IRVINE : Irvine Co. Project Opposition Minor

The City Council this week heard only minor opposition to the Irvine Co.'s plan for building 2,885 homes on the northern outskirts of the city.

The developer has proposed turning a 416-acre orange grove into a residential village of single-family houses, townhouses, apartments and a commercial center. The council held a public hearing on the plan Tuesday, and is expected to vote on it after a final public hearing June 25.

Three residents complained that the Northwood 5 project should not be built or should be modified to include more affordable housing and provisions for reducing the impact on air quality and wildlife.

George M. Gallagher said the city should require the Irvine Co. to pay the cost of providing lower-cost houses and apartments.

State housing law requires the city to try to house residents from all income levels, Gallagher said. And the city's own housing goals say 25% of the homes should be affordable to families earning 80% or less of the county's median income. But the Northwood 5 plan being considered seems affordable only to corporate executives, he said.

"I'm a research scientist and I can't afford to buy a house in Irvine--and I make $32,000 a year," he said. "They're keeping out everybody from middle management on down."

As part of the affordable-housing plan for Northwood 5, the Irvine Co. proposes to sell 144 homes to families earning from about $41,500 to $62,500 a year, and to provide 144 apartments to families earning less than about $41,500. Another 144 apartments would be rented to families earning as little as $26,000 if public financing is available to pay for subsidies.

The dollar figures are based on the total income of a family of four.

The prices for the rest of the homes and townhouses will range from $250,000 to $500,000.

David Levy said he is concerned that the project would result in more air pollution and harm wildlife in Hicks Canyon Wash, which runs through the project.

And Ken Baxter, president of the 625-home Park Paseo Homeowners Assn., said he believes the project should not be built at all. Although his homeowners' association has not taken a position on the development, Baxter said he wanted to dispel the idea that all residents of the adjacent area were happy with the plans.

If the City Council approves the Northwood 5 plan later this month, it will be the second major village approved within the last six months. In December, the council approved plans for a 3,850-home village called Westpark II. A community group, though, stalled the project.

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