The Irvine City Council last night unanimously approved the Irvine Business Complex vision plan, which would see the cap on residential units at the mixed-use development go from 9,000 to 15,000, with the potential to add another 2,000 because of the state’s housing density bonus law.

The vision plan has, in the past, come under scrutiny by Irvine Unified School District officials and the Orange County Airport Land Use Commission for potentially overcrowding Irvine schools and putting up buildings that could interfere with airplane flight paths.

The potential development also saw lawsuits from neighboring cities Newport Beach and Tustin. The two cities feared overflow traffic from the development could impact streets in their cities.

At least some of the hurdles facing the Irvine Business Complex have been cleared. Newport Beach dropped its lawsuit after receiving a $3.6 million settlement, and the Airport Land Use Commission reversed earlier opposition after a reduction in the height of some buildings.

And last night, Mayor Sukhee Kang announced that Tustin and Irvine had reached a settlement agreement, which calls for Irvine to contribute between $4.5 million and $6.5 million for the extension of Tustin Ranch Road to Von Karman Avenue, according to a press release.

“It’s a great example of neighbor working with neighbor,” Kang said.

Two companies at the business complex, Allergan Inc. and Deft Inc. had in the past also fought the residential development, saying that new housing units would be placed too close to industrial areas of the complex. The city agreed to place a larger buffer between residents and industrial areas, and the two companies backed off.

Whether Irvine Unified School District leaders are still worried about an infusion of students is unclear. Irvine Community Development Director Doug Williford said the city had conveyed to the school district that, according to estimates in the Environmental Impact Report, only 42 percent of new housing units at the complex would be in the district. Williford said he expected that information to “allay” the district’s concerns.

District officials did not speak during public comments on the Irvine Business Complex. School officials did not return a call seeking comment.

Council members expressed relief about alleviating much of the concern about the plan.

“Make no mistake … there have been a number of bumps along the way,” Kang said. “I think the key that what we are hearing tonight … is a culmination of open-mindedness.”

The Irvine Shuttle, or iShuttle, Irvine’s public shuttle-bus system, is also a part of the business complex vision as indicated by Irvine leaders. Councilman Larry Agran said that, in the future, the shuttle will be the “connective tissue” of the complex. Agran said the shuttle will put Irvine “way ahead of other cities.”

The council also approved two ballot initiatives for the November election. Both were proposed by Agran.

The first would see the city provide continuing financial support to Irvine schools over the next three fiscal years. The commitment would include annual contributions of $500,000 to the Irvine Educational Partnership Fund and annual $1 million challenge grants to the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, according to a staff report.

The other approved ballot initiative — the so-called Irvine Sustainable Community initiative – is for an ordinance that would enact green-friendly building policies for the city and the Great Park, as well as fee waivers or deferrals for businesses that implement green-friendly energy improvements like solar energy systems, according to a staff report.

Councilman Steven Choi, who had earlier voiced suspicion regarding Agran’s motives for the initiatives, said last night that he hopes they’re in “good spirit.”

At the prior council meeting, Choi accused Agran of using the initiatives as a vehicle to get re-elected in November. He brought up the 2008 Irvine Community News and Views slate mailer and indicated that Agran might be setting the stage for another round of that kind of slate mail.


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