25 ways to improve Irvine
We highly suggest residents take the time to read through the plan. After revisiting it ourselves, we were reminded how much thought, work and (yes) planning has gone into managing the city and its growth.
All of this focus on the future got our creative team thinking. How would we improve the city of Irvine? Imagine a great city, circa 2025 or even 2050, and then brainstorm ways to get there. Ideas range from definitely doable to the probably impossible, and even a few that are a bit tongue-in-cheek. Practicality and price weren’t necessarily a major consideration—hey, this is blue sky brainstorming, after all!
1. Appreciate Irvine
First things first: can we all agree that we’re starting from an admirable place? While some would have us believe that the city is in crisis, in fact things are going pretty much as planned—as in master planned. So one way to improve the city would be for folks to appreciate that Irvine continues to be an economically sound city, with safe neighborhoods and outstanding schools. We have businesses and jobs, with more being created every day (and think of all the places in the country that would love to be able to brag about that). Plus, we have parks (including a Great one that keeps getting better), bike paths, open space and cool new restaurants opening all the time.
2. Preserve Our History
Let’s honor our older residents, particularly first generation city of Irvine pioneers who live in University Park and other original/early neighborhoods. We suggest the city support an oral history project, perhaps in partnership with UCI or Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Oral History. Students would interview long-time locals about what Irvine was like back in the day, and preserve those memories for posterity.
3. Honor Our Veterans
Speaking of honor, if our veterans believe consideration of a new site for their cemetery is worth studying, let’s honor them by actually considering the land swap proposal.
4. Install Wi-Fi Citywide
May we move quickly on high speed Internet, please? We believe the ball’s in Google’s court, and they’re working on entitlements and such. “This means understanding local requirements and challenges – from roads and infrastructure to permits and utility paths. This will take time.” So says their website. We’d love to see cable in the ground ASAP.
5. Embrace Planned Growth
Let’s all try and embrace the fact that we’re a vibrant and bustling 21st century city, not the beige 20th century suburb some still think we are. That means working hard to maintain the quality of life in the villages, while accepting that growth and added density in IBC and Spectrum has been part of the plan for sometime.
6. Improve Traffic Flow
No. 5 being said, let’s speed up the process of studying and planning to improve traffic flow.
7. Synchronize the Signals
Let’s start by synchronizing the signals. The city’s website explains the process as part of the Intelligent Transportation System work. We get that it’s not a “flip-the-switch” proposition. But sooner rather than later, please?
8. Realize It’s Not Bad
In the mean time, can we just stop complaining about traffic, for a week or month, maybe? Remember, part of the master plan we all enjoy was building our major avenues and parkways wider than needed initially, in anticipation of the growth we’re now seeing. For years our roads were underutilized, which is part of the reason why the traffic seems bad now.
9. Encourage Creativity
Let’s encourage more civic and commercial creativity like the giant mural on the wall of the Tillys building, off of the 405 and the 133. Whether you loved the art created by painter Zio Ziegler or not, it sure gave us something to look at. Now, give us more.
10. Consider Laguna Canyon Transit Center
In fact, while the big white Cavalia tent was up, that corner seemed incredibly cool and creative. But what’s next for the open property between Quail Hill, the 133 and the 405? Cavalia will be back in late November for the holiday season, but then what? Entitlements are for a million square feet or so of commercial space. We’d like to mix that up a bit with a Laguna Canyon Transit Center. All of SoCal impacts traffic in Laguna Canyon, including Irvine residents. Imagine a 21st century mixed-use station where folks could hop on electric shuttles and head to the beach and back. And the center would in turn be connected to Irvine Station, the Spectrum and other areas, while also having a nicely designed parking structure. It would be a joint project between the landowner, our city, Laguna Beach, OCTA, the county of Orange and others. We’d put it next to the freeways and away from the homes of Laguna Altura and Quail Hill, landscape it nicely, add retail and perhaps a few hundred units of transit-oriented high density affordable housing. But otherwise we’d make it as unobtrusive as possible.
11. Look at Light Rail
Speaking of transit, can we seriously study the idea of light rail in the city? It’s in the master plan: “Regional Advanced Transit Corridor: Advanced transit routes which serve Irvine and provide connection to the inter-City and regional transit corridors. These corridors use flood control right-of-ways, as well as utility easements, planning area edge buffers, arterial parkways, safety lanes, or similar open space areas. The system envisioned for these corridors is an elevated, grade-separated transit facility.”
