Demand for housing, acres to build on will add 70,000 to city population.
By SONYA SMITH IRVINE WORLD NEWS
The city will add at least 70,000 people by 2025, according to the latest population estimates. The city’s growth is spurred by 6,781 acres that have yet to be developed into villages such as Portola Springs, Orchard Hills and Stonegate. Also, the city has two redevelopment areas – the old El Toro base and the industrial area near John Wayne Airport – where thousands of residences are being built.
And the population estimate of 268,000 residents by 2025 – made by city planners using birth, death, development and other figures – could rise.
More residences are proposed by developers and are awaiting city approval: 6,640 are proposed in the industrial area near John Wayne Airport; the Irvine Co. is proposing up to 5,227 homes west of the future Great Park; and finally, the Lennar Corp. is proposing some 9,500 (up from 3,625) on the company’s land surrounding the Great Park – a deal to be considered by the City Council in early 2008.
Most of the coming population growth stems from land rezoned from industrial or commercial development to residential. Developers cite three main reasons for that land-use change:
Irvine has far more jobs than houses (about 3.59 jobs for every house) compared to the county average (about 1.56 jobs for every house).
The strong market demand for housing has motivated developers in areas such as the industrial region near John Wayne Airport to redevelop offices and businesses into apartments and condos. Rising land values also mean Irvine homes are going vertical – 14 towers are built or proposed in the industrial area.
The El Toro base closed in 1999, and its future was set in 2002 when voters approved Measure W, dictating that the land would be used for a park, among other things, rather than an international airport. Since 2002 the city has approved Irvine Co. requests to rezone thousands of acres near the base to build homes.
The city’s last and largest development decisions are now being made by the City Council. And council members have different visions for the year 2025.
Councilman Larry Agran once was touted as a “slowgrowth” advocate – or as he now says, a promoter of “controlled or carefully managed growth.” In 1985, he was quoted in an Orange County Register special section on development as saying he was not pleased with demographers projecting the city’s population at 230,000 by 2020. He told the Register then that he wanted to cap the population at 180,000.
Today Agran sees the city’s future differently. He said two things have changed his vision: more market demand for housing and the closure of El Toro and the defeat of efforts to build an airport there.
“I try to stay focused on what I call the timely, orderly build-out of the city in accordance with our Irvine general plan,” he said.
The city can manage to add at least 70,000 people – in part by focusing on mass transit, he said. Creating a system of pedestrian and bicycle trails, bus routes, light rail and heavy rail, Agran said, will help residents depend less on vehicles.
Councilwoman Christina Shea disagrees.
Shea supports mass transit, but said it should add to, not substitute for, regular traffic planning. The city is adding too many residences without properly planning for quality of life areas such as traffic and city services, she said.
“I believe our development is leading the city on a downhill spiral,” she said.
Council members agree that as the city’s developable acres decrease, so do their options.
In the last year the council has created programs for affordable housing and energy-saving home construction guidelines. Those programs, council members said, depend on developer participation to succeed.
Most populated Orange County cities
1. Santa Ana...................351,322
3. Huntington Beach.........201,000
5. Garden Grove..............171,765
SOURCE: California Department of Finance Demographic Research Unit population numbers for Jan. 1, 2006.
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The map showing the future growth of Irvine on the front page (Irvine World News, March 22) was a real eye-opener! So I have to wonder, is it just me, or did anyone else notice how tiny "The Great Park" is, in relative comparison to all the pending development on and around the former El Toro Marine base?
Ironically, in a survey the city of Irvine sent out a few years ago on what should be done with El Toro, 76 percent of respondents said they wanted to have open space while a mere 3 percent preferred to see the land sold off to developers. Well, so much for the will of the people!