Developer Aims to Double Number of Houses Built Around Orange County Park

The proposal could net Irvine $200 million and increase the number of houses from 5,000 to 11,000.

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    A man plays with his dog at the Great Orange County Park.

    Officials in Irvine are considering a proposal that would double the number of houses built along a former Marine base that administrators said they hope to expand into one of the country's major urban parks.

    FivePoint Communities, a development corporation, submitted a proposal last December that aimed to increase the number of homes built around the Orange County Great Park from 5,000 to roughly 11,000, according to notes from an Irvine City Council meeting held March 13.

    The proposal could net the city up to $200 million to redevelop the park, which spans about 1,300 acres in Orange County.

    Beth Krom, mayor pro-tempore for Irvine and chair of the Orange County Great Park Corporation, said in her "State of the Park" address Thursday that the city has already leveraged a fraction of the developer's fees over the past seven years to launch the park's redevelopment.

    "The aspirational vision that has driven the development of the Great Park over the past seven years has not changed," she said. "Our commitment to develop a world-class metropolitan park has not wavered."

    Despite challenges securing funding for the initiative, several city officials have expressed their commitment to the park's expansion.

    "The fact of the matter is, the Great Park will be built," Councilman Larry Agran told the Los Angeles Times. "It may take longer than 20, 25 years, maybe 30 or 40 years. We're making progress."

    Five Point's proposal comes after California's state legislature voted to redirect funds away from redevelopment initiatives and toward the state, a move that marked efforts to address state deficit issues but cost the project roughly $1.4 billion.

    The loss of funding has jeopardized the redevelopment plans, cutting into local officials' hopes that the park would represent a cultural center for the region.

    "Great metropolitan areas are defined by their public spaces, their cultural resources and their heritage and history," Krom said in her speech Thursday.

    The Great Park Corporation voted in June to expand the park by 30 acres, adding a visitor's center pavilion, six new ponds, four soccer fields, a community garden and general infrastructure improvements.

    A draft of an environmental impact report released Tuesday noted that the additional homes would not have a significant impact on the area's wildlife, aesthetics, noise or natural resources.

    Still, some city officials remain wary of the project.

    Councilman Jeffrey Lalloway told the Los Angeles Times that he considered the situation "unfortunate" and did not think the ambitious park could be built.

    Before it was bought by Lenmar Corporation in 2005, the property was known as the El Toro Marine Base.

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