Irvine Land Trust – No Transparency/Millions in City Finds. WTF?

Harvard Park, Irvine

From our friends at Irvine Watchdog, this story on the Irvine Land Trust which juts took $3 million in taxpayer money from the city of Irvine but is not subject to Brown Act disclosures and its meetings are not open to the public — and worse, a FivePoint consultant sits on the Body.  Why is Patrick Strader making policy with taxpayer money with No transparency ought to outrage every taxpayer in the city.

Here’s the overview from Watchdog:

We do not want to exaggerate our troubles with the Irvine Community Land Trust nor with the city council members Fox and Shea appointed to serve on the land trust board and represent the city’s interests. But despite having at least $5.2 million of city dollars invested in the land trust, the operating rules between the 12-year old land trust and the city have drastically changed in a way that negatively impacts our city. 

Specifically, the land trust approved bylaw changes that inexplicably cut the city out from its own creation. Without stating why, the public can no longer attend the monthly board meetings. I tried yesterday and was turned away. I was told the meetings and agenda are now private, and residents must now email the land trust director and ask to be invited to attend or speak. Since over 75% of the land trust’s revenue comes from the city, this change is flat out wrong.

Basically, our two Council reps Fox and Shea have allowed the land trust to no longer mandate city representation on the board and have removed all city approval of projects and financial oversight.

In the Watchdog’s view, City affordable housing dollars should be going to the land trust only if the previous formal processes and transparency practices are followed. And most definitely, the land trust should continue to abide by the Brown Act’s requirements.

The land trust is exempt under 501 (c) (3) and classified as a public charity organization, not a private foundation. We believe the land trust is still a component of the city based on their Articles of Incorporation, City council resolution 06-27, the annual council appointed representation and significant city funding. It was created by a governmental body and receives funds from the government.

Four weeks ago, we asked the city in a letter to explain their sudden shift. We are still waiting on a response and hope to hear back from them soon.  In the meantime, here are some facts:

  • The land trust was established by a city council resolution in 2006.  This resolution was a formal action to direct the creation of the Irvine Community Land Trust as a central implementing tool of the city’s housing strategy.
  • The Articles of Incorporation filed in 2006 in the Office of the Secretary of State – California specifically states in II C the purpose of the Land Trust. “This corporation is formed for the benefit of, and to carry out the purposes of, the City by helping the City ensure that its residents are able to secure decent and affordable housing…”
  • The City accounting division includes the land trust in the budget and strategic business plan.
  • The First Amendment Coalition legal counsel responded to our inquiry with information regarding open government and encouraged us to move ahead with determining the Brown Act and the land trust jurisdiction.

The land trust is key to Irvine delivering more affordable housing.  So why the lack of transparency and accountability?  We hope the city will step in to reinstate the original bylaws and return to its hands-on role in the operation of the land trust. Council members Fox and Shea are representing the city on the land trust board until 1/2019, and we expect better. If the land trust demands autonomy from the city, Irvine’s residents should be given an explanation why.  After all, we take good governance seriously.

Jeanne Baran is an Irvine resident and volunteer in the homeless community.  She was attending the monthly Irvine Community Land Trust board meetings before they became private.

  6 comments for “Irvine Land Trust – No Transparency/Millions in City Finds. WTF?

  1. katherine daigle
    June 27, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    Reviewing the Irvine Land Trust SPECIAL MEETING board minutes from September 5th 2017, board member Patrick Strader submitted his request to the board to OPPOSE this measure on page #42 of the board minutes. The measure initiative was submitted in August 2017, by the Responsible Growth proponents. The emails going from Council Shea to Strader and Starpointe Ventures are stunning. Shea does nothing but send daily emails to Patrick Strader Lobbyist for 5 Points.

    The Irvine Land Trust board meetings, agendas, and minutes are available to the public. The board has increased its representatives of the council (Shea has included a few of her attendants).

    Never fear Irvine residents, beginning June 2018, these meetings are unavailable to the general public as they have separated from the city of Irvine, BTW with unfettered, unregulated, free for all of your tax dollars.

  2. George P
    June 28, 2018 at 1:34 am

    This is truly amazing and mind-boggling. Someone needs to follow the money here. How can we, as tax paying citizens, stand idly by while our city’s budget is in a deficit and yet there are millions being funneled to a City chartered body? And even more, we have ZERO transparency into what this money is being used for? Can someone please contact the Attorney General? What a farce!! Does anyone trust Shea, Fox and Strader behind closed doors???!!! That’s a seriously difficult menage-a-trois to imagine and when you throw untraceable money into the mix, well, my mind is blown!!

    What next? How else are our elected officials going to rub it in our faces that they just don’t care about us??

  3. Take back the house
    June 28, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Agran Redux, eh?

  4. MomwithaVoice
    June 28, 2018 at 11:32 am

    I really believe the work that the Irvine Land Trust is doing is vital and important to our community. I more so believe in transparency.

    If you have nothing to hide, then hide nothing.

  5. Dee Fox
    July 19, 2018 at 2:00 am

    There is NOT one good reason why the Land Trust should have closed door meetings other than to hide from the public what they are doing. When the November elections come … keep in mind that MELISSA FOX has been grooming Lauren Johnson-Norris for a seat on the Irvine City Council. Lauren will be another one that will put Developers interests ABOVE the interests of the people. And like Melissa, she advocates for “transparency”.

    • Dan Chmielewski
      July 22, 2018 at 10:39 am

      It costs nothing to open meetings to the public. It costs nothing to receive public comments.

Comments are closed.