Irvine’s Great Park has a new max bond budget of $2 billion after city council members unanimously approved the increased budget last Tuesday.
The increase will not create a tax increase for residents of the Great Park neighborhoods, who already pay a special Mello-Roos property tax that goes toward building their neighborhood infrastructure and a host of proposed projects at the park.
It comes as the city prepares to ramp up spending in the park, with council members pledging to take the park’s development out of a catatonic state and push for new projects laid out in the city’s framework plan last year.
[Read: Irvine’s Great Park Has Its First Development Plan in Years, Can the City Deliver?]
City attorney Jeff Melching claimed the new tax structure was required for the city to move forward on that new plan in a report to the city council, pointing out that FivePoint Holdings, the city’s development partner, would no longer have control over approving park projects.
“As a practical matter, we’ll always try to be good neighbors,” Melching said. “But in the end, we have control.”
In addition to granting the city more control over the park’s funds, the new system eliminates the $1.1 billion cap for bonds and sets a new limit of $2 billion over the park.
So far, the city has issued $280 million in bonds for the park, which with interest will cost taxpayers roughly half a billion dollars to pay back, and Melching said new bonds could be coming soon.
“That’s something we’re hoping to start pursuing in the months, maybe even weeks ahead,” Melching said.
While the council’s discussion was fairly short on the issue, Councilman Mike Carroll repeatedly emphasized that the shift meant FivePoint’s marketing could also have less of a presence in the park going forward.
“That symbol and that name, there will be no more need or desire or trait to plaster that inside our municipal park right?” Carroll said.
“You are not compelled to do that,” Melching replied.
Residents could also soon see a breakdown of what will be paid for by residents’ special Mello-Roos taxes and what costs the city will be covering after Mayor Farrah Khan asked questions about where the money is coming from.
Melching mentioned the city’s planned 14,000 seat amphitheater, one of the highlights of the city’s new plans for the park, could not be paid for out of the special tax dollars because it would be managed by Live Nation, a private company.
“We gave ourselves broad authorization to build whatever we could in the park with (special tax) funds. But we can’t build that 14,000 seat amphitheater the way it’s currently planned with (special tax) dollars,” Melching said. “It has to be a public use and we have a private partner.”
City manager Oliver Chi also said a breakdown of how different projects would be funded would be released in the near future.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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