Building consensus about the future of our community
Sports terms are often used as metaphors in talk of politics. Some in politics seem keen to score a “win” for his or her team, or to simply deny one to the other side. But sport is entertainment. Politics is real-life. In politics, there is often discord because it is an arena for the resolution of disagreements. Politics should not be a vehicle for personal gratification. Our livelihoods, culture and civic institutions are directly and indirectly impacted by the form and content of the resolved disagreements.
We were greatly encouraged by the 5-0 Irvine City Council vote approving the construction of an amphitheater between the Irvine Transportation Center and the Orange County Great Park as proposed jointly by Live Nation and FivePoint. In fact, not one dissenting voice was raised during the public comment prior to the vote. A diverse cross-section of the community gathered to voice their support for live music in Irvine. The approved venue is only an interim step toward a permanent replacement for Irvine Meadows, but the unanimity of the city council vote reflected well the sense of the people of Irvine. This was progress and momentum. Our politics worked.
We think the interim amphitheater will provide material and symbolic benefit to the people of Irvine. Furthermore, consider the following: the Orange County Great Park is central to the future of Irvine; traffic congestion is frequently referenced by Irvine’s citizens amongst quality-of-life concerns; the “green” and open-spaces of Irvine are frequently referenced by Irvine’s citizens as integral to Irvine’s appeal.
Cities retain and attract citizens, or they don’t. The prospects for a city that doesn’t retain and attract citizens tend, at best, toward managed decline and its host of civic discomforts. The many children raised here that head off to university never to return are a cause for concern. Cities such as Austin, San Francisco and Portland may be “cooler” than Irvine, especially for a certain age range or lifestyle. But, overall, are those cities better than Irvine for the full spectrum of age ranges and lifestyles? This is a question we, and our leaders, must ask and answer, again and again, as a prompt to our continued improvement.
Many studies of appealing city amenities relate the value to citizens of easy commutes by a variety of methods, natural viewscapes, and efficient life logistics. We can imagine Irvine’s train station as a junction of the next iteration of the vibrant Irvine Village, with restaurants, retail areas, innovative housing options, creative commercial spaces, cultural and civic amenities and the Great Park steps, pedals and smartphone touches away. Not only can we imagine it, but we think we must, as a city, will and construct it into reality, lest we passively let what we have now simply rust away.
Consensus building, faction healing and faction prevention will be prized during this evolution of parts of our city. For some, long-held beliefs will become untenable in the face of a changing world. That means vision and leadership will be in high-demand and creative peacemakers in high esteem. Housing policy makes for a good case study of these dynamics.
Coastal California lacks supply to meet the demand for housing. This is a classic market dynamic with a textbook answer. We can’t reactively shudder at supplying the market with the denser, more urban home style that it is demanding. We need housing that suits suburban families and city-loving households, that helps us as a community protect and save at-risk children, that helps seniors age in place, veterans reap honor for their service and helps emigrants and immigrants integrate into our community. Yet, the position staked by those that claim the mantle of Progressivism apparently opposes actual houses for actual people. Writing for the Los Angeles Times recently, in an article titled, “California won’t meet its climate change goals without a lot more housing density in its cities,” Liam Dillon illustrates the conundrum:
“‘You can’t be pro-environment and anti-housing,’ said Marlon Boarnet, chair of the Department of Urban Planning at USC... ‘You can’t be anti-sprawl and anti-housing. This is something that has not been very well understood’… State climate officials don’t assume that everyone will spend less time on the road, but they’re planning for a significant percentage of Californians to do so — and for many to abandon cars altogether. For that to happen, more people will have to live near where they work or shop, which means more housing in urban neighborhoods and other job centers. On top of that, the state’s population is expected to grow by 4.5 million people by 2030.”
Irvine is already grappling with the same dynamics. In the years to come, Irvine will only grapple with them more constantly. We still expect that issues crucial to the future of Irvine will be vigorously debated and studied. We’re not predicting long streaks of 5-0 votes. Let’s listen to each other, be willing to examine our positions for consistency with what’s best for the most of us today and tomorrow, and, when thinking of politics as a sport, be sure to point out that we are all on the same team.