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Judge rejects Irvine's attempt to keep funds for Great Park

The city sought a temporary restraining order to keep the state from taking property taxes until the issue of redevelopment funds had been settled.

June 01, 2012|By Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times

A Superior Court judge in Sacramento on Thursday rejected Irvine's attempt to block the state from taking millions of dollars of property taxes that were set for use in its construction of a sprawling urban park that boosters said would rival Griffith Park or San Diego's Balboa Park.

Irvine had asked for a temporary restraining order to keep the state from taking the money until the issue of redevelopment funds in California had been settled.

A Sacramento judge made a similar ruling a day earlier in a case involving a group of California cities, including Glendale, Pasadena and Huntington Beach.

The Irvine suit stemmed from a ruling last week by the state Department of Finance that $1.4 billion in property taxes to be collected over 45 years can't be used to transform the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station into the Great Park, which was to include an artificial canyon, lakes and dozens of athletic fields.

The city was relying on taxes collected from housing and commercial development to be built around the Great Park to fund the project. But the state Legislature's decision to eliminate redevelopment agencies means the money is no longer Irvine's to spend on the Great Park.

Still pending is another lawsuit filed by Irvine over the redevelopment money. No court date has been set.

Councilman Larry Agran said that although the state's decision on the redevelopment money may slow the progress of the park, it will be completed.

"Instead of 15 to 20 years it may take 20-25 years," he said. "People have counted us out before. We're going to persevere."

Other ways to raise money include public/private partnerships and selling some of the Great Park land or other parcels the city owns.

The city has been negotiating with developer FivePoint Communities Inc. about nearly doubling the number of homes it would be allowed to build in exchange for cutting back its commercial development.

The deal would increase the number of homes to more than 10,000. In exchange, the city would receive about $200 million.

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