest that the FlyAway IS the way to go.

We continue to focus on our goal of improving mobility throughout the community. The iShuttle is an example as we get commuters out of cars and move them quickly throughout the IBC, and to and from the Tustin Metrolink Station.

Another example is the Jeffrey Road Undercrossing, nearing completion, that will enable people to move more quickly along a major thoroughfare.

And we are not done. Last year, we achieved a major milestone with the Orange County Transportation Authority to leverage $121 million in Proposition 116 funds. We continue to work with OCTA and the California Transportation Commission on the implementation of this agreement, to provide funding to advance our citywide Transit Program. The Transit Program would connect Irvine Station and other areas in the Spectrum, the Orange County Great Park, North Irvine, and the Irvine Business Complex.

We have made considerable progress in the past year developing the Irvine Business Complex Vision Plan. The plan encourages balanced, sustain­able mixed-use growth within the IBC. It will reduce commuter traffic on streets and freeways, and will bring housing closer to our job centers.

To provide some perspective on the importance of the IBC, consider this. The 2,800-acre complex is Orange County’s largest employment center. It is home to more than 4,500 businesses and more than 82,000 jobs. If location matters, and it does, then the IBC is an exceedingly valuable asset to the Irvine community.

The IBC Vision Plan provides for a mixed-use neighborhood, with up to a 15,000 residential cap along with commercial, office and industrial uses. It includes Smart Growth planning principles that will provide a quality of life for both residents and employees to meet Irvine’s highest standards.

It has been an important goal of ours to work closely with our neighboring cities. This way, they fully understand the benefits of the IBC Vision Plan and potentially identify projects that would mutually benefit both cities. I am pleased to report that we have reached a consensus with the City of Newport Beach.

Our recent agreement with Newport Beach addresses its concerns about development impacts from the Irvine Business Complex. This agreement provides a workable plan that is consistent with our City’s General Plan. I look forward, in a few months, to the City Council’s adoption of the IBC Vision Plan, to lay the foundation for this transformation.

As we continue to see the realization of Irvine’s master plan, we know that carefully planned new-home construction is an indicator of a healthy local economy. The multiplier effect is tremendous, from the carpenter on site to the goods and services purchased by the new homeowner. To that end, the Irvine Company has opened its New Home Collection in Woodbury and Woodbury East to meet the demand for new homes – some 685 to be exact.   

Each home will be designed to “Build It Green” standards that exceed California building and energy code requirements − a reflection of Irvine’s continued commitment to environmental stewardship. The recent grand opening drew more than 10,000 home shoppers to the company’s model homes. Seventy homes were sold before the grand opening and another 56 homes were expected to be sold within a week.

The Great Recession is winding down and we look forward to everyone returning to work. The collapse of the housing market led us into the recession, new home construction will lead us out. Irvine is proud to be leading the recovery with new home construction and sales. The new homes are creative, fresh and affordable. More importantly, hundreds of workers are now out on the construction sites with more being hired every day. That is, indeed, great news for the local economy.

I am also proud to report that our business-friendly City policies have been family-friendly as well. For example, within our budget for the fiscal year 2009-2010, we included $100,000 to have the Legal Aid Society of Orange County provide valuable assistance to Irvine families and seniors facing foreclosure and other serious economic challenges.

The result: Already hundreds of families are successfully dealing with their legal and economic problems. They are holding onto their homes; they are staying in our schools; and they are shopping in our stores. Simply stated, they are a continuing, productive part of our family-friendly Irvine community.

Now, right in the heart of the IBC, Hines California Green Irvine will be the largest LEED-certified project developed to date within the City. Plans call for seven mid-rise commercial buildings comprising up to 800,000 square feet of office and retail/restaurant space. The emphasis on sustainable design on this project will make Hines California Green Irvine a real icon.

Also, the owner of another property in the IBC is preparing plans for a 700,000-square-foot, mixed-use development. And, as I will discuss in a few minutes, major construction is underway at the Orange County Great Park.

We view these as positive signals leading to an economic recovery.

Remaining a safe community ranks at the top of our priority list. Last year, Irvine received the distinction of being “America’s Safest City” for the fifth consecutive year, according to FBI statistics on violent crime. Building on this momentum, we recently learned that Irvine is the safest community in California for the first half of 2009, based on state statistics for violent crime in cities with more than 100,000 residents. But public safety is about more than rankings. It is about preserving the safety and security of our community and is the hallmark of Irvine.

Sadly, in a sign of the times, we see a rise in domestic violence. So we do not rest on our laurels; we move forward with compassion for the victims and a plan to protect and help them.

