Presenting 1986, a year starring Orange County's finest in several evolutionary new roles.
Zubin Mehta and Mikhail Baryshnikov sign on for premier runs at a long-promised $70.7-million Performing Arts Center. Cal State Fullerton, the original commuter campus, sets down roots with its first student housing. The case of accused serial killer Randy Kraft, charged with the deaths of 39 young men, finally comes to justice after lengthy delays. Ralph Clark steps down from the Board of Supervisors after longer than anyone can remember.
And in a return engagement, the battle over expansion of John Wayne Airport plays on.
The year promises to be a good one for the economy, a great one for the arts-minded, a tough one for Democrats and a potentially lousy one for politicians who face an ever-widening probe into Anaheim fireworks manufacturer W. Patrick Moriarty's political contributions and business connections.
Economic consultant Sanford Goodkin ebulliently forecasts "a very, very good year--as opposed to just very good."
But the political picture is somewhat dim for Democratic Party chief Bruce Sumner, looking at a slim 36.6% registration total going into an important election year.
"What's ahead and what the goals are may not be the same," Sumner conceded tentatively as he promised to oust Republican Rep. Robert K. Dornan and take over two-term Republican Assemblywoman Doris Allen's seat in two fell swoops.
"We've got a lot of challenges," suggested newly hired County Administrative Officer Larry Parrish, who oversees the county's $1-billion-plus budget. "But I look forward to this year. I really do. It'll be my first full calendar year, and my first real crack at the budget operations."
It's that kind of confidence and optimism that promise to make 1986 a year of transition for Orange County. San Juan Capistrano, the city of old mission bells and aging cowboys, celebrates 25 years of cityhood. Santa Ana and other older central cities prepare for major new redevelopment efforts, and Irvine, Orange County's experimental "new town," turns 15.
A number of important development decisions scheduled early in the year will have impacts on the landscape of the county for years to come.
In February, voters in San Clemente, facing an unprecedented construction boom, will decide on a pair of growth initiatives, one that would limit development to 500 new homes a year, and an alternate (proposed by the City Council) that would ask voters simply
to ratify existing growth restrictions.
In Irvine, a citizens committee has qualified another initiative that could effectively block funding for new freeways through the county's coastal and southeastern foothills, though the measure will not appear on the June ballot unless it is upheld by the appellate courts.
A go or no-go decision on the proposed 20,500-seat Westdome sports arena in Santa Ana is scheduled in March, while residents angered about the stadium and a host of other issues have tentative plans to circulate recall petitions against the City Council as early as mid-January.
Meanwhile, sports fans should also be keeping an eye on developments in nearby Anaheim, where the California Angels are battling against the city's plans to construct high-rise offices on part of the Anaheim Stadium parking lot. A Superior Court judge will decide on the dispute by mid-February.
It all reflects a seemingly breakneck development pace that began with the national economic recovery a few years ago and promises to carry on through 1986, with nearly $3 billion in new construction forecast, including 4.5 million square feet of office space and 16,700 new housing starts.
Included in those statistics will be the opening of yet another luxury hotel, the $70-million Four Seasons, joining the haughty ranks of the Ritz-Carlton, Meridien, Marriotts and Hiltons when it swings open its doors June 1 in Newport Beach.
New Irvine Village
Also making its debut will be Irvine's first new village since Woodbridge became the address of the family-oriented middle class during the 1970s: Westpark, a city-within-a-city that will eventually include 5,000 homes, mostly geared for young professionals, scheduled to open with its first models sometime in May.
Yet, for all the new development, there is little relief in sight for the county's congested freeways.
A $10.7-million extension of the Costa Mesa Freeway to MacArthur Boulevard, the county's first new freeway construction in a decade, will be completed in March. But other improvements to the Costa Mesa and Santa Ana freeways are at least a year away, though the county transportation commission will decide in March whether to make experimental commuter lanes on the Costa Mesa Freeway a permanent feature.
The first new lanes on Beach Boulevard should be under construction by the end of the year as part of the effort to convert the thoroughfare into the county's first "superstreet."