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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.
- 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.
- 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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