Our Department of Public Safety’s Family Violence Prevention Program has made great strides to increase awareness about domestic violence. Staff and supporting partners have improved services for victims, and are educating the community about this underreported crime. 

This past October, the International Association of Police Chiefs honored our police department for its efforts in the area of victim services. We were one of four agencies nationwide to receive the prestigious “Excellence in Victim Services Award.” 

As we move into 2010, our Department of Public Safety and Community Services Department continue work in this area. Just last month, we hosted a community forum at City Hall addressing the topic of domestic violence. 

We continue to enhance our police resources, improve our emergency management efforts and upgrade our field services programs. But we also understand that having a safe community for everyone means addressing the issues that impact residents and their families on a much more personal basis.

Many of our residents will tell you that nothing is more important than our public school system. Yet, each campus in Irvine feels the pinch of the economy; Irvine Unified School District faces a shortfall of as much as $23.7 million this fiscal year. That is why our pledge to continue supporting our edu­cational partnership with our public schools is so important. The City will provide $500,000 this year to Irvine Unified and Tustin Unified school districts through the Irvine Educational Partnership Fund. We also contribute more than $4 million annually for School Resource Officers, DARE programs, crossing guards and many other services. It is a commitment we continue to maintain. We take great pride in these partnerships.

By allocating funds through our Educational Partnership Fund, we are able to leverage community resources. This enables Irvine public schools to provide more and better support directly to our young people. The PE4ME program, for example, is an approach to childhood obesity prevention, lifelong fitness and nutrition. With help from an Educational Partnership Fund grant, the American Academy of Pediatrics leveraged City funding to secure a $3 million grant from St. Joseph Health System in Orange County. The PE4ME program is now self-sustaining and will expand to more than 100 additional schools in Irvine and throughout Orange County. Thank you, Dr. Weiss and the PE4ME program.

The PE4ME program goes hand-in-hand with another important City initiative. The Irvine Children’s Health Program or I-CHP, a City-sponsored effort, strives to ensure that all Irvine children have access to basic healthcare needs. I believe that every single child in Irvine deserves adequate healthcare and access to a medical service provider. We are happy to report to you that we have been able to partner with health care providers and assist more than 400 Irvine children and their families in obtaining critically-needed medical insurance at very minimal cost to the City.

I am so proud of these partnerships.

It is more important than ever to support our public schools, as well as continuing to partner with our local colleges and univer­sities. These programs not only ben­efit our young people, they raise the quality of life for our entire community.

The Irvine Unified School District is recognized as one of the most outstanding school districts in California, and UC Irvine is consistently ranked among the nation’s best universities. From innovative pre-school programs to world-class doctoral studies, education is a cornerstone of the Irvine community. And there is no better reflection of that success than the achievements of our students themselves.

I would like to take a moment to introduce a young man here this evening who represents what education in Irvine is all about. His is a real story, in real time.

Ryan Wright attended Springbrook Elementary School and South Lake Middle School here in Irvine. He graduated with high honors from Woodbridge High School in 2001 and went on to obtain his bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from UC Irvine in 2005 and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Ryan pursued post-graduate studies and last spring received his medical degree from UCI’s School of Medicine. Dr. Wright is now a resident physician in psychiatry and human behavior at UCI. Needless to say, there is no better example of Irvine’s commitment to excellence in education than the path of Ryan Wright…Irvine raised, Irvine educated, and now giving back to the Irvine community. He has gone from being the Irvine kid to an Irvine doctor. Dr. Wright, would you please stand.

Last year in my first State of the City message, I promised that I would listen carefully and work diligently. An example of this is the City Council’s recent decision to advance the Northwood Community

Park Memorial project. The idea to recognize our military heroes began in 2003 with a group of Northwood residents. It was one of my objectives to achieve a mutually agreeable solution to this multi-year dialogue among our City Council, Community Services Commission, and Gratitude and Honor Memorial advocates.

I listened carefully and acted diligently to help facilitate a mutual agreement among all parties. By leading discussions between the Northwood residents and the City Council, we were able to get unanimous support of the City Council to approve the Northwood Community Park Memorial project.

A dedication for a lasting remembrance for our nation’s fallen is scheduled late this summer.

Public safety, education, environmental stewardship, economic vitality and quality of life remain the hallmarks of Irvine. Looking to the year ahead, I eagerly anticipate a number of significant events and milestones.

The Orange County Great Park continues to present its own spectacular programming that will draw tens of thousands of visitors this year, including the Great Park Balloon, the Great Skate, the Summer Concert Series, the 5th anniversary event, the El Toro Veterans Day Homecoming, the Pumpkin Harvest Festival, and much more. The recent Snow Day at the Great Park attracted 15,000 visitors from around the region, including children who experienced snow for the first time.

