They wanted to make an impact by filling up the City Council chambers Tuesday to fight against the homeless moving to Irvine, but officials turned most of the crowd away at an unexpectedly short meeting.
No matter, organizers had planned a protest in the plaza outside City Hall, and with about 100 people gathered, they kept chanting: "All our kids deserve better! All our kids deserve better!"
For locals representing a cross-section of Irvine, the battle was clear: "The county or other people outside of Irvine will not decide what happens to us. We are strong. We will decide who comes into the city and activate our supporters to make sure our families are safe," said homemaker Ashley Michael, a 33-year Irvine resident.
In the first council meeting since the Orange County Board of Supervisors rescinded a March vote to research using county-owned land in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel for temporary homeless housing, Irvine residents said they must continue "the movement and be vigilant to protect ourselves."
Realtor Kaveh Nouraee, a five-year Irvine resident, said it frustrates him that "no one seems to have a long-term solution. They should create such a solution, but it shouldn't infringe on anybody's quality of life. How is it practical to locate homeless housing near schools, libraries or soccer fields?"
One of his worries is that Orange County is "unfairly burdened with caring for homeless. And we don't even know where they're from. Are they from California or are we responsible for people out of state?"
Judith Jing, a mother of two sons, said she moved from Memphis, Tenn. to Irvine so her boys can grow up playing freely in the neighborhood.
"Now I notice more people without clothes around the area," she said. "Why are they here? We as residents of this beautiful city have to stand up and say stop. I am not thinking we shouldn't help the homeless — we should — but not by sticking them in the middle of our community."
Protesters said they heard the meeting ended early because a council member had a death in the family.
Disappointed, Michael said she and other women who run a Facebook group opposing a tent city in Irvine had found a possible location: Los Pinos, once a juvenile camp in the Cleveland National Forest. The property, once run by the county, is now closed.
"We've done our research and want to talk options that are far away from communities," she said. "If we don't think of something, they will come back to Irvine and pressure us about opening more shelters."
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Christina Shea urged residents to "get a good description of the homeless" migrating to Irvine "in increasing numbers" and call the police.
"We have not had a homeless problem in years because we take care of our low-income and needy populations," she added. "It's very troubling to have the county shove their housing responsibilities to the cities."