IRVINE – A developer who has proposed building a sports park more than twice the size of Disneyland — as well as a golf course, wildlife corridor and nature trails — at the Great Park for $174 million in five years will begin negotiating directly with the city of Irvine’s staff.
That takes the negotiation out of the hands of a now-dissolved city council subcommittee that had been meeting privately with the developer, FivePoint Communities, off and on for more than a year.
What it doesn’t do is make anything official. No deal has been signed and what FivePoint wants in return, primarily the ability to build 4,606 homes on the eastern edge outside the park, hasn’t been approved and will require an OK from the city’s planning commission first.
Still, a capacity crowd in the Irvine City Council chamber Tuesday night applauded the council’s unanimous vote to move the plan forward in the negotiating process. Council members noted there will be details that will need to be addressed by staff.
In a nearly hour-long presentation, officials from FivePoint Communities presented their plan and ended it with a virtual video tour of what the park it wants to build may ultimately look like.
“I’ve never met a rendering I didn’t like,” joked Councilman Larry Agran, who said the plan was “very intriguing.”
There were a few changes since FivePoint first sent its proposal to the City Council in a July memo. The company offered Tuesday to build 688 acres, not the 661 acres originally proposed. It also agreed to consider adding another $2 million to its proposal, a request from Mayor Steven Choi at Tuesday’s meeting, to “green over” the remainder of the Great Park that they wouldn’t be building.
“The time is now,” said FivePoint President and CEO Emile Haddad, wrapping up his nearly hour-long presentation to the council. “We stand ready and I hope you stand ready with us.”
An overflow crowd of people, including many sports jersey-wearing young people, attended the meeting with nearly all of the 25 public speakers supporting the proposal.
“It’s time to show good progress and move forward,” Lucy Dunn, CEO of the Orange County Business Council, told the council.
“We respectfully request that you move the momentum forward,” said Tallia Hart, CEO of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce.
Many of the public speakers represented the upstart group Build the Great Park Now, led by youth sports advocate Guy Lemmon, who brought a large rolled-up banner that he unfurled during his speech to show a list of the names of people supporting their effort to encourage the council to take FivePoint up on its offer.
It’s the only offer publicly on the table to build out 688 acres of land at the Great Park with expansive sports fields that could make Irvine a hub for tournaments, a public golf course, nature trails and a corridor for wildlife, but it hasn’t been as easy as it might sound for Irvine’s city council to take it.
FivePoint wants to build 4,606 homes east of the park in return. And then there’s the cost of maintaining the park after 2023.
Councilman Larry Agran also wants a proposed Irvine high school, now set for FivePoint’s land northeast of the park, to move west within the park if the developer agrees to buy 40 acres of land there from the city for $60 million.
Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway doesn’t like the idea of a golf course. There’s also a technical process for the funds that will flow to the city for ongoing maintenance of the park that could be slowed or halted by FivePoint, which Lalloway referred to as a “dam.”
“It’s something that’s there,” he said. “It’s something that we’ll have to deal with in the future.”
Nonetheless, he supported the plan moving forward.
“I’m happy that we reached this point in the progress of the deal with FivePoint and I’m proud to support finally getting the Great Park built,” he said.