Group Forms to Oppose Choi’s Library Legacy Project


In his first state of the city address in 2013, Mayor Steven Choi outlined an ambitious plan to build a great public library at the Great Park and in two years since the idea was first proposed, the project has generated a lot of busy work for city staff and there hasn’t been a lot of progress.  A major concern is Choi wants to finance the construction of a huge library through Irvine’s philantrophic community.  Costs range from $50 million to $150 million.

The premise is “every great city needs a great library” but there are some inherent problems with Choi’s legacy (a topic the Mayor is particularly obsessed with at the moment–his legacy is winning Mayor twice with less than 50% of the vote and defaming the speaker of the house when she came to Irvine…end of story).

In response to Choi’s renewed push for a Great Library at the Great Park, a citizen group has emerged in opposition to the Library idea. The Irvine Villages for Fiscal Responsibility sent an email Monday calling on residents to oppose Choi’s Library idea, claiming Choi would put taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars to preserve his legacy.  Here’s the email:

Dear Irvine Resident:

We need help today to STOP Mayor Choi from spending millions on a new library and leaving Irvine taxpayers on the hook for tens of millions more.

We have nothing against libraries, in fact we support our libraries as places for reading and learning and studying. But our world has changed since Mayor Choi received his Ph.D. in Library Sciences and spending millions on new buildings to house books is not the way of the future.


During the last two years the City of Irvine has been busy finally working on building the Great Park and conducting a forensic audit to find out what exactly happened to the more than $200 million dollars that was spent by the previous Larry Agran-council majority, money that never made it to actually building the park.

As a result, the citizens of Irvine elected a new majority to straighten out the finances, complete the audit and work more cohesively together on a plan for the Great Park that includes goals, transparency and a better structure of accountability.

Unfortunately, at the City Council meeting on January 13 Mayor Steven Choi ignored this progress. Mayor Choi placed an item on the Council Agenda for the City to conduct a study for, what is sure to become, at least a $150 million dollar plan, to build a municipal library for what Mayor Choi calls his ‘legacy.’

Why is Mayor Choi’s trying to set his ‘legacy pet project’ above other projects that have been waiting in line for approval; such as a new police facility, new animal shelter or community center at the Great Park? Is Mayor Choi becoming another Larry Agran, believing his priorities get special treatment?

We ask you to please send Mayor Choi a message by a writing a letter, email or calling the Mayor’s office and stating your concern and asking the Mayor to remove his ‘library pet project’ from getting special treatment for approval by his colleagues at the February 10, 2015 City Council meeting.

This is not a partisan issue, everyone of every part of the political spectrum can easily understand that squandering money on a public building, salaries, and employee pensions when those dollars would be better spent elsewhere and with no additional overhead which puts Irvine taxpayers at risk.  Unfortunately, self-styled conservative Councilwoman Schott seconded spending the money on the Mayor’s misguided study.  We expected more out of Schott and will be watching to see if this was an isolated incident or a sign of her becoming another bureaucrat.  Councilwoman Beth Krom, who is no stranger to voting to throw public dollars in the trash can, also voted to study the Mayor’s boondoggle.

  • MAIL: Mayor Steven Choi, Councilwoman Beth Krom & Councilwoman Lynn Schott, City of Irvine, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606
  • CALL: 949-724-6600
  • E-MAIL: Steven Choi
  • E-MAIL: Beth Krom
  • E-MAIL: Lynn Schott
The newspapers report everyday about California municipalities mismanaging taxpayer money on frivolous studies and projects that don’t matter (Bell, Pasadena, Buena Park, Stockton, San Bernardino, etc…) that eventually lead to catastrophic ruin. Let us stand together and demand that this doesn’t happen in Irvine and that no politician or his ‘pet projects’ are ever more important than the financial health of our City.

Contact all three express your opposition to wasting more money at the Great Park.  Without three votes, there is no library, each yes vote will be held accountable.

As Irvine taxpayers, let us stand together for out City.

Thank you.

We’ll note some things from this email; language attacking former council member Larry Agran and other text that denigrates sitting council member Beth Krom makes this highly unlikely that this group was organized from the Left.  The entire taxpayer funding issue and appeals to non-partisanship, and the absence of Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway from the attack on Choi and the city council is also telling.

It looks like a shot across the bow for those who would like Jeff Lalloway to replace Don Wagner in the Assembly instead of Choi should Wagner win Mimi Walter’s empty State Senate seat.  Both Lalloway and Choi reside in AD-68 with Lalloway having closer ties to new GOP chair Fred Whitaker in Orange.  Not including Lalloway in the message seems like a deliberate move and not an oversight.

