Irvine Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson Norris, who is also Councilmember Melissa Fox’s endorsed candidate for Irvine City Council, has a campaign website that champions her position to call for more parks, affordable housing, green policies and reducing traffic. Yet a recent vote of hers in regards to a development project that provided all of these assets, she instead favored a project from FivePoint consultant Patrick Strader that offered none of these features.
The non-Strader project was the first one submitted for that site by a smaller developer and it included two five-story apartments buildings with 326 residential units operating as a rental community included the following:
- Bike shop/cafe, a public neighborhood park and a private neighborhood park, a rooftop terrace with full amenities and a dog park. The applicant even offered to open roof top terrace open to the public for general community use.
- 1.5 acres of On-site recreation features included a tot lot, wading pool, community rooms.
- Ample Parking – follows the stringent zoning rules. Applicant was not asking for reduced parking ratios. No off-site parking is needed to accommodate the residents (The Strader-backed project’s parking was a lengthy walk from the units – try carrying a few bags of groceries greater than the length of a football field including both endzones in August; hope that ice cream doesn’t melt).
- The project’s Affordable Housing Plan was generous and something every progressive Democrat could get behind — 39 units or 12 percent of the total units on site. Nothing in the IBC offers this many very low income units: 27 units to very low income households plus 12 moderate income households 39 affordable housing units. More than half of Irvine’s residents are renters with kids here for the city’s excellent school system; this project offered families a real opportunity to benefit without going broke.
- This project received a number of letters of support, including from Families Forward who praised the developer’s commitment to reserve 75 percent of very low income housing for Irvine based Families Forward clients. Families Forward is a non-profit housing program that’s critical to the housing crisis in Orange County. It re-houses families into permanent housing they can afford. The developer also included a progressively-friendly plan to help Families Forward provide some “wrap around” services for this under-served population and this plan really offered a great role model for the rest of the city’s and the county’s housing developer community.
- People for Housing OC also wrote on behalf of the project citing work/life balance benefits this project offered.
- Two letters from local cycling groups were submitted in support for this project’s “unique bicycle orientation.”
The Irvine City Staff had OK’d the project. It fits with Irvine on a number of levels. But on a 5-0 vote, the Community Services Commission decided to continue its review of the Park Plan to January of 2018. The continuance by Norris’ committee, in essence, allows the remaining IBC units to go to the Strader / Starpointe project (which has 22 number OR 49 percent of the projects in the IBC), thus eliminating the initial project from consideration.
The Community Services Commission held the applicants park plan “hostage” by issuing a continuance. The project would have been continued without her vote, but by voting for the Strader project instead of the initial one, it’s clear that Parks in the IBC are not her priority.
As this post was being prepared for publication, I received word the original developer was appealing this decision to the city council. For Democrats AND progressives who believe in affordable housing, let’s watch how Melissa Fox votes. Does she side with the affordable housing project or with Patrick Strader?