State of the City
Here are major excerpts from Mayor Wagner’s State of the City address. Go to irvinecitynews.com to read the entire transcript:
“Good evening, everyone, and welcome to our remodeled City Hall, a remodel done without spending a dime of public money.
This is my third State of the City talk; the message I took from the recent election was that the Council and I are on the right path. We’re seeing progress and improvements on many fronts; and we plan more of the same.
There is a new energy and commitment to the people of Irvine evident in City Hall: evident in a city council that reads agendas, takes meetings with staff, and comes prepared; evident in our commissioners who have rolled up their sleeves and immediately gotten to work for you; and evident in the dedication we see every day in the staff.
There was a lot to celebrate in Irvine last year, and a lot to look forward to this year. But I want to start on perhaps what could have been a dark note but ended up in a strong showing of community resolve and mutual support.
‘What you do to any of us, you do to all of us, and we’re not going to stand for it.’
Those were my words last year in response to two disheartening hate crimes visited upon the city several months ago … first at Irvine Valley College, and then Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine.
Our community responded beautifully: religious, political, public safety, and community leaders joined us at City Hall to express our joint resolve to stand against hate crimes; a reward from the ADL, doubled by the council, was offered for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator of the Beth Jacob vandalism.
We then began the new year with an invocation by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner of Beth Jacob in the Council Chamber with leaders from our local Jewish, Christian, Muslim communities, and the Orange County Human Relations Commission.
My Council colleagues and I, and the entire Irvine community, know that this was not an attack on one small group, but was an attack on every one of us of good faith and good will. It cannot and will not be tolerated in Irvine.
So, let me talk for a minute about the strengths of Irvine.
We remain the safest big city in America, according to the latest FBI statistics on violent crime. And recently, we were ranked as the 10th safest city IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.
I want to thank Police Chief Mike Hamel, his command staff, and each and every member of the Irvine Police Department, for their daily diligence. Being a safe city is hard work. They do that work every day and make it look easy.
As to our schools, about 15 percent of our city’s residents, more than 40,000 pre-teens and teens, attended class today in Irvine Unified and in Tustin Unified’s Irvine campuses. Cadence Park K-8 School opened in the Great Park Neighborhoods last August, and Loma Ridge Elementary opens this August in Portola Springs. The Loma Ridge campus will bring us to a total of 45 public schools in Irvine.
A few months ago a group of teens from our six Irvine high schools sent a small satellite into space. The Irvine CubeSat, a STEM program made up of teams from the Irvine and Tustin districts, had a perfect launch. The students were able to watch the launch on their phones from India streaming over the Internet.
When I was in high school, streaming wasn’t a thing. Phones had cords, were mounted on the wall, and the only cubes were Rubik’s.
Today, Irvine students are preparing for the future and preparing to be our future leaders. They get support in this from businesses such as the Irvine Company and FivePoint Communities; from the great work of the Irvine Public Schools Foundation led by President and CEO Neda Eaton; and through the continuing commitment of this city council.
We stand alone among American cities in the financial support of our public schools. This school year, the city council has allocated more than $10 million in direct and indirect support. We are very fortunate to be able to offer that continued support.
But that money merely supplements the daily efforts of the teachers and administrative staff of the IUSD and TUSD who work tirelessly on behalf of our children.
Also on the list of Irvine strengths are our parks. One of our public-private projects continues as the Orange County Great Park takes large strides forward.
Last September, we had a second-phase grand opening of the 194-acre Sports Complex. In all, 12 new baseball and softball fields, each with one championship stadium, opened to thousands of players, their families, and our community.
Hopefully, you have been there to see it for yourself.
I especially want to urge you to get out to the Soccer Stadium to see our professional team, the Orange County Soccer Club, and cheer them on as they play their home games right here in Irvine.
All of this has occurred through our steadfast public-private partnership with FivePoint Communities.
Together we are developing 688 acres in the Great Park.
And last month, the city council approved an agreement with Pretend City Children’s Museum to move from a nearby leased building and into a larger permanent location to be built at the Great Park.
Separately, this city council will soon determine the future uses of the 248-acre Cultural Terrace.
The Cultural Terrace lends itself to any number of artistic, cultural, and entertainment components – museums, a library and community meeting space, a concert venue, botanical gardens, and the like. In 2018, just outside the Great Park boundaries, the temporary FivePoint Amphitheatre, managed by Live Nation, had its first full season of concerts. In 2019, the city council and senior staff met with American Museum of Natural History to begin exploring a possible presence for them on the Cultural Terrace. And much more work will be done this year to bring arts, entertainment, and culture to the Orange County Great Park.
Finally, as we go through Irvine’s strengths and the reasons this diverse community is so vibrant, I have to touch on our business environment.