12. Connect It All
Connecting the Irvine train station to the Spectrum (and maybe to the Laguna Transit Center) would be a good start. Later, connecting the Tustin Station to the IBC and perhaps JWA should be studied. The density we’re adding to those areas becomes much more workable with a transit option, and there are “last/first mile” funds available for projects extending connectivity from the rapidly growing SoCal transit network into our city centers.
13. Start Cooking
May we have a food hall, please? Anaheim, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and other SoCal cities have the cool culinary gathering places where young chefs can flourish. We should too. What’s that you say? One’s planned for Great Park Neighborhoods? Well, alrighty then. Make it a good one, please.
14. Keep It Civil
Let’s celebrate our city’s diversity. Most of us do, but there is a bit of “us vs. them” sneaking into online discussion boards and other forums of civic discourse.
15. Put Safety First
We need to continue to improve infrastructure and safety for bikers and walkers in our community.
16. Walk On Over
Plan and build pedestrian overpasses connecting housing to retail centers, like the Spectrum and Park Place, especially where the roads are wide, signals long and drivers impatient.
17. Share The Road
As we’re looking at ways to improve traffic, please keep the safety of cyclists in mind. Things that make our drives easier and quicker often put cyclists in mortal danger. They have a right to the road, too.
18. Stop Whining
Let’s stop the international airport at El Toro—oh wait, we won that one two decades ago. Just try and picture how Irvine would be different with 1,000 takeoffs and landings a day, and all that traffic and trucks and noise. With that in mind, the issues the city faces today don’t seem quite so insurmountable, do they?
19. Improve the Trails
Protect and preserve our open space, but also make it more useable. The dirt Quail Hill Loop Trail, for example, should have a segment connecting to the University Trail, the Jeffrey Open Space Trail overpass and/or the Juanita Moe Trail.
20. Supersize Signage
The signage for our bike paths and trails could be improved, including maps showing the connectivity of it all. Don’t take our word for it; this is from a cycling message board: “Irvine has lots and lots of nice trails, but their trail signage program, if they have such a thing, is from the Dark Ages.”
21. Build An Amphitheater
This is the last season for Irvine Meadows Amphitheater, alas. Many of us have great memories of concerts and cultural events there. Let’s hope we’re all making new ones one day at a Great Park outdoor amphitheater.
22. Keep OurElders Moving
Let’s study Irvine parks to see how senior-friendly they are. A recent study revealed that parks in the U.S. are largely geared toward the young, with far less appeal for adults, especially older ones. Adults ages 60 and up made up only 4 percent of park-goers, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, even though they’re 20 percent of the population. We’re likely already doing better than most cities at this, but let’s make sure.
23. Let’s Get Over It
If we had a magic wand, we’d wave it over the city and remove any remaining bitterness and acrimony from the history of how the Great Park got from there to here. Honestly, we’re a bit bored with it all. Let’s move on, and celebrate the place people are going to enjoy for generations to come.
24. Give Us More Stars
Let’s build more amenities and make the city more attractive to tourists. We could use a five star hotel, for example. The new and improved Hotel Irvine is a great start, and we’re fans of the surprisingly stylish Courtyard Irvine Spectrum and the evolving Irvine Marriott, among others. But we could use a Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, or something similar to add to our luxury credentials. A design-forward boutique brand would do the trick, too, like a Standard or W.
25. Tidy Up The Tracks
Speaking of the Irvine Train Station, it could use a refresh. We imagine a day when commuters, visitors and tourists would arrive at a cool, aesthetically pleasing station and easily access the Great Park, Irvine Spectrum and other areas of our city. Maybe take a light rail ride over to the Laguna Canyon Transit Center and ride an electric shuttle to the beach.
26. Make Living Here More Affordable
Here’s a bonus entry, as long as we’re dreaming big: We need affordable housing. We’re strong proponents of free markets and property rights. But with some one-bedroom apartments starting at $2,500, young families will simply move elsewhere. Mixed-use developments and infill help fill the need, but only if enough units are reasonably priced. Some OC cities have down payment assistance where first-time homebuyers may borrow up to $40,000 with 0% interest rate. There are upper limits on the value of the home and the income of the buyer. Perhaps Irvine should explore similar programs.
Which ideas do you like, which do you loathe and what are your ways to improve Irvine? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on our Facebook page.