Archive for the ‘Irvine’ Category

The Not So Great Park

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

I live in Irvine, a relatively affluent community in Orange County, California. The city boast a large network of parks; back in 2002, the Great Park plan was approved by Orange County voters. To date, the park’s Board has spent over $128 million.

You’d think that with that much spent there would be a lovely park to see. There’s not. Other than a balloon and a summer concert series, the park–formerly, the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station–remains largely undeveloped. Today, the Orange County Register published an article asking the question, “When will Orange County get its Great Park?”

Some construction will be occurring in the near future: a 14 acre lawn, a carousel, and a number of sports fields. I guess $128 million doesn’t go as far as it used to. The Register notes that over $46 million was spent from June 2009 through June 2010. I’m unaware of any construction work done during that time.

Irvine Councilwoman Christina Shea noted that there were lots of parties held by the Park Board. I receive (as an Irvine resident) a glossy mailer a few times a year on the Park.

Personally, I think a better name is the Great Boondoggle.

The Great Money Pit

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Other than noting local elections I haven’t really written much on this blog about local politics. Irvine has a favorable business climate, and the city hasn’t had revenue problems. Unfortunately, I think change is on the horizon, and it’s not going to be good.

First, there’s the Great Park. Lennar Corporation paid the Great Park Corporation $200 million. Over half of that money has been spent. To date the result of that spending is:

- Glossy brochures sent to local residents once a quarter;
- Beautiful architectural plan; and
- A nice balloon.

Yes, there have been some concerts at what was the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, but the site looks more or less the same as it did ten years ago.

I won’t get into the theoretical “Chinese Wall” between the Great Park Corporation and the City of Irvine. That’s because as best as I can determine it doesn’t exist. And I won’t comment about the free movies with free popcorn. Perhaps the city and Great Park Corporation can send me some of that free money.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to any local readers. Perhaps you’ve seen the new Irvine “I Shuttle” buses. The shuttle began operation March 31st, and links the Tustin Metrolink station to the Irvine Business Center. The shuttle is free to riders. When the shuttle was first announced rides were going to cost $0.50 to $1 beginning on September 1st but that was never implemented.

I see the shuttle every morning when I head home from the gym, and there are usually a few riders on board. I also see the shuttle when I go out to lunch, and I’ve seen one rider in nine months. I’ve been told that the subsidy per lunchtime rider is $32. The city might as well just order pizza for those riders.

There are many problems here. First, there is already bus service linking the Tustin Metrolink station and the IBC. Sure, the shuttle is more convenient but it’s expensive. I don’t know what the subsidy per rider is during the commute hours (probably on the order of $5 to $10 per rider based on my non-scientific observations), but money doesn’t grow on trees.

The city will see decreasing revenue in the near future. There’s a lot of retail in the city; some of it won’t be surviving the recession. Already, the Mervyn’s store at Barranca and Culver is closing. Others will follow. Funding from Sacramento will go down because of the state budget crisis. Yes, Irvine is better off than many other communities. This is a middle to upper-middle class community and we haven’t been as hard hit as other local areas. Still, funding is going to be tight and those luxuries like the Great Money Pit Park and the I-Shuttle need to break even. If they can’t, it’s time to shut off the money spigot.

At a minimum, the Great Park Corporation should eliminate the glossy brochures. A simple notification through the Irvine World News (which is distributed to every resident of Irvine) and on their website would save money. The I-shuttle should stop lunchtime routes and should consider a complete suspension of service.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, even in Irvine.

Register Tax Help Call-In on Tuesday

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Every year the Orange County chapter of the California Society of Enrolled Agents and local CPAs donate their time to answer tax questions by phone for four hours. Tomorrow (Tuesday) you can call 714-796-5000 between 5pm and 9pm PST and get your tax question answered. It’s sponsored by the Orange County Register; I’ll be one of the volunteers answering your questions.

When Will They Learn?

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

In last November’s election, voters roundly rejected a proposed light rail system here in Orange County. The CenterLine system would have linked Irvine, John Wayne (Orange County) Airport, and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

It’s back. But only here in Irvine.

Last week, the Irvine City Council approved spending $5.6 million on studying an Irvine mass transit system. The proposed system would run 5.5 miles, exclusively in Irvine.

Apparently, the members of the council have not been listening to the voters—the same voters who keep rejecting light rail systems. It’s unfortunate that the $5.6 million has been approved (and will be spent); it’s a certainty that yet another ballot measure will happen and the voters of Irvine will, for the fourth time (I believe) say nyet to rail transit.

News Story: Los Angeles Times

Your Tax Dollars at Work: Did I Really Compliment the IRWD?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

As mentioned previously, my home and office are served the the Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD). Unlike the neighboring Orange County Sanitation District, the IRWD hasn’t elected to spiritualize its’ sewage. But the IRWD has committed its own sin: Late payments on electricity bills to the tune of $22,427, according to a story in the Orange County Register.

The IRWD says that the payments were late so that the bills, from Southern California Edison could be checked to ensure that SCE didn’t overcharge the IRWD. The IRWD has now changed its policy so that if the checking of the bills will cause them to be paid after the due date, the bills will be timely paid and a credit (if appropriate) will then be asked for.

Yes, the double-checking of the bills has found errors (of more than $160,000). But shouldn’t this procedure have been implemented after the first late payment? Definitely this shouldn’t have had to wait for an audit; according to the Register story, that was the cause of the change of procedure.