July News and Notes
We all know that UC Irvine is a cool school, and that’s not just because the Sierra Club’s rankings of eco-friendly schools tells us so. UCI slipped from No. 1 in that ranking to third this past year. But adding a 50,305-watt solar power system as part of an expansion of the venerable Middle Earth residence halls should help. You want cooler? This year more than half of UCI’s graduating class are first-generation college students, and the U.S. Department of Education named UCI a Hispanic-serving institution, with Latinos comprising 25 percent of undergraduates. UCI was also recognized as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institution, proving once again that global diversity is one of Irvine’s greatest strengths—the university and the city.
The city’s business sector remains busy with mergers and acquisitions keeping dealmakers at their desks. Synaptics Inc. has acquired Irvine chipmaker Conexant Systems for $300 million in cash and 700k-plus shares of Synaptics stock. Though Conextant currently has an Irvine HQ address, many of us still think of it as a company of Newport Beach origins, arising from Rockwell Semiconductor Systems, etc. The company’s long-term legacy may be as the site of Uptown Newport, the Irvine Business Complex apartment development long-planned on Jamboree Blvd. where Conexant spinoff Jazz Semiconductors sits. The first 1,200-ish apartment, park and retail phase from Shopoff Realty Investments at the former Conexant site is moving forward. The second phase will commence once the Jazz lease expires. Synaptics, a maker of touchpads, fingerprint sensors, etc., is based in San Jose. Other tech and medical product news in Irvine includes Smartlabs, a $200 million-per-year “Internet of things” innovator, being bought by Rob Lilleness’s Richmond Capital Partners, and Irvine Scientific’s plan to expand its Armstrong Ave. headquarters with a 40,000-square-foot R&D center to advance its cell culture corner of the market. Finally, with Amazon’s $13.7 billion deal to purchase Whole Foods, perhaps we can use our longtime Amazon Prime membership as leverage to beseech Jeff Bezos to change the name of the bar at the Irvine Whole Foods in Los Olivos from “The Irv” to… almost anything else.
Irvine bridges looking good!
In an effort to continue bringing good news about traffic and transit to our readers, we’re happy to report that a recent annual report from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, documenting 56,000 structurally deficient bridges in the United States, included none in Irvine, and few in Orange County. The poorest performing OC bridge on the list was the eastbound 22 bridge at the 605 and 405 freeways. It scored a 4.67 on the list, which isn’t good. But, according to recent Caltrans Bridge Inspection Reports, after improvements to the bridge’s deck and superstructure, it now scores an 8.
Free-for-all at City Hall
Two more members of the city staff in Irvine have announced their resignations: Senior Community Development Planner Barry Curtis and Community Development Director Susan Emery. They join the growing number of staffers who have departed their positions in a city that is solvent and stable. While no specific reasons were given for the two resignations, there is growing speculation that the low morale and management changes inside city hall are triggering the shakeup. Several insiders point to City Manager Sean Joyce as the reason for the departures.