Irvine City Council members approved over a billion dollars in new debt aimed at funding the Great Park’s development without any discussion at their meeting on Tuesday night.
The money is headed towards a variety of projects the city currently has in development at the park, including a proposed 14,000-seat amphitheater, botanical gardens and an aquatics center that could be home to an Olympic team.
The new money comes from three bonds that will grant the city $455 million upfront, but will cost just over $1 billion to pay off over the next three decades.
Altogether, homeowners near the Great Park are on the hook for $1.5 billion of the development purely from bond debt.
The money is split between the city and FivePoint, but FivePoint has to get the city’s permission on where they’re allowed to spend the funds beyond building the neighborhood infrastructure, with the city having a final say after the two entities renegotiated their contract last year.
[Read: Irvine Set To Remove Great Park Spending Limits in New Development Deal]
That debt is paid off by a special Mello-Roos tax on homes surrounding the Great Park, which pays for the infrastructure around the homes along with many of the park’s biggest projects.
While homeowners were notified of the tax’s existence before they moved in, many residents say they had no idea they were going to be paying for many of the park’s projects.
[Read: Irvine’s Great Park Residents Often Times Don’t Know What Their Special Taxes Fund]
The new bonds will not raise the existing resident’s taxes according to Dahle Bulosan, the city’s director of administrative services.
“It would not increase the tax rate on the existing residents or future residents of the Great Park neighborhoods,” Bulosan said in a presentation to the city council.
Residents now have their own advisory council appointed by city council members, but that board doesn’t have the power to approve or deny projects and has at times publicly struggled to gather a consensus on what the future of the park should look like.
[Read: Irvine’s Great Park Advisory Board Falls Apart]
The new bonds were approved unanimously without any discussion by the council, except for Councilman Mike Carroll, who was absent from the meeting.
The new bonds also aren’t set to be the final debt the city takes on for the Great Park, with the city planning to issue at least five more bonds by mid-2030 according to Bulosan, but it remains unclear just how much those will be worth.
According to Bulosan’s staff report, the city is hoping to net around $1.2 billion in new bonds to help fund the park.
So far, they’ve approved $455 million in initial bonds, with the interest on those bonds taking the total price for homeowners to over $1 billion.
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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