Orange County Great Park Gets a $1.4 Billion Puncture in its Balloon
A court in Sacramento today denied the city of Irvine's temporary restraining order request that would prevent the state of California from seizing Orange County Great Park funds. It's part of the city's lawsuit against the state Department of Finance, which has ruled the Great Park is not entitled to $1.4 billion in property tax revenue due to the state's elimination of redevelopment agencies.
The California Supreme Court has already upheld the state Legislature's redevelopment agency elimination law, which the Department of Finance claims its decision is based on, not the merits of the controversial Great Park project. The funds Irvine is tried to protect with the restraining order are tax revenues held by the county's Auditor-Controller for the period of July-December 2012. The city expected to be paid the $1.4 billion over decades.
The Great Park is an Orange County voter-approved alternative to the international airport county leaders, businessmen and labor unions wanted built over the decommissioned El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. After helping lead the effort to kill the proposed airport, Irvine won the county's blessing to annex the land and develop a 1,300-acre park that would be ringed by residential and commercial development.
Land purchases by developer Lennar Corp., development fees from individual new homes and businesses and government funding will combine to make the Great Park a financial win for taxpayers, promises the project's board, which is composed of the entire Irvine City Council and various dignitaries. The City Council must second all votes by the park board.
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Despite award-winning designs for the park--which is to include amphitheaters, nature preserves, farms, athletic facilities, other amenities and a footprint bigger than Golden Gate Park--there has been little to show for other than a balloon ride, temporary grassy areas and old hangers converted into entertainment venues. Plenty of parking!
City Councilman Jeff Lalloway campaigned calling for greater oversight of the project, which has failed the generate the levels of government and--thanks to the housing crash--developer funding promised by Larry Agran, the former mayor-turned-councilman/Great Park grand poohbah and cronies of his grand vision.
Lallorway's gone on record saying the money shortfalls should translate into a vastly scaled-back park, but council colleague Beth Krom reportedly tells the Orange County Register today, ""We are not willing to lower our standard of what we want. . . . "We have succeeded before, and we will succeed again."
If only we could see it.
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