The Orange County Business Journal ranked Irvine as the No. 1 major city in terms of jobs-to-population ratio. We have approximately 275,000 residents, and more than 200,000 jobs.
We thank all of our Irvine businesses who have moved here, maybe have just started up here, are innovating here, are hiring here, and are expanding here.
None of this is to ignore our challenges, of course. Although our strengths somewhat inoculate us from the depths of problems some other communities may experience, we are not certainly not immune to those challenges.
Perhaps the two biggest issues facing us in the last year were homelessness and continuing traffic congestion. I addressed both last year at this time and am happy to report this year that both problems are seeing progress – albeit slow – but real progress towards real solutions.
First, homelessness is a national issue. We are not immune. The county’s homeless Point in Time count before I became mayor was 199, meaning that the actual physical count of homeless in Irvine was 199 individuals. A new count was done a few weeks ago.
We don’t have final numbers, but a very senior county executive officer told me our count today is likely less than 50, and I think even that is high. In other words, over the last few years we have seen a 75 percent reduction in the homeless population ... because we have worked hard to help those community members. We have also worked extremely hard in Irvine to address a very tough component of the problem by providing permanent affordable housing.
In 2018, 237 more affordable housing units opened in Irvine, largely reserved for the most at-risk citizens, the extremely low-income, very low-income, and low-income residents, some of whom would be homeless without this support.
We will be at 5,500 permanent affordable units – about five and half percent of our total housing stock! – by the end of 2021.
We have helped create, for some in our community, very real housing security.
The Irvine Community Land Trust, which was started in 2006 by the city for the purpose of providing permanent affordable housing, continues its forward progress. The nonprofit is chaired by our Councilmember Melissa Fox and includes Board member and Councilmember Anthony Kuo.
Last year, the Irvine Community Land Trust opened the 80-unit Parc Derian, which has a number of units reserved for veterans and the disabled. This year the Land Trust is developing Salerno. The 80-unit Salerno begins construction this summer for completion in June 2020.
In all, the Land Trust is receiving $29 million from the city over several years for the purpose of permanent affordable housing. Elsewhere in the City in 2018, the 157-unit seniors affordable housing complex, Luxaira, opened.
Meanwhile, the City supports nonprofit agencies – Human Options being one – that provide emergency shelter to those most at risk, including abused women and their children.
The second important unresolved issue is traffic congestion. As I have said before, the first role of holes is to stop digging. The council that I lead has stopped the digging that led to our traffic problems.
The city council has not approved a single new housing proposal. There has been no reluctance on the part of me or the council to say no to development that makes our traffic worse.
Now, Irvine did not get into this situation overnight. And the fixes are not going to be felt overnight. But those fixes have resulted in a smoother traffic flow. Just last week, Transportation Commissioners Chairman Carrie O’Malley and Vice Chairman Steve Greenberg shared with me the results of a study showing improvement in commute times from the steps we have taken.
For example: In data collected last spring, average travel speeds within 10 of our key corridors showed improvements … in eight of the 10 corridors during the morning rush hour … and in seven of the 10 corridors during the evening rush hour.
We have committed more than $79 million towards traffic mitigation, with 21 specific improvements underway, or completed. For example, we have just completed flashing yellow left-turn lights at five intersections, with more to come, so you don’t have to sit staring at a red arrow when there is no oncoming traffic.
Additional travel lanes, such as along University Drive between Campus Drive and MacArthur Boulevard, and new turn lanes, such as on Alton Parkway at the Alton/Jeffrey Road intersection, are being constructed.
We have an agreement with Caltrans that now synchronizes lights at our freeway onramps and off-ramps.
And city staff is exploring an adaptive signal system to monitor traffic conditions and automatically adjust signal timing.
Expect these and other construction projects to be completed this year and in 2020.
I can’t end this talk about the state of the city without a brief mention of ice hockey. Because who doesn’t think of ice hockey when you think of Irvine?
Well, we have a place for you if you’re thinking right now of ice hockey or figure skating.
Great Park Ice, a second public-private partnership, this one between the city of Irvine and an affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks, opened last month at the Great Park.
This is a one-of-a-kind, $100 million, 270,000-square-foot facility, with ice hockey tournaments already under way, and figure skating and public skate hours filling the ice; the Ducks themselves will occasionally train here.
We hope that some of the players make an appearance when Great Park Ice is formally dedicated next week. But in case you can’t make the dedication, we brought a piece of the team to you tonight.
Let me introduce the most famous Anaheim Duck of them all – Wild Wing!
I can’t top that. I’ve got nuthin’ else. Wild Wing is going to explain icing to me and help me with my slapshot. “Go Ducks,” and, “Go Irvine.”
Good night everybody.