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Irvine Conundrum: People vs. Farmland

June 16, 2002

Re "Irvine Debates Growth Plan," June 5:

Let me get this straight: The city of Irvine is planning to destroy thousands of acres of prime agricultural land to make way for more development. Traffic and community character are important issues, but not more important than the loss of precious farmland.

It is true that Orange County is experiencing a housing crisis, especially when it comes to affordable housing. It seems to me that the county does not need any more extravagant $500,000 tract homes only the wealthy can afford. I question what the social implications are of continuing to plan in ways that are not only socially unjust but that also devour our prime food-producing lands.

There are better ways to plan our communities that include retaining scale and character. Planning can let people live close to where they work to reduce the need for vehicle trips and improve air quality. Planning can protect and preserve precious agricultural and wildlife lands. Planning can provide affordable housing and access to the amenities that families need.

Unfortunately, politics often blinds public officials and holds back good planning practices.

Ann Leishman

Huntington Beach

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A pet owner recently reported that his California king snake tried to swallow its own tail; it was not pretty to watch. Nor will it be pretty to watch farmland being swallowed by the Irvine Co., with the approval of the Irvine City Council.

The additional vehicles, the resulting pollution and general infrastructure burdens are dismissed simply by referring to what is known as "the Plan." But plans change, as did the plan to build a school for students whose families were lured to new housing recently developed by the Irvine Co. Some might call that bait and switch, but the fact is we don't have the money to build the infrastructure. In the case of the promised school, it is clear that the burden will fall on the existing infrastructure, which will in turn result in a lowering of the quality of life.

"The Plan" is not scripture to be blindly followed. Growth is not a necessity; we have seen it, and we know its limits. Instead of numerical growth we ought to be working on stability, the maintenance and improvement of the present infrastructure. "The Plan," after all, was a vision of some people in the context of their time. Times change. It appears that the time has come to leave the sacred plan on the shelf and to work on the quality-of-life issues now before us.

Richard P. McDonough

Irvine

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Re "Irvine 'Sub-City' Plan Attacked," June 10:

Anyone reading your article on Irvine's decision to annex land in its Northern Sphere would have absolutely no idea that over the last two years, more than 350 Irvine residents participated in 55 public workshops, town halls and other meetings organized by Irvine to help shape the plan.

This input from citizens resulted in more than 50 changes to the plan. Though the annexation would add significant land to Irvine's existing city limits, the project will not result in a net increase to the city's previously planned targets for housing units or population.

The annexation was initiated by Irvine so it could control land use in its Northern Sphere. The project allows Irvine to address the critical shortage of housing and restore the city's balance between jobs and housing. Affordable housing advocates and representatives from the business community spoke in support of the plan at the City Council meeting.

A comprehensive, scientific traffic analysis by outside experts found that the project would add only between 2% and 4% to the traffic on that portion of Interstate 5 over the next 20 years. Additionally, the Irvine Co. has agreed to provide its fair share of funding for infrastructure improvements to ensure that any traffic impacts are mitigated to the city's performance standards.

The project will have more of its land dedicated to permanent open space than any other village in Irvine, a city that has more open space than any other city in Orange County--another important fact left out of the article.

Michael LeBlanc

Senior vice president

Irvine Co.

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Here's the real picture of what is motivating Irvine regarding development of its Northern Sphere--an estimated annual sales-tax revenue of $5.7 million. Here's the other picture: an estimated influx of 35,000 residents and 250,000 daily automobile trips. This picture may be a little brighter since the City Council said it is willing to work with Caltrans to solve the problem.

Zane W. de Arakal

Irvine

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The question is not simply whether the number of homes can be fit into the area with a density no higher than other areas of the city, but also whether existing roads are able to handle added traffic without creating congestion in existing communities.

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