By Ann Frances –
It was standing room only this evening in the packed Irvine City Council Chamber as Mayor Christina Shea delivered the annual State of the City Address. Following the invocation by Mariner’s Church Pastor Eric Geiger, who prayed that God “continue to bless the city of Irvine,” the 4:30 special agenda council meeting reconvened at 6 p.m. for Shea’s address, after a pre-address reception outside the council chamber.
Following a chamber-of-commerce-style video that presented the accomplishments and accolades of 2019, the three-term mayor said, “The state of the city is undeniably on track as we head into this new year.” She later added: “The city of Irvine is debt free and fiscally strong.”
Mayor Shea recapped the previous year’s accolades that included Forbes ranking UC Irvine as No. 1 on its annual list of Best Value colleges; Best City to Live In, by the Orange County Register; and lowest rate of violent crime per capita nationally, out of cities with populations of 250,000 or more.
“We continue to invest in public safety as our top priority,” Mayor Shea said.
Accomplishments in 2019, Shea said, included the opening of Great Park Ice, touted as the largest community ice rink in the state; the opening of parks at Portola Springs and Los Olivos, complete with sports fields and tennis courts and community centers.
There are plans in the works, the mayor said, for the Irvine Business Center (IBC). New residential developments over the last 10 years have created a need for more amenities for bikes, walking and recreation. A new program called IBC Connects was initiated in 2019 to link residential, commercial, retail and recreation spaces.
The long-awaited veterans cemetery will be built, Shea said, on up to 100 acres of land designated for the Southern California State Veterans Cemetery, located within the Orange County Great Park, on what is known as the golf course site.
“The city of Irvine is far ahead of most cities in the United States with our green initiative,” the mayor said, as she described the city-wide no-pesticide initiative for which the city has been honored.
She noted that the council has approved an additional $10 million in the budget to refurbish playgrounds, the aquatics center, and give senior centers facelifts.
“Ryan Lemmon Stadium will receive new seating and a new video scoreboard,” Shea said.
“Development of Wild Rivers Waterpark will get underway and, hopefully, open in 2021,” the mayor noted, and a permanent amphitheater, among other amenities, are coming to the Great Park.
The mayor turned to the challenges she says the city continues to address, including traffic congestion.
“We continue to make progress toward real solutions for traffic congestion,” she explained, pointing to the plan to elongate left-turn lanes and to build more bridges to keep traffic moving along the corridors.
Mayor Shea thanked city staffers in attendance who helped move forward initiatives. She recognized FivePoint Holdings Chairman and CEO Emile Haddad and Chief Operating Officer Lynn Jochim for a productive partnership. She also thanked Senior VP of Corporate Affairs for the Irvine Company, Paul Hernandez, noting the company’s investment made recently in new stores and upgrades at Irvine Spectrum.
“I will continue to promote peace and harmony,” Mayor Shea concluded, with the stated goal to “make Irvine one of the most inclusive cities in America.”