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Orange County to be dropped from Great Park name, Irvine officials decide

Aerial view of the Great Park on July 28 in Irvine.
Aerial view of the Great Park on July 28 in Irvine.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Orange County will be removed from the official name of the Great Park in Irvine, a move that city leaders contend will better highlight Irvine’s operation and development of the 1,300-acre park.

The Irvine City Council considered three names for the site at a meeting Tuesday: the Irvine Great Park, the Great Park of Irvine and the Great Park. Ultimately, the council voted 4 to 1 to change the name to the Great Park — a nickname many Orange County residents already use to identify the swath of land that was formerly the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

“This is an item that has come forward because our city’s name and its amenities deserve to be highlighted,” Mayor Farrah Khan said. “I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: We are not the small town of decades ago, but a major city.”

She added that the city “deserves to be known not only nationally but throughout the world.”

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Replacing signs, marketing materials, uniforms and other items that bear the park‘s name will cost the city an estimated $360,000 and take roughly a year, Great Park Manager Steve Torelli said.

After nearly a decade of pushing to have a military cemetery built at a former Marine base near the Great Park, the proposal was all but killed when the City Council refused to choose a site.

The majority of public speakers who attended Tuesday’s meeting opposed the name change, with some calling it an unnecessary use of taxpayer money. Residents have recently cast a more critical eye on the development of the park and how it’s funded.

Many homeowners in the Great Park neighborhoods have expressed anger over special-assessment taxes that have been levied on their properties to pay for development at the Great Park. Those neighbors also were the most vocal opponents of a proposed veterans cemetery that was slated to be built at the park. The cemetery is instead moving forward on a parcel of county land in Anaheim Hills.

Councilman Larry Agran, who voted against the name change, said the role the rest of the county played in creating the park should be respected.

A view of a sign at the Great Park in Irvine, where the Irvin city council has voted to drop 'Orange County' from the name.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Those who opposed the name change noted that without the rest of Orange County pulling together to pass Measure W in 2002, which designated the land as a central park similar to Balboa Park in San Diego, an international airport likely would have been built instead.

The fight over the land has proved to be one of the most contentious and divisive issues in Orange County history.

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“We had promised people this was going to be the Orange County Great Park,” Agran said. “The Great Park [is] located at the former military base in Irvine, but [is] for the benefit of the entire county.”

Former Irvine Mayor Christina Shea, who alongside Agran and other Orange County leaders helped block the airport from being built on the former base after it was decommissioned in 1999, also opposed the name change.

“Renaming the Orange County Great Park is an affront to all of us who lived through the historic fight to save our city from the threat posed by an international airport,” Shea said.

“The regional Orange County Great Park — the gem of our county — is a shining legacy that must be preserved and not tarnished by bad planning, by bad policy, by fiscal irresponsibility and bad decisions made by a City Council majority that didn’t even live here during that battle.”


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