The OC Great Park isn't turning out the way anyone expected. According to the LA Times, the Irvine City Council debated for hours last night, but came to no conclusions, about a new development plan that would basically toss aside all the original design plans, as envisioned by New York-based designer Ken Smith back in the halcyon days of 2006. Instead, developer FivePoints Communities, which already has permission to build 4,900 houses around the perimeter, will build 688 acres of the park at an estimated cost of $172 million, and, in exchange, will "be allowed to nearly double the number of homes that will surround the park — to 9,500." The original plan for the park has languished in the Great Recession, post-redevelopment era, and some in the city consider this the best way to get something, anything in the way of a park built on the 1,300-acre site. Seven years after the voters approved the concept of a park on the site, the city has spent most of the original budgeted $200 million on plans, designs, administrative costs, and consultants. Less than a fifth of that money went toward actual park construction, which totals just 200 acres so far.
The proposal by FivePoints, first floated back in 2012, would include "a 188-acre golf course, a 176-acre sports park, a 178-acre wildlife corridor, 72 acres of agricultural land, and 75 acres of woodland and a small upper canyon," as well as funding for operations and maintenance through 2023. An additional $19.5 million would be set aside to study building an amphitheater and museums, sprucing up undeveloped parts of the park, and covering additional costs. But! The developers would get $40 million back through a special tax on Great Park residences.
Lost from the original, Smith-designed plans for the park is what the LAT describes as a "long, winding canyon that was described in the park's master plan as a 'beautiful oasis — a place to wander and daydream.'" And because Orange County is nothing if not a giant surface parking lot: "Gone is the largely centralized parking that would have forced people out of their cars to wander around the park. In its place, parking lots scattered throughout."
Ken Smith, as one could probably guess, isn't very happy about the changes. Describing the FivePoints proposal, he could have been mistaken for a man playing the dozens: "It's just sort of cheap and fast and takes up a lot of space." Emile Haddad, FivePoints president and chief executive, retorts by calling the city and Smith poor: "Ken Smith can talk about his vision until the cows come home ... They have no money."
· Irvine City Council considers developer's proposal for Great Park [LAT]
· Irvine set to vote on developer's streamlined Great Park plan [LA Times]
· Proposal Would Double the Housing Built Next to OC Great Park [Curbed LA]