Irvine Council shelves general plan update

The Irvine City Council opened the new year without advancing a municipal general plan that has not had a comprehensive update since 1999.

A special session was called Tuesday, ahead of the council’s first regular meeting of 2015, to consider a general plan update that will align with California guidelines.

Since 1998, the state has recommended general plan updates every five years. The comprehensive analysis consists of seven elements of municipal planning designed to control land use, housing, commercial property and traffic concerns.

The city has made periodic plan updates in traffic congestion and housing development — the only areas mandated by California law to be updated every five years.

According to Assistant City Manager Eric Tolles, Irvine has maintained a land-use balance that is roughly one-third residential, one-third non-residential or commercial properties, and one-third open space and recreational use.

Tolles led discussion of a staff report. The analysis was ordered by the City Council last fall.

In putting off the update, council members cited too many land-use variables, such as Orange County’s control of 100 acres within the city limits and development of the Great Park and in the Irvine business corridor.

“I’m not in opposition to it,” said Councilwoman Christina Shea in expressing the consensus opinion of the panel. “I’m in opposition to the timing of starting it. I don’t think it’s good to be spending quite so much money and time in reviewing a general plan without incorporating what we’d be approving.”

“I’m very concerned that going through this now is going to create a major problem,” echoed Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lalloway, noting the time and resources required for a general plan amendment while 27 community projects are currently in development.

Councilwoman Beth Krom, the only democratic voice on the five-member council, took a more proactive view.

“It seems to me the general plan update is to give us exactly what we need as we go forward with these other priorities,” she said. “I don’t see it as something that is out of context. I see it as something important to the decision making process.”

Also Tuesday, the council 4 to 1 to approve a traffic study to be conducted by an outside consultant at a cost of up to $250,000.

The study would assess current and future needs in public transit, signal management and technology.

Mayor Steven Choi dissented after expressing his preference for a cost-saving ad hoc Planning Commission committee to examine traffic issues.