Great Park Building Plans Raise Both Hopes and Questions

A battle is looming between Irvine Unified School District officials and developers of the Great Park neighborhoods. Pictured are the school district administration building and the Great Park's iconic balloon. (Photos by Adam Elmahrek and Violeta Vaqueiro)

The developer of Irvine’s Great Park neighborhoods on Monday officially unveiled plans to build 4,895 homes and estimated that the new construction will ultimately provide “a few hundred million” in tax increment dollars to both the park and the Irvine Unified School District.

Officials with the city and the developer, FivePoint Communities, say the plan, which also includes 1.2 million square feet in non-residential construction, shows that Irvine is a leader in the recovery from last decade’s historic real estate bust. Officials are hoping to have final City Council approval and be building by the end of the year.

“It’s a very large statement about this city, and what this city really means, and how this city stands out in terms of its stability, its strength and the fact that — probably — you can name about half a dozen markets where people can sell homes in a healthy way,” said FivePoint Communities co-owner and Chief Executive Emile Haddad in a joint news conference with the city.

However, other questions remain, particularly on the part of Irvine Unified School District officials, who complain that the plan doesn’t deliver them fast enough the necessary cash to build the new schools that the new neighborhoods will need.

“We need resources up front to have these schools in place,” said school district spokesperson Ian Hanigan.

Haddad maintained that the developer would mitigate impacts on the school district, as required by entitlement law, and work to ensure residents of the neighborhoods have access to the kind of high-quality education Irvine residents are used to. However, Haddad said, an exact timeline and amount for property tax increment funds would depend on the market.

Tax increment revenue comes from the increased assessed value of land after it is redeveloped.

“If you assume we’re going to have the first people living in the community by 2013, if our timeline holds, then that’s when you’re going to see the first tax increments, and it keeps growing from there and growing from there,” Haddad said

Haddad and school district officials said they were still in the beginning of negotiations. School district officials also said it’s not yet understood how the revenue stream could be affected by such things as Gov. Jerry Brown’s drive to put redevelopment agencies on the chopping block.

A series of meetings over the next several months between city and school officials are also expected to yield answers on the need and cost for new schools.

An amended agreement between the city and FivePoint Communities will also bring another $40 million from Mello-Roos tax financing for initial backbone infrastructure and other construction needs at the park and millions more in future years for operations and maintenance.

— ADAM ELMAHREK

 

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