The LA Times weighs in on the Great Park; Urges Caution

soccer at the Great Park

The Los Angeles Times editorial page offered this opinion in today’s pages, a striked contrast to the OC Register’s cheerleading for the FivePoints developers who stand to make millions of dollars off the extra land for homes in exchange for building the park.

My gripe with the developers is pretty simple; I don’t want to see a huge sports complex like the one in Overland Park, Kansas where all the soccer fields are used by for-profit club soccer teams.  There needs to be a place where people can enjoy the open space.  If FivePoints wants a golf course, they can add to the land the new homes they didn’t expect to get can go.

I had one text message exchange with one consultant on the project and asked if he knew what the Harvest Cuop tournament was?  He really didn’t but made the case that the tournament’s championship game could be played on one field with raised seating around it.  The only problem is the Harvest Cup has four title games, not one.  I still see no evidence of a possible basketball fieldhouse that was discussed that would be welcome.  But I find it arrogant on the part of the developer to say Irvine “wasted money” on planning when they pretty much punted the plan that was approved and paid for.

From the editorial:

The Great Park’s ambitious plan was stalled by the Great Recession. It was further hobbled in 2012 when California eliminated redevelopment agencies and took $1.4 billion in property taxes for its own general fund that would have otherwise funded the project.

So, it’s understandable that some frustrated Irvine leaders have embraced a proposal by developer FivePoint Communities to construct 688 acres of the park in exchange for nearly doubling the number of houses the firm can build on the park’s perimeter. The company has approval to put 4,900 homes there, but wants 4,600 more.

Under the proposal, the city of Irvine would get the bulk of the park, at the developer’s expense. And the work would be done in a matter of years instead of decades.

But it wouldn’t be the Great Park. The FivePoint plan is a more conventional, scaled-down version of the Great Park’s master plan. It would include more sports fields, including national tournament-level facilities. It scraps the project’s centerpiece: a 2-mile-long, 60-foot-deep man-made canyon that planners envisioned as “a place to wander and daydream.” The canyon would be replaced by a 188-acre municipal golf course — where, presumably, wandering and daydreaming would not be allowed, due to safety concerns.

Does Orange County really need another golf course to be used by a few, in a park that was envisioned to serve the many? In their rush to get the Great Park developed and to deal with the undeniable financial challenges, Irvine city council members could end up squandering the opportunity to build something truly special. They should demand more of FivePoint Communities. The developer and the city should go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan closer to the ambition of the original project.”

Here’s the opening paragraph on Emile Hadded of FivePoint.

“Prior to co-founding FivePoint Communities, Emile was the Chief Investment Officer of Lennar Corporation, one of the nation’s leading homebuilders, where he was in charge of the company’s real estate investments and asset management. Emile was a founding member of Lennar in California, and was instrumental in its growth.”

Least anyone forgot, Lennar was supposed to have broken up the runways years ago and the economic downturn delayed that process.  So forgive me if I don’t exactly trust the developer to keep their word here.  Perhaps if they promise to build most of the park first before building any new homes, I’d feel better.  But I’ll bet you every new neighborhood is built out and every new home sold before the “Pretty Nice Park” gets the attention they say it will.  The city council majority might just be abdicating their responsibility for long term planning and management of this city asset.

  2 comments for “The LA Times weighs in on the Great Park; Urges Caution

  1. junior
    November 21, 2013 at 10:23 am

    The so-called Great Park was always about stopping an international airport for OC.

  2. rrose
    November 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    I remember everyone’s amazement at what a low price Lennar paid to get the right to develop property in return for the work they were supposed to do for the “Great Park”. Now they claim poverty?

    Junior is right. The only reason for the existence of the “Great Park” was to stop the airport. The people who were the biggest advocates for the “Great Park” are nowhere to be found now that the “park” is being dismantled.

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