Irvine council approves homes project near Great Park

IRVINE — The City Council on Tuesday night approved an agreement requiring a developer of homes near the Orange County Great Park to, among other things, provide $40.5 million in funding over the next six years to the city.

The agreement, approved by a 4-1 vote, also allows Aliso Viejo-based Heritage Fields El Toro LLC — developer of Great Park Neighborhoods, a nearly 4,900-home project that will ring the Great Park by 2013 — to speed up construction of park and neighborhood infrastructure, build two hotels and a $5-million joint welcome center for the park and neighborhoods.

An earlier version incorrectly said Heritage Field El Toro LLC was required to build. The vote just allows them to do so.

Councilman Larry Agran cast the lone dissenting vote.

The agreement "falls short of the public interests," Agran said, who had suggested at the last minute that the location of a joint-use gymnastics and aquatics facility also be included.

"The way I see it, the question is does this agreement provide complimentary provisions and resources so that we, I, can say in good conscience that the public benefit has been served, that the public trust has been upheld," Agran said.

The agreement also reduced the size of planned Upper Canyon feature laid out in the park's Master Plan and allows for road crossings through the canyon.

"These are unprecedented times in how fortunate Irvine and the county are to have a project ready to move forward which will stimulate the economy and help create jobs," said Marian Bergeson, chairwoman of the Foundation for the Great Park, during the public comments section of Tuesday's meeting.

In other business, the City Council approved the second reading of an ordinance creating a new zoning designation for areas of the project that emphasize residents' abilities to use public transportation, walk or bike to go shopping, to work and school.

The ordinance will go into effect in 30 days.

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