Reader Poll: Which Is the Bigger Boondoggle – ARTIC or the Great Park?

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(To vote in the poll, scroll down to the bottom of this post.)

It was supposed to be twice the size of New York Central Park, a 1,300-acre haven with a man-made canyon, an aviation museum and vast expanses of green.

But over a decade after city leaders embarked on the Great Park project and spent almost $260 million, only 88 acres have been developed. Meanwhile, the project has drawn allegations that no-bid contracts were handed out to park consultants who spent generously on electing council members in a pay-to-play scheme. And its $1.4 billion financing plan officially collapsed after Gov. Jerry Brown pulled the plug on the redevelopment.

For the better part of a decade, no other public project could match the Great Park’s dubious reputation as Orange County’s biggest taxpayer-funded mistake.

But over the last year, a challenger has emerged. It is the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, better known by its acronym, ARTIC.

For the uninitiated, ARTIC is the huge, glittering new train/bus station near Angel Stadium and the Honda Center that can be seen lighting up the night sky from the 57 freeway. The price tag was $185 million.

ARTIC was supposed to have 10,000 riders daily by opening day last December. But the masses of riders haven’t showed up, and many refuse to walk through the massive terminal. So rather than a bustling Union Station-like transit center, it has become a cavernous ghost town.

So which deserves the title of OC’s biggest boondoggle — ARTIC or the Great Park?

Read our tale of the tape below and cast your vote in our poll.

ARTIC:

  • Nearly $100 million to build ARTIC came from a special half-cent sales tax called Measure M, which was approved by voters to pay for transportation improvements.
  • According to the U.S. Census, there are 995,512 households in the county. That means, on average, every household in the county paid over $100 in sales taxes to fund ARTIC’s construction.
  • ARTIC also faces a nearly $4 million annual operating cost that could hit Anaheim’s general fund, which pays for core services like police and fire protection. Currently, hoteliers are picking up the tab with a special 2 percent room-tax. But that isn’t expected to last forever.
  • City leaders hope to finance operations with advertising, space leases and a corporate naming rights deal. But with so little ridership – and recent findings that riders who do come don’t even want to walk through the terminal shell – there are questions as to whether any revenue can be raised from those sources.
  • The bright side: residents get to enjoy an architecturally stunning landmark.

Great Park:

  • Tens of millions of dollars were spent designing an award-winning vision that will probably never be built. The park’s most impressive feature, its man-made canyon, has been replaced with a 188-acre golf course.
  • The Great Park investigation, launched by Republicans in 2012, found that the park suffered from waste and mismanagement on every level, had no realistic budgeting and languished under intense political pressure from former Democratic council leader Larry Agran.
  • The Great Park’s costs also seem to never end. The Republicans’ investigation turned out to be only the first of multiple investigations and another hefty Great Park related bill for taxpayers. The firms in charge of the investigation submitted their final invoices from the probe in September, but the city denied many of the costs.
  • In the end, an audit that had a starting budget of $240,000 ballooned to almost $1.5 million. It also spawned a payback investigation by the state’s legislative audit committee, which is budgeted at $251,000, an Orange County District Attorney’s investigation and an investigation of the investigation by the state Board of Accountancy.
  • The bright side: Irvine still owns over 1,000 acres of valuable land, and prospects look good that a more modest version of the Great Park will eventually be built.

So which is it? Please cast your vote, and, as always, we welcome your comments.

(Click here if the poll isn’t showing up below. Vote to see the results.)

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  • Eugene Hung

    I’ve taken my family to Great Park, and we’ve enjoyed our time there! Then again, we like big orange balloons and merry-go-rounds. Sure, it’s way over budget and has generated a ton of headaches, but over the years to come, thousands of people will enjoy some aspect of it. As for ARTIC, maybe it could be re-purposed as a concert hall? The structure sort of looks like someone took a slice out of the Sydney (Australia) Opera House and covered it in aluminum foil and Christmas lights. Or maybe ARTIC could be moved to Disneyland’s new Star Wars Land to function as … something.

