Civic success story 2017: It’s been an eventful year in Irvine
Irvine’s new mayor and city council began the New Year. Sworn in at a December session, re-elected councilmember Christina Shea joined new councilmember Melissa Fox and new mayor Donald Wagner on the city council that includes Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway and Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott. “We don’t have to like each other, but we have to act professionally to do city business,” Mayor Wagner told the OC Register about the new council he would lead into 2017.
Mayor Don Wagner gave an upbeat and inspiring State of the City address, his first as mayor. “I firmly believe that wherever you come from, and whatever your interests and talents, you want the same thing from government for you and your family: The ability to live and work productively, in safety; to provide a quality education to your children; and to be free to speak, worship, participate, and thrive in your community. This is a city where goals and dreams can be realized, and are being realized every day.”
Some 300 civic, community and sports leaders gathered at the Orange County Great Park as the Anaheim Ducks hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the $100 million-plus Great Park Ice and Sports Complex, which will be the largest of its kind in California.
The Irvine City Council unanimously approved a plan between FivePoint and Live Nation Entertainment to build and operate an interim outdoor amphitheater next to the Orange County Great Park to temporarily replace the beloved Irvine Meadows Amphitheater, which closed last fall after entertaining music fans for 35 years. “We couldn’t be happier to continue to be part of the unique culture of live music in Irvine,” said Bret Gallagher, president of Southern California Live Nation.
The City Council unanimously approved the Irvine Ice Foundation’s proposal to name the 2,500-seat arena at the Great Park Ice and Sports Complex as FivePoint Arena at Great Park Ice. The foundation was set up to oversee the rink’s construction and management and is backed by Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli.
The Irvine City Council renewed the city’s commitment to build a Southern California Veterans Cemetery on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro at a council meeting in April. The final vote was 3-2, with the final result being a dual path forward toward a place of final rest for military veterans.
The Irvine City Council voted 4-0 to approve Concordia University Irvine’s revised campus renovation plan that includes a new music and worship center, and a new science and nursing building. Turtle Rock neighbors successfully challenged a more ambitious plan.
The new Irvine home to Pacific Symphony, the Charlie and Ling Zhang Musical Arts & Education Center opened.
Mark Linsenmayer was appointed as Irvine’s new Director of Transportation. Formerly the Deputy Executive Officer of Countywide Planning for the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Linsenmayer oversees all aspects of transportation and serves as the staff liaison to the newly created Transportation Commission. His appointment was a key part of the mayor and city council’s commitment to improve traffic.
The L.A. Rams training camp opened at UCI, in preparation for a breakout season.
On Aug. 5, the long awaited and much anticipated Orange County Great Park Sports Park opened. The 53-acre first phase includes six soccer fields, 25 tennis courts, five sand volleyball courts, and the Championship Soccer Stadium. Construction of the remaining phases continued, with an anticipated 2018 opening.
The Irvine City Council approved an agreement to exchange 125 acres of city-owned land for the same amount of land near the 405/5 interchange as the approved site for a veterans cemetery. Referred to as the Strawberry Fields, the approved site doesn’t require the estimated $30 million for demolition and site preparation required for the alternate site. Both sites were on the MCAS El Toro base.
The City Council unanimously approved a project to widen University Dr. from four to six lanes for the 1.1 miles between MacArthur Boulevard and Campus Dr. The $17 million project will begin in January 2018 and calls for it to be completed in May 2019.
The Irvine Unified School District broke ground on its newest school, Cadence Park, a cool and contemporary K-8 school in the Great Park Neighborhoods.
The new FivePoint Amphitheatre debuted with three concerts to the new interim facility replacing Irvine Meadows.
The American flag was raised at the future site of the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park, which will be the first veterans cemetery in OC.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the affordable housing neighborhoods Luminaira and Espaira was held in the Great Park Neighborhoods, drawing housing advocates, developers, nonprofits, designers, and landowners that made the much-needed units for 166 families possible.
Broadcom began moving to its new Irvine office at FivePoint Gateway, located on the corner of Alton and Barranca. At the same time, the company made headlines for a $130 billion bid to acquire Qualcomm in what would be the richest tech deal in history.
Christina Shea will be mayor pro tem in 2018 after a 3-2 vote at the Dec. 11 council session.
Irvine continued to be lauded as one of America’s finest cities, with a number of high rankings, accolades and superlatives bestowed upon the city in recent months.
- No. 1 Major City in Fiscal Strength, The Fiscal Times
- One of 20 Western Dream Towns, Sunset magazine
- Happiest Residents, 3rd out of 150 biggest cities in the U.S., WalletHub
- FBI’s Safest City with the lowest rate of violent crime among cities with a population of 250,000 or more, the 12th consecutive year Irvine has earned the Safest City accolade.
- Irvine ranks No. 2 as the safest big U.S. city based on categories that go beyond violent crime rates, including motor vehicle safety
- Best Public Parks, 8th in U.S., Trust for Public Parks
- Healthiest Lifestyles, 9th in U.S., WalletHub
- Best Places to Buy a Forever Home, 15th in the U.S., GoodCall.com
- Best Cities to Raise a Family, 8th out of 80, based on crime rate, vehicle safety, air quality, and educational attainment, goodcall.com