1. Transportation and traffic improvement projects
Traffic congestion will remain a hot topic in 2018, but the coming year should show progress on projects approved under the city’s $116 million plan designed to help address the issue. Construction should commence soon on the widening of University between MacArthur and Campus, adding one new lane in each direction and upgrading signals. City staff and Caltrans are working on a plan to update and improve timing on 40 signals near freeway ramps.
The widening of University between Ridgeline and the 405 is approved and the widening of Jamboree in the IBC is in the planning and approval stages. The ongoing 405 project to extend the second auxiliary lane from Culver to Jeffrey is expected to be complete by late 2018 or early 2019.
And one of our most anticipated projects should hopefully get a green light in 2018: the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Jamboree at Michelson between Park Place and Central Park West. Two design options are currently being studied, and the project likely will commence once the CPW phase of housing currently under construction is completed. We’re also interested in what boutique retail and dining options will be added to the corner, mainly designed to serve CPW residents.
2. The election
With political and partisan turmoil a fact of life since the 2016 races and results, it sometimes seems as if we’ve never left election mode. Observers expect another political power struggle this year. The election is Nov. 6 and the deadline for candidates to file to run in municipal races is Aug. 10.
Irvine’s mayor serves a two-year term, so Mayor Don Wagner will likely face a challenger (assuming he runs, which we hope he will). There will be two seats on the Irvine City Council up for election, those currently held by Councilmembers Jeffrey Lalloway and Lynn Schott. Since several crucial city votes were decided 3-2, with Lalloway and Schott on the losing side, those races should be intriguing, to put it mildly.
So far the field consists of four candidates, including longtime Irvine Planning Commissioner Anthony Kuo, who received 15.29% of the vote in 2016, and Community Services Commissioner and attorney Lauren Johnson-Norris. The other two candidates are Farrah Khan, who ran for council two years ago and finished with 11.84% of the vote, and Kev Abazajian, a UCI Physics & Astronomy professor.
Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) is said to be a target of Democrats in 2018, and is considered vulnerable by some national pundits. Walters has been criticized for not holding public forums, and there have been rallies and DACA demonstrations at the congresswoman’s Irvine office as well as one at UCI that drew U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris.
The Korean Resource Center co-sponsored the three DACA demonstrations at Walters’ office and the UCI rally, according to the OC Register. Walters’ district is 18 percent Latino and 44 percent Asian. Seven Democrats are reported to be primary candidates for Walter’s 45th Congressional seat. The primary election is on June 5, 2018.
Two seats on the IUSD school board will be on the 2018 ballot, as will former Irvine Mayor Steven Choi’s California State Assembly District 68 seat. No candidates for those races have been confirmed.
3. Trails and open space
When the beautifully designed Upper Bee Canyon and Upper Bosque debut this year, the trails, tunnels and paths will bring greater connectivity to and within the Orange County Great Park. The 40-acre Bosque and 36-acre Upper Bee Canyon open space corridor improvements run from Irvine Boulevard to the Great Park Sports Park. Heritage trees saved from MCAS El Toro have been transplanted, three tunnels that allow bicycle and pedestrian trails to cross under major streets have been completed and playground equipment and other amenities have been added.
4. Expansion of the Great Park Sports Park
The first phase of the Sports Park debuted in 2017 to great acclaim, and we look forward to attending events, matches and games at the Soccer Stadium and other fields through the year. The remaining phases of the Sports Park are coming along nicely as well and are expected to open by summer including a 1,000-seat championship baseball field and 500-seat championship softball field; five softball and seven baseball fields and additional flex athletic fields.
5. Macy’s replacement at Spectrum Center
Some 20 new shopping and dining venues are expected to open at the Spectrum Center this year, replacing the 140,000-square-foot Macy’s store that closed. The new additions will also improve parking and access to the center, which has been compromised during construction. While no official tenant announcements have been made, insiders hint at impressive new stores for H&M and Apple, and a brick and mortar space for the Hello Kitty Café.
6. Taking the ice
The Great Park Ice & Sports Complex is scheduled to be completed late in the year. The center will feature four ice sheets, including one that could seat up to 2,500 spectators, and will be the largest of its kind in California.
7. Jobs and growth
Expect continued discussion and debate over sustainable and smart growth and the importance of economic development, jobs and the business community to Irvine’s wellbeing. There have been discussions of ballot measures on the 2018 Irvine ballot addressing growth, and the city council continues the process to update the city’s General Plan.
8. Summer music season at FivePoint Amphitheatre
The first full season at the 12,000-capacity interim amphitheatre is an exciting prospect for music fans. The first three shows last October revealed the community aspects of the venue, including intriguing food and beverage options, excellent sound and a closer connection to the musicians on stage. Announced acts are Foreigner on Aug. 1 and One Direction member Niall Horan on Aug. 5.
9. Retail and restaurants
The remodeled Woodbridge Village Center is lovely, as far as it goes. Upcoming openings should bring additional buzz to the center, with The Pizza Press, Sessions West Coast Deli, The Lost Bean and Cha for Tea slated to debut in coming months. Retail and restaurant fans are also anxiously awaiting news about the design and tenants at Base Camp, the mixed-use commercial project at Great Park Neighborhoods. Early renderings revealed a walkable European village concept, with intriguing retail and restaurant spaces along alleyways and rooftops, and there have been hints about an innovative indoor/outdoor dining space. Think the food court trend, but version 2.0.
10. Cultural Terrace creativity
After several studies and lots of input from locals, this is the year we hope the city council finalizes plans for the 260-acre Great Park Cultural Terrace. The foundation for the city of Irvine’s greatness was its masterplan, so we agree with Mayor Wagner and others who don’t want the Cultural Terrace to be planned and created piecemeal. No doubt there are some spectacular concepts in the works. We can’t wait.