After years of complaints from Great Park residents that special property taxes on their homes is taxation without representation, the Irvine City Council is set to discuss giving some control of that money back to homeowners.
A Voice of OC investigation last year found that while homeowners near the Great Park pay millions in additional property taxes that go toward developing the park, they have almost no say on where any of their money goes.
While much of that funding has gone toward the park’s infrastructure, the money can be spent on a wide variety of projects based on a list approved by the city and FivePoint Holdings, the city’s partner in developing the park.
As an example, the City Council approved a $250 million aquatics center that would be the new home of USA Water Polo, with open questions on what access the public would have to the center. The Olympic team’s contribution to the center is estimated at about $10 million, while the rest will be built using special tax funds.
“We as residents of the Great Park cannot be exclusively singled out to pay for public amenities and told we have the same privileges as everyone else,” Nissreen Qamhiyah, a Great Park resident, said at the council’s July meeting. “It is time for Great Park residents to finally be given a voice as we as residents are demanding.”
Now Irvine City Council members at their Tuesday meeting are expected to discuss potentially setting up a way to hand control of some of that money back to residents.
Agendized by Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilwoman Tammy Kim, the council could decide to study setting up a special fund that would give residents exclusive control over some of their special taxes, and could require future homes in the area come with clearer disclaimers about where the tax dollars go.
However, details on how that program could work were not immediately available, with only a request for a discussion noted in the staff report.
Kim said she didn’t really have an idea on how the funding mechanism would work, but that she supported the item because she wanted a discussion on clear disclaimers.
“I’m not sure how we would implement that, but that’s obviously a discussion we can have and the city attorney can talk about what we can do,” Kim said in a phone call on Wednesday with Voice of OC. “I’m still trying to figure out what can and can’t be done, what’s in our control and not in our control. It looks like there’s a lot that’s not in our control.”
Khan did not return requests for comment.
The council’s meeting is set for 4 p.m. Tuesday and can be viewed here.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.