Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Irvine's 'Great Park' Goes Bust

It's been a long time, but I can recall people hammering the idea of a "Great Park" in Irvine to rival New York's Central Park as far back as 2000. So now it turns out that the City of Irvine has spent millions of dollars on a regional development project that's gone literally nowhere.

Postcards from California's blue model of government.

See the Los Angeles Times, "Orange County's planned Great Park a victim of hard times":
Ten years after Orange County residents voted to turn a shuttered military base into one of America's most ambitious municipal parks, most of the land remains fenced off, looking very much like the airfield the Marines left behind.

The city of Irvine has spent at least $203 million on the project, but only 200 acres of the promised 1,347-acre Great Park has been built, and half of that is leased out for commercial farming.

Most of the money has paid for plans, designs and consultants, with less than a fifth of it going toward actual park construction, according to a Times analysis of the spending.

Now, the money to build "the first great metropolitan park of the 21st century" — as the city calls it — has just about run out, leaving Irvine leaders to contemplate radical measures: Selling off public land to raise funds or asking private business to step in and build the park for them.

The park, by now, was supposed to be filled with scores of sports fields and eventually museums, cultural centers, botanical gardens, and maybe even a university — all tucked into a bucolic landscape of forests, lawns, a lake and 60-foot-deep canyon that would be scooped from the earth once the barracks and runways were demolished.

But there are no baseball diamonds or regulation soccer fields. No canyon, no forest, no sprawling museum complex.

As much as anything, the lofty plans for the park — an expanse intended to rival San Diego's Balboa Park or even Central Park in New York — collapsed under the weight of the sagging economy...
Continue reading.

The city squandered at least $200 million on no-bid contracts and out-of-control "project" spending. And those responsible are Democrat politicians to the one, including former Irvine mayor and Democrat presidential candidate Larry Agran, who's quoted at the piece clamoring for more money:
Some city leaders said the spending on plans, public relations and events was necessary to secure a world-class design, build support for the project and entice visitors.

"We had to invest a lot to let people know there's a park coming," Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang said.

Others, including Councilman Jeffrey Lalloway, have called the spending on plans and no-bid contracts reckless and suggested the money could have been put to better use by building ball fields and opening up more parkland.

Lalloway said he was "saddened by a potentially wonderful project that has been financially mismanaged."

He doubts whether some of master design's showpiece amenities, such as the 2.5-mile-long canyon that was to be created in the middle of the park, will ever be built.

The project's fiscal decay has left some to consider a smaller, scaled-back park or one that will be built with the help of private business.

The Anaheim Ducks, for instance, are in talks with the city to build ice skating facilities there. Another firm could build a concert venue to replace the nearby Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.

Others, including Larry Agran — a 26-year veteran of the Irvine council and a park booster — say Irvine could raise money by selling off parkland for up to $4 million an acre, perhaps for a hotel, resort or high school.

"We own close to 1,500 acres of land free and clear and we can develop it in any way we see fit," Agran said.

Agran predicts the Great Park could be completed in 15 to 20 years, if the city can get its hands on more money.

O.C. residents will start enjoying the benefits of this fabulous park in 2032!

Just think, that's five years before Social Security's scheduled to go bankrupt. Phew!