On Tuesday, May 24 the Great Park Board of Directors, in the capacity of the Irvine City Council, unanimously voted to approve the formation of a Great Park Task Force. Once complete, the Great Park Task Force will become a 15 member panel composed of residents from Great Park Neighborhoods. In terms of appointments, each council member will be responsible for his or her process if an application is needed. 

For now, once established, the Task Force will be re-evaluated in four months to determine future steps. Ultimately, these Task Force members will help the city add developments to the Great Park with residents’ needs in mind.  

The Task Force, brought forth by Great Park Directors Mike Carroll and Tammy Kim, was presented in an effort to help quell years of frustration from Great Park homeowners, who pay a special tax, but say there is a major lack of development in terms of retail.   

During the meeting, Director Mike Carroll spoke highly of Irvine’s master-planned neighborhoods, however, Carroll added that Irvine could do better and that this Task Force has been “much needed” for some time. 

“Unfortunately, there is one place in our great city where the promise of the master-planned community and its village system has yet to be fulfilled: Great Park Neighborhoods,” Carroll said. “Not only is this area of our city saddled with perpetual Mello Roos taxes set up many years ago for reasons known only to the creators, but this neighborhood somehow still has no neighborhood-serving retail. Residents are understandably unhappy. They deserve much better than this.” 

During his comments, Carroll explained that the Great Park Task Force would help evaluate the needs of the Great Park Neighborhoods, and potentially formulate new approaches to help usher in more of the same amenities found at other villages and neighborhoods inside Irvine’s master plan. 

“The Great Park Task Force would consist, as we proposed, of a total of 15 members, three appointed by each City Council member, who would meet monthly with the city manager. We would empower that for a four-month period,” Carroll explained. “The task force would return to the Great Park Board to report its findings and recommendations, presented by the city manager.”

Tammy Kim shared her excitement while seconding the item during the meeting. In her comments, Kim said the Great Park has been halted for development for too long. 

“The vision of the Great Park has really been held hostage for two decades based on political in-fighting and developers not living up to their commitments,” Kim said. “We’re here to think about the future. We can start building on the vision of putting the park back into the Great Park, but as we do this, I think it’s very important and it’s very critical to have the voices of those who will be impacted day to day.” 

Kim added that in a city with a population of 300,000 there is an abundance of varying viewpoints, and thoughts on what is best for the city may differ greatly from one neighborhood to another. For this reason, Kim agreed to the non-traditional route of appointing five residents per-council member. 

“Great Park residents, all residents of Irvine, voted for each and every one of us here on the dais. They voted for us. We all represent all of Irvine and we are all stakeholders in what happens in this city,” she said. “I don’t just care about my street, my neighborhood, I care about everything that happens in this city, and I think especially the Great Park, in my opinion, is a missed opportunity – but one that can be corrected.”

Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan said she would support the Task Force if the selections were done by an application process, rather than an appointment process. 

Councilmember Anthony Kuo agreed with Khan, adding that he would be open to having conversations with any members of the community that would be open to serving on the task force. 

“I know people in the Great Park neighborhoods. I think that they would serve this task force and this community well, but that’s not to say there aren’t others that are out there who would be interested, that I don’t happen to know, that I would like to hear from,” Kuo said. 

Director Larry Agran was in support of a Task Force made up of only Great Park residents, not city-wide, adding that he had requested this item be added to the board agenda at least two times, only to not receive a second. 

“I’m supportive of this – this is long overdue,” said Agran. “It’s not like this has not been proposed previously. On two previous occasions – at least two – I, in writing, asked that this matter be put on the board agenda.”

Agran added that he feels residents have had “virtually no say in the selection, planning, design and development and operations of multiple million-dollar features and amenities at the Great Park.”

In fact, Agran wrote to his colleagues on May 25, 2021, urging them to place the item on the agenda. 

“Better late than never,” Agran said during the meeting. “I appreciate the fact it is on the agenda today, and that we will be moving on a positive direction.”

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