IRVINE — Mayor Sukhee Kang's State of the City Address began Irvine's 40th anniversary celebration, praised the city's achievements in 2010 and noted current challenges facing the Orange County Great Park.
"A 40th anniversary celebration is only as good as our ability to reflect on promises made and promises kept," Kang said to the standing-room-only crowd Tuesday evening.
The city will celebrate its anniversary Dec. 28, though anniversary events will take place throughout the year.
Kang commended city officials for upholding Irvine's core values. He pledged to oversee the continued transparency of city government, sustainable initiatives, a focus on education and the local economy, and the buildout of the Irvine Business Complex and Great Park.
Among the city's 2010 milestones was emerging from the economic downturn without laying off a single city employee, cementing an exchange program with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) to fund the city's iShuttle, and the completion of the civic center, which freed up $6 million from the general fund, Kang said.
The only less-than-positive note was Kang's brief mention of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies and instead redirect the money to public schools and other services.
"The Great Park is located in the city's RDA boundary, and the tax increment generated by the redevelopment agency will be critical in completing the construction of the Great Park," Kang said. "We acknowledge the difficult decisions facing the state and we want to be part of the solution. However … we don't believe the elimination of the redevelopment agencies is the answer."
City staff was paid out $821,936.50 last year from RDA funds, which was first reported by The Voice of OC this week and confirmed by the Daily Pilot though information provided by the city.
Redevelopment funds equate to "billions" over time for the city, Councilman Larry Agran said
"If to ask me if this would stop the development of the Great Park, I would say, 'No,'" Agran said. "Of course we would find a way forward, but we've been moving down this path for five years now, and to suddenly have this curveball by Gov. Brown is very troubling. But, we're going to do it. We've met all kinds of challenges before."
Although no definite backup plan for the park has been identified, Agran said members of the council and city staff are "hard at work on the matter."
Other projects moving forward this year include the Sand Canyon Grade Separation and Bommer Canyon Trailhead projects, Kang said.
In the first project, Sand Canyon Avenue will be lowered the Southern California Regional Rail Authority tracks and a street widening from the Santa Ana (I-5) Freeway to Oak Canyon and Laguna Canyon roads in Irvine, according to an OCTA staff report.
OCTA will begin the project in the spring and turn it over to the city for maintenance once complete, according to the report.
Upcoming 40th anniversary events can be found at http://www.cityofirvine.org.