Mayor Moonbeam, Meet Donald Bren

The Irvine Co. backs its old nemesis: Larry Agran

But there's a bigger land-development target on the horizon. Agran hopes to persuade U.S. Navy officials to give his city the job of planning the conversion of the department's abandoned El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

The prospect of Agran driving the El Toro handover may explain an Aug. 22, 2001, Irvine Co. memo. Addressed to employees as well as companies that rely on the developer for survival, company vice presidents Joe Davis and Dan Young solicited support for Agran and fellow Democrat Chris Mears, an Agran ally on the council.

The fund-raising letter did not offer an explanation for the company's new relationships. But their corporate motto might: "Good planning goes a long way."

Agran's obvious coziness with past enemies might horrify his old supporters. A Weekly review of campaign-disclosure reports from the 1980s shows that the mayor sought funding mostly from liberals, moderate Republicans and slow-growth advocates. A page from one of Agran's 1987 campaign-finance reports illustrates the point: when he was the undisputed leader of Orange County's slow-growth movement, the occupations of his contributors were journalist, housewife, doctor, retired, union member, lawyer, county employee, architect, student and peace activist.

In a recent interview with the Weekly, Agran said he was frustrated that "a few people" don't trust him anymore. But he declined to discuss in detail his behind-the-scenes negotiations with Irvine Co. executives, especially over the future of El Toro. He was willing to say, however, that he believes his current political objectives are not necessarily at odds with the interests of the county's most powerful real-estate developer.

Longtime Agran critic Christina Shea, herself a former Irvine mayor, says voters worried about the side effects of developer-driven commercial and residential projects—traffic congestion, pollution, crowded schools and quality of life—should be cautious heading to Election Day in November.

"The media keeps portraying Larry as an environmental hero against the big, bad developers, but it's not true," said Shea. "He's giving them what they want. That is why they've decided to back him. It's not a mystery."

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