After ten years, “the city of Irvine has spent at least $203 million on the project, but only 200 acres of the promised 1,347-acre Great Park has been built, and half of that is leased out for commercial farming,” according to the L.A. Times.
The sad truth about the Great Park is that “Most of the money has paid for plans, designs and consultants, with less than a fifth of it going toward actual park construction, according to a Times analysis of the spending.”
The L.A. Times fingers the economy and the loss of redevelopment funds, after Governor Jerry Brown closed down all of the municipal redevelopment agencies in California. But the truth is that the Great Park’s Board Members, led by Irvine Council Members Larry Agran and Beth Krom misspent the money.
“$90 million was poured into planning and designing the park but just $38 million was used for actual construction, a Times analysis shows. Some $29 million went for administrative costs and $28 million toward operations. An additional $16 million paid for publicity and free events — concerts, pumpkin harvests and anniversary celebrations. Nearly half the money paid to contractors was awarded without competitive bids,” according to the L.A. Times.
Now the only hope left is to sell of most of the Great Park so that developers can build more homes.
Here are a few more stunning excerpts from the L.A. Times article in question:
- One of the largest expenditures went to New York-based landscape architect Ken Smith, who won an international competition to design the Great Park. The landscape designers, planners, architects, engineers and public relations consultants that Smith selected, some paid as much as $250 an hour, cost more than $47 million, records show.
- Communications and strategy firm Forde and Mollrich for years was paid an annual $1.2-million retainer fee for public relations work, an amount that was cut in half last summer. Two balloon pilots and a hostess have for years been paid $380,000 a year to operate the park’s signature attraction; a six-piece band was paid $2,300 to play for the ride’s 2007 unveiling. Roughly $18,650 was spent trucking in more than 100 tons of snow for a 2010 “snow day” event,plus $5,000 for gloves.
- Others, including Larry Agran — a 26-year veteran of the Irvine council and a park booster — say Irvine could raise money by selling off parkland for up to $4 million an acre, perhaps for a hotel, resort or high school. “We own close to 1,500 acres of land free and clear and we can develop it in any way we see fit,” Agran said.
- Still, most of the property remains behind fences and off-limits to the public. The runways are leased out for auto testing, television commercials, RV storage and cycling races. A refurbished hangar is rented out for weddings and high school proms. Another stretch is home to an industrial-sized composting operation. A sign posted at a fruit tree orchard called “The Giving Grove,” which donates produce to local food banks, warns visitors to keep out.
As Scott Moxley, at the OC Weekly, has pointed out, Agran and Krom used the Great Park money to pay off Republican consultants. That is one of the reasons they have stayed in p0wer. This year they even recruited a fake Republican, Katherine Daigle, to run for Mayor so that the GOP vote would be split, allowing Agran to defeat his opponent, Irvine Council Member Steven Choi.
Will Irvine’s voters ever dump Agran and Krom?