  • Jacki Livingston

    Stunning Landmark? ARTIC is as sad and ugly as a fifty year old stripper, who should have retired years ago. Nothing works, they police it like Nazis, the food is horrible and sometimes downright dangerous. And, most of all, it is UGLY! UHHHHHHHHH-GLEEEEEEEEE.

  • Bob Brock

    At least the peoples vote of the Great Park ensured that the ill-fated international airport at El Toro’s doom was sealed. Even if the Great Park takes a generation to be realized, it’ll be worth it.

  • tjsage

    Land always has value. ARTIC sucks.

  • Anthony Cynor

    Fiasco abounds with OCTA
    Artic is a spectacular FLOP!
    Look what they did to route 57 just recently. Took away the full route and replaced it with an express route 57X that does not stop where you need it to.
    Literally a cut in service on a very productive route. So now I cant use it without walking an extra mile! Certainly does not save time, help the elderly or infirmed. Then they will tout it as a success and complain about loss of ridership. BRAVO It appears that is what they wanted. Sabotage the popular routes with pseudo express routes seems to be the strategy.

    What BRT actually looks like in a city about the size of OC. Enjoy the ride!

  • “The bright side: residents get to enjoy an architecturally stunning landmark.”

    Yes, David Zenger, you called it right. I’m afraid Anaheim Armadillo will stick. There is nothing stunning about that gaudy monstrosity.

  • David Zenger

    It’s easy to be glib on this subject, but levity aside, some serious malfeasance went down in both cases, and in plain view of the public.

  • UnitedWeStand

    With all the massive housing developments built and in progress, I feel the ARTIC will eventually serve its purpose, so I vote for the Park.. But speaking of the massive housing developments bringing in more people and pets and traffic, the county still has only ONE county animal shelter. The Orange County Board of Supervisors have been promising a new one to replace the current 70+ year old shelter, but I have read they state they still don’t have the land???!!! I think Irvine should build a new regional animal shelter at the Great Park land, be the regional leader and have the county contract with Irvine. The operations would be self supporting and paid for with the revenue from licensing fees and contracts.

  • RyanCantor

    While I’m no fan of ARTIC, at least the money spent built something. While the Rainbow Armadillo is nothing but a mausoleum, it is a mausoleum.

    We got nothing from the Great Park.

    Well, we got a Palm Court.

    And probably more people use the Palm Court than ARTIC.

    Can that be true? County residents get more utility out of a $200,000,000 Palm Court than they do a $200,000,000 LED mausoleum?

    Oye.

    • David Zenger

      B-b-but what about the Solar Decathlon? You can’t put a price tag on that.

      Well, wait, I guess you can.

  • Ltpar

    The so called original vision for the Great Park was some dreamers fantasy and would have never been doable. One did not need a degree in architecture to figure that out. The essence of the Great Park boondoggle was in the diversion of funds to friends and supporters of Larry Agran and the gang. Criminal charges should have been forthcoming, but neither the District Attorney nor the United States Attorney showed any interest. As the article pointed out, with a new Sheriff in town, construction is underway for a reasonable and scaled down version or the Park. The ball is in the current Council’s court and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  • David Zenger

    “The bright side: residents get to enjoy an architecturally stunning landmark.”

    That’s a matter of opinion. The price tag is stunning, the building is actually just tacky.

    Architecture is supposed to DO something. This giant, squatting, lit-up armadillo is just in the way – an actual hindrance to the same few hundred commuters who used the old, perfectly good station.

    No, ARTIC is not architecture. It is a monument – to greed and personal glorification.

    • Judy Allen

      I drive by it twice a day! I WANT MY MONEY BACK…..

    • RyanCantor

      The bright side is that it’s bright.

      It’ll be even brighter when they put the LED billboard in.

  • Paul Lucas

    Im stumped. The competition for the biggest bondoogle is a tough choice. I must ponder this further.