Despite the fact that both boosters and opponents of rapid development could claim victories in local elections Tuesday, most agreed Wednesday that the economic impact in Orange County will be negligible.
When the final ballots were tallied early Wednesday morning, slow-growth advocates gained one city council seat and kept another in Newport Beach, won a toehold in Huntington Beach and took control of San Clemente's city council.
But at least as many slow-growth candidates were defeated as won in balloting across the county. In Costa Mesa, neither of the two slow-growth candidates prevailed.
As far as Orange County's development industry was concerned, the elections represented a victory for the status quo.
"We don't anticipate any major changes," said David Dmohowski, manager of government relations for the Irvine Co., which has several projects under way in Newport Beach and in Orange.
Lucien Truhill, president of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, said he agrees that there will be little immediate impact from Tuesday's election results. He said he believes that the major impact is that continued development in the county will help ensure a low unemployment rate for years to come.
Alfred Gobar, a Brea-based real estate industry analyst, said he believes that the county might have seen an major burst of building activity if slow-growth advocates had prevailed throughout the county.
Builders, he said, would have rushed to begin projects before the new city council majorities could enact growth-limiting ordinances.
Instead, Gobar said, the immediate impact of the elections has been to "make the developers a little more sanguine than they were a few weeks ago."
The Irvine Co., for example, does not believe that having two advocates of growth limitations on the seven-member City Council in Newport Beach will have "any dramatic effect on the way the city has been running things," Dmohowski said. He said the giant land development company is "pleased with the outcome" in Newport Beach.
Favorable for Developers
In Costa Mesa, where the two slow-growth candidates were among 13 contenders for just two council seats, the election of "moderate" and pro-business candidates appeared to be a favorable indicator for local developers, particularly C.J Segerstrom & Sons.
Indeed, while the level of support for slow-growth candidates had seemed strong throughout the county before Tuesday's election, voters did not put foes of development in the driver's seat in any city but San Clemente, noted Martin Brower, publisher of a monthly Orange County newsletter.
Brower, a former public relations executive with the Irvine Co., said he was pleased, but surprised, that slow-growth candidates did not capture wider control in Orange County.
"I think the people are saying that we really don't mind too much what Henry Segerstrom is doing in Costa Mesa or what the Irvine Co. is doing in Newport Beach," Brower said.
Irvine Mayor Larry Agran, who is a vocal critic of willy-nilly development in general and of the Irvine Co. in particular, was quick to disagree. Earlier this year, slow-growth forces took control in Irvine.
Although the results of the elections countywide were mixed, "this represents continued momentum for tougher growth controls," he said Wednesday. Not all candidates won in all cities, he said, but "ground has been gained."
In fact, Agran contends, slow-growth is good for business.
"What's the point of growing so fast that your infrastructure is overburdened, your air is polluted irreparably and your quality of life is ruined," he said.