Irvine City Planners Introduce New Development Plan, Residents Share Feedback

February 14, 2020 Updated: February 14, 2020

IRVINE, Calif.⁠—Irvine residents gave feedback to city planners about an upcoming development project in the Irvine Business Complex (IBC) at City Hall on Feb. 13.

Over the last decade, the landscape of IBC transformed with the addition of new residences, creating a need for new facilities for bicycling, walking, and recreation.

IBC is located near John Wayne Airport on the west side of Irvine. The IBC Connect project will create eight trail and linear-park segments in the IBC near John Wayne Airport, on the city’s west side. The idea is to provide trails for local residents to walk or bike to their workplaces or local businesses.

“Currently what we’re doing is a feasibility study just to get an idea of this project and what segments and which trails we’d have developed in this area,” said City of Irvine Senior Transportation Analyst Cheryl Lea.

IBC Connect held an open house at the Irvine City Hall to gather feedback from residents on what kinds of amenities they’d like to see on the trails.

Longtime Irvine resident Tom Mason expressed concern about a lack of pedestrian access to the John Wayne Airport outlined in the mock-up.

“Many people who work around there, they just leave their car at Sky Park Circle or wherever they work, and walk to the airport and they get on the airplane, they come back the same day or four days later,” Mason said. “So it just makes sense to include the airport as part of the concept of transit.”

Another resident, who is an avid cyclist in the area, agreed with Mason.

“I was hoping they would address SNA (John Wayne Airport) access,” said Irvine resident Greg Hanson. “[It] seemed like all the options were on the other side of the 405 [Freeway].”

The trail outlines are not set in stone, Lea said. That access to the John Wayne Airport is not part of this phase in planning, but it will be “something to think about,” she said.

“Right now the scope of this project is really to look at these eight segments,” Lea said.

According to Irvine Councilmember Anthony Kuo, the main purpose of the trails has always been about recreation. Professionals who live in the IBC area have expressed they don’t want to walk a mile to get to a park or trail when they get home from work, Kuo said.

“The official look at it was less about mobility, and more about recreation,” he said. “That’s why it never dawned on me about the John Wayne component, but that would be really good for all of us to look at.”

Kuo said he’d never heard that perspective in previous pop-up outreaches⁠—in which staff members collected data from the community⁠—but that he’s “interested to hear it.”

The eight trails were first introduced in a 2010 Environmental Impact Report that was included in the IBC’s initial vision plan. That document discusses the approved zone changes for the trails, Lea said.

“Of course we are aware of other opportunities to connect to the John Wayne Airport, but for this project we are staying true to the eight segments,” Lea added.

According to community data collected over the course of the past year at numerous pop-up outreaches, 28 percent of residents would most likely use the trails for fitness and 29 percent would like to utilize the space for events. Half of respondents said they would use the trails weekly.

The mock-up exhibit also showcased design options that residents could vote on.

“I’m not so wound up about these choices,” Mason said. “They’re good, but it needs to be more driven by engineering considerations and the safety considerations.”

Mason walks frequently at night, he explained, and safety coupled with appropriate lighting is worrisome. Lea said safety is one of their top concerns as well, and that the “trail and safety plan requires us to have lighting along all of our trails 24/7 for visibility and safety.”

Kuo said making sure the trails are well-lit are a top priority and used the Irvine Spectrum parking structures as an example of opportune lighting with a “very clear line of sight.”

Another safety measure to be discussed, deemed controversial among some of the city council members in previous city developments, is the use of cameras. Five years ago, the council addressed the use of security cameras at the Great Park, which drew both fanfare and skepticism.

“Some members of the council were concerned about peoples’ personal liberties with cameras,” said Kuo. “But the Great Park is such an expansive park that you literally cannot be everywhere at one time⁠—we need to have that conversation again, whether people feel that’s appropriate. I imagine as this project progresses, we will have that discussion about cameras.”

Additionally, the Irvine Police Department evaluates all new city developments to create feasible safety measures, Kuo said.

From the open house, IBC will put together budget estimates and a priority list that will help them navigate the next phase of the development in the spring in preparation to present their findings to the Orange County Board.

How the budget will be outlined will most likely fall on the shoulders of developers in the communities that have residential areas in the IBC. Funds will go towards trails, parks, and amenities, Lea explained.

“But how much it will be⁠—that’s what this study is for, is to determine that,” she said.

In March, staff will develop official trail designs. By April, there will be a completed feasibility report, which will then be taken to the board to be determined.