In today’s Internet age, is a Great Library really something relevant today?   Choi wants the library, presumably named after him, to be a place where students can go to study which works if they have a car or access to one.  These days, students seem to use Starbucks or Barnes and Noble for a socialized student environment.  Choi’s library plan would divorce Irvine from the county’s library system and require millions for ongoing operations with no revenue stream to support ongoing operations even if Choi manages to raise enough for construction.  Frankly, I’d rather keep writing checks to IPSF to maintain great quality schools which are far more important to me than a massive library.  A smarter move for be for Choi to improve the libraries already in Irvine by expanding facilities and providing more services.

  16 comments for “Group Forms to Oppose Choi’s Library Legacy Project

  1. Ryan Cantor
    January 27, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Not to wade into it too deeply, but if Irvine assumed library functions from the county, it would also assume the portion of property taxes paid by residents to support library services.

    It’s properly a question of an adequate revenue stream. Stating there’s no revenue stream is factually incorrect.

    • January 27, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      Ryan, the amount of money we’re talking about that Irvine could get from the county to support Choi’s boondoggle insn’t close to covering the operations cost of a mega library when wants to build. If you want to split hairs, fine, there’s a trickle of revenue that county taxpayers will have to make up in Fullerton and Anaheim and other places. But its not nearly enough to cover a small portion of the operational expenses requires to run a library the size Choi envisions.

      • Ryan Cantor
        January 27, 2015 at 1:47 pm

        It’s several million dollars actually.

        But, point conceded. Hence my statement on adequacy.

        • January 27, 2015 at 2:33 pm

          Not nearly enough to run a massive library after paying for construction, computer networks, books, periodicals, shelves, tables, chairs, Internet access, staff…. you cannot county on the generosity of Irvine taxpayers to fund this when raising $5 million a year for the IPSF is always a struggle.

        • January 27, 2015 at 3:21 pm

          The operational budget for the Boston Public Library, which I used often when I lived there, is about $33,4 million for FY15 Ryan. In San Jose, a city closer to Irvine’s size compared to Boston, the library budget is $37 million. In Buena Park, which has its own Library system, I believe its around $2.5 million. Irvine has three times the population, so let’s say Irvine nets $7.5 million from property taxes for Choi’s folly (which is no guarantee). Not enough, triple it and you’re not close to the millions needed to fund the library at the Great Park. Do you think the coffee shop Choi proposes will make up the millions in difference required to be the Library he hopes to build.

          • Ryan Cantor
            January 27, 2015 at 6:55 pm

            Nope, I don’t.

          • Ryan Cantor
            January 27, 2015 at 11:14 pm

            One more point of order for you– Buena Park does not have its own library. It’s a special district separate from the city.

            Materially a distinction without a difference for your statement, but a correction all the same.

            • January 28, 2015 at 8:53 am

              Irvine is seeking to do the same; no correction necessary. Buena Park was used because it is not a part of the county library system. Irvine would be seeking a divorce from the county system

              • Ryan Cantor
                January 28, 2015 at 9:18 am

                Irvine wants a special district or a municipal library?

                I have some interest in this. If there’s anything written on it, I’d love to see it.

                • January 28, 2015 at 10:12 am

                  I have a CD full of documentation; but why bother. Its not going to happen

  2. IrvineVoter2015
    January 27, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    I wonder if this group is connected to the Irvine Cares folks who were sending out e-mails during the campaign? Sounds like friends of Dick Ackerman since conveniently Jeff Lalloway isn’t mentioned.

  3. Ltpar
    January 27, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Dan interesting to note that you ommitted any criticism of Beth Krom who voted for the process to move forward instead of shutting it down in it’s tracks. Also I noticed you failed to give credit to Christina Shea who was the only conservative to speak out and vote against the library. How about some fair and objective reporting here. Choi’s “Tower of Babble” is going to raise a lot of concerns from the community, especially his strong arming businesses and corporations for substantial donations. I am afraid that Steven’s elevation to Mayor is having the same effect that such power did to Larry Agran. I hope he realizes the error of his ways and gets back on course with the fulll team.

    • Ltpar
      January 28, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      Dan, I take back my criticism of Beth Krom after her vote on the Chair of the Great Park. I was disappointed in Lynn Schott for her cheap shot, just because she thinks Christina Shea did her wrong. Lynn is starting to look like a one term Council member and she hasn’t even gotten started yet.

      I hope Beth will take a hard look at the Cultural Terrace priorties and make an informed decision that the Metropolitan Library is neither needed nor is financially feasible. Her vote will be needed if it is to be blocked.

      • Dan Chmielewski
        January 29, 2015 at 9:10 am

        There are only two members on the city council with the intellectual maturity to actually govern. And one of those two is more interested in the political side of the coin than the governing side.

        Having buyer’s remorse already Pat?

  4. January 27, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Pat, nor did I criticize Lynn Schott; the article is not about the council members who voted to study the library question but about the Mayor who is pushing it and the Mayor Pro Tem who is absent from the targets.

    Praise Shea for voting no on a study? I have bigger fish to fry with her down the road

  5. January 27, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Choi’s arrogance was long on display before we has elected Mayor Pat.

Comments are closed.