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Massive Project in Irvine Gets OK

Land use: Irvine Co. will develop 3,600 acres near closed base. With 12,350 homes, it'll be the size of San Juan Capistrano.


A massive development near the closed El Toro Marine base won unanimous approval early Wednesday from the Irvine City Council.

Officials said the project will solidify Irvine's nationwide reputation as a well-planned city, but it still took them seven hours to reach a decision. Council members fielded a flurry of last-minute questions and heard pleas to scale back the development, which at completion will be about the size of San Juan Capistrano.

Lingering concerns about traffic congestion, housing affordability and loss of agricultural land resulted in heated exchanges in an hours-long question-and-answer period during a marathon council meeting that started at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The vote came shortly after midnight as some Irvine Co. officials looked on and others nodded off in their seats.

The plan calls for 12,350 homes plus business and research space on 3,600 acres that are now largely agricultural. The city has long planned to annex the area to guarantee that its development fits Irvine's village theme, with homes near schools, parks and shopping centers.

"We're striving to maintain the same standard of development that has existed for the last 30 years," Mayor Larry Agran said.

To address remaining traffic issues, the city ordered the formation of a task force to begin working with Caltrans on potential freeway expansions. The project is expected to generate about 255,000 vehicle trips a day

The city and the Irvine Co. had already agreed to set aside money for future improvements, clearing a hurdle that often hinders road work. Still, some residents suggested holding off on a vote and urged the council to reconsider the density of the development. The plan allows for construction of about six units per acre, roughly the same as Irvine's Westpark Village and fewer than Woodbridge.

"I wish I had a nickel for every time a resident came to us touting the quality of life in Woodbridge," Councilman Chris Mears said.

Late in the night, as the council neared a vote, a debate arose between Agran and Councilman Greg Smith over wording in the plan that suggests placing 1,800 low-income homes near businesses. Smith said the homes should be dispersed throughout the residential areas. The council decided to resolve that issue separately.

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