Irvine leaders are moving forward with their plan to shut down the All American Asphalt plant and turn the land around it into a nature preserve, with plans to approve up to $360 million in bonds they need at Tuesday night’s meeting. 

The decision to shut down the factory comes after years of resident protests from the surrounding neighborhood of Orchard Hills, claiming the factory is polluting the air around their homes and ruining their quality of life. 

[Read: Something’s In the Air: Irvine Residents’ Yearslong Battle For Breathable Air]

The precise cost of the bond hasn’t been set yet. City staff is proposing a cap of $360 million, saying it should be less than $320 million but that they wanted to be certain they’d be able to cover all the costs related to the purchase of the plant. 

Irvine City Council members are expected to vote on the move Tuesday and staff have said officials haven’t been able to conduct a full site analysis or cost comparison of the purchase.

Ordinarily, paying back those bonds would be the responsibility of local taxpayers, but Irvine leaders say they have another plan in mind. 

In February, city leaders announced they were finalizing a deal with the Irvine Company that would have the company donate land to the city, which they could then sell to pay off any costs associated with shutting down the asphalt plant. 

Irvine is set to buy the factory for $285 million via bond debt, with plans to shut down the site and eventually tear down the factory.

It’s unclear if that’s at market rate because no cost analysis was performed according to a city staff report. 

[Read: Irvine Looks to Buy Out Controversial Asphalt Plant for $285 Million]

Simultaneously, the Irvine Company is gifting the city with 375 acres of undeveloped land, an additional parcel of around 70-80 acres on the corner of Jeffrey Road and Portola Parkway that will be rezoned and sold. 

City staff estimate the total value of the rezoned land at around $330 million, which would be enough to cover the costs of the factory’s buyout price. 

The remaining acreage will be combined with an existing 300 acres of open space from the city to form the Gateway Preserve, a roughly 700-acre open space area the city has plans to develop into an outdoor recreational space. 

The primary benefit for the Irvine Company in helping close the factory is that they can continue developing the Orchard Hills neighborhood without interference from the residents, who have shown up at multiple planning commission meetings protesting any new housing until the factory is shut down.  

But city staff have also been clear that the new deal is not without its risks. 

Irvine officials have had almost no ability to examine the site for any environmental damage from the factory’s presence, and won’t until after most of the buyout money has already been paid out according to a staff report. 

City staff also noted that if they end up in a position where they can’t sell off the land from the Irvine Company or are otherwise incapable of completing the deal, they’ll be stuck with hundreds of millions of debt in the general fund. 

“If the City elects not to entitle the Gateway Land parcel … or if the ultimate sale of the property is delayed or market conditions change negatively, the City could be left with a significant financial obligation that is not currently contemplated in our long range financial plans,” city staff wrote in a staff report on April 11. 

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @NBiesiada. 


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