We have begun major construction at the Great Park. It is a $65.5 million first phase that includes improvements to our Preview Park as well as a sports park, arts and exhibition buildings and a community farm. This first phase goes hand in hand with our recent approval of an Amended Development Agreement with Five Point Communities and its Great Park Neighborhoods project on the former El Toro base. More than $60 million of infrastructure funding is in place for roads, utilities and more to create new jobs and to support both the Great Park moving forward and the Great Park Neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, Orange County residents have many exciting opportunities at the Great Park. We have our biggest traveling attraction to date: Cirque du Soleil, which performs for a few more days. While I certainly love the acrobatics of this famous international show, I am also mindful of the economic benefit of such a world-class performance. We will have more than 100,000 Cirque visitors this year, generating millions of dollars in economic impact for the region. And one of the benefits is that 150 members of Cirque’s cast, crew and support staff are staying for six weeks in Irvine hotels.

Whether we talk about the economic impact of a traveling show or the fact that more than 200,000 people work within the City’s boundaries, we continue to pursue business opportunities.

Business attraction, retention and growth remain our primary focus.

Our newest major business tenant, Western Digital, is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of hard drives for computers and consumer electronics products. This fall, the company will begin moving 1,250 employees into new headquarters at Park Place, at Jamboree and the 405 Freeway. These are people who will look to our villages within Irvine to serve their needs for housing, education, retail and entertainment. Western Digital, by the way, has a long history with the City of Irvine. Before the company departed some years back, its iconic sign in the Irvine Spectrum reminded us of the technology influence and diversity of businesses here in the City. It is entirely appropriate to now say, welcome home, Western Digital.

Hoag Hospital Irvine also is coming to town, to the former Irvine Regional Hospital and Medical Center site. A major City needs hospitals. We have Kaiser Permanente. And now, we will have Hoag Hospital Irvine, serving the medical needs of our residents. Following an $84 million renovation, Hoag Hospital Irvine will become a reality in fall of 2010. Already, Hoag’s community outreach program and speakers bureau have reached thousands of Irvine residents.

Western Digital and Hoag Hospital Irvine together represent about 2,000 new jobs. But we recognize that many more jobs are needed. On our website,, we have information about iConnect, which matches employers looking for that special employee. We also are a partner with Orange County One-Stop Center, linking business to people looking for work, with a fully-staffed location in the Irvine Spectrum.

This is a community where people want to work … because it is a wonderful place to live.

A few months ago, we celebrated the grand opening of Pretend City Children’s Museum, where children go to imagine and to be creative. This is a centerpiece serving our precious young residents. Welcome to Irvine, Pretend City.

We also celebrate special moments with our community partners. For example, 2010 marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of the South Coast Chinese Cultural Center. While the anniversary is certainly a milestone for the Center and its more than 1,000 students, it also reflects the wonderful cultural diversity that defines Irvine.

Just look at the Irvine Global Village Festival. This annual event is our signature community gathering because it celebrates not only our diversity, but the integration of our community. Under the planning of our Community Services Department, more than 13,000 visitors come to share food, culture, music and fashion. The festival is a mirror reflecting who we are – an international crossroads City filled with diverse, well-educated citizens.

That takes us to the 2010 Census. Next month, more than 75,000 addresses throughout Irvine will receive the 2010 Census questionnaire. Completing and returning your Census questionnaire is essential to continued support for important community programs. More than $400 billion per year nationwide is allocated to communities based on Census numbers. As the slogan goes: it’s easy; it’s important; it’s safe; and everyone counts … and count they do in Irvine!

So, here we are, at the dawn of a new decade, at a time of unquestioned challenges.

The future is still uncertain; I wish I could tell you something different. But I can promise you this. In Irvine, we are prepared to provide the best opportunity to succeed – for children, for families, for seniors, for businesses and for our community partners.

Today, we move forward as a maturing City. Next year, we celebrate our 40th anniversary. But in this, our 39th year, we have much to accomplish. And, we have many people to thank who have helped in this remarkable journey.

As I look around this Council Chamber, I see many critical components of our success, represented by all of you. So, instead of recognizing some and perhaps miss others, I ask all of you to please stand, if you are able, to be recognized for the extraordinary work you have done, in small ways and large, in making Irvine a place we cherish … a home we embrace … a ground we hold as our own.

I want to thank you for your individual contributions to a great City.

Together, let us acknowledge the possibilities, realize the potential, work in the present, and plan for the future.

God bless Irvine and God bless America.

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