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Orange County

Great Park Board Likely to Face Limits

Irvine council seeks to quell concerns about public accountability of the directors.

August 28, 2003|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Irvine City Council members agree that the independent board of directors that will manage the city's proposed Great Park at the former El Toro Marine base should be held more publicly accountable than initially planned.

The issue triggered three hours of discussion at the Irvine City Council meeting Tuesday night and will be taken up again by the council Sept. 9.

The city created the Orange County Great Park Corp. in June to develop 1,330 acres of public land, funded by as much as $400 million in developer fees.

The revenue would come from assessments and building rights granted on another 2,500 acres of the base that the Navy will auction next year.

A majority of the county Board of Supervisors had raised concerns that the nonprofit group would operate outside public accountability laws that apply to government.

That worry was shared by speakers discussing the corporation's proposed bylaws at Tuesday's council meeting.

Most of the discussion focused on the composition of the board, which was initially proposed to include seven members appointed by the council.

The members -- five public members from anywhere in the county and two from city government -- would serve without term limits. Once appointed, board members would fill future vacancies.

Councilman Mike Ward said he supports bylaws requiring three council members and four public members on the board. The council members would have veto authority over any expenditure greater than $5,000, he said.

Based on a consensus of council members, all corporation board meetings will be announced and held in public, he said, despite proposed bylaws for actions without meetings and for telephone meetings.

Those provisions will be removed, council members indicated, although no formal action was taken.

"It's going to be an extremely open process, just as open as any council meeting or Board of Supervisors meeting," Ward said Wednesday.

If council members are not satisfied with the board, a majority could vote to rescind the lease of city parkland to the corporation and cut off funding, he said.

City officials said the corporation is necessary to protect Irvine's general fund from exposure to Great Park expenses.

Supervisor Bill Campbell, whose district includes Irvine, had asked the city to expand the corporation board beyond city-only appointments to include the supervisor representing the area and the county treasurer.

Other supervisors have suggested the park would best be developed within the city or a joint-powers authority.

The Navy plans to sell about 3,700 acres of the former base with the requirement that the buyers then deed portions -- 1,336 acres in all -- to the city for public use. The park plan was conceived by Irvine as an alternative to a proposed commercial airport at El Toro. Last year voters changed its zoning from an airport to parkland and open space.

The Navy then decided to sell the property for private development and agreed with Irvine that some of it should be set aside as parkland at the expense of developers.

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