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Jun-19-2012 13:39printcomments

Behind Irvine's $2.2 Billion Fight for the Great Park's Future

The 'Great Park' project is losing tax-based financial support quickly.

The iconic Great Park balloon at a recent event held at the park. (Photo by: Adam Elmahrek)
The iconic Great Park balloon at a recent event held at the park. (Photo by: Adam Elmahrek)

(IRVINE, CA) - Behind Irvine's $2.2 Billion Fight for the Great Park's Future is part one of a two-part look at the financial realities of the Great Park in Irvine, California, situated on the former El Toro Marine base.

It is a story Salem-News.com has followed closely. These days we aren't having to monitor the situation as frequently, because a personable, critical, active reporter in OC has been following the saga of this old air base and providing information that we in turn reference. That reporter is Adam Elmahrek with the Voice of OC. In the early period of our investigation into El Toro's nightmarish toxicity and the related Marine illnesses and deaths, we criticized the Orange County press for turning a blind eye to this behemoth of a political problem. Today we are seeing a different shade of orange.

When Gov. Jerry Brown axed redevelopment agencies last year in order to balance the budget, he threw a wrench into the building plans and budgets of cities up and down the state.

But probably no city stands to lose more from the state's move than the city of Irvine, which had counted on its redevelopment agency to put it in the pantheon of cities with world-renowned parks.

It was clear from the beginning that the Orange County Great Park would take a huge hit; $1.4 billion over 40 years is the number that has been cited for the past several months. But look closer and the amount of lost revenue goes much higher — more than $2.2 billion.

Here's how it breaks down:

The state Department of Finance's decision last month involved two funding streams. The $1.4 billion would flow to the city from increased property taxes over a period of 40 years as thousands of homes are built around the park through a development agreement with Heritage Fields El Toro. But when Brown ended redevelopment, he essentially diverted that stream away from Irvine and to Sacramento.

Irvine leaders have sued for the $1.4 billion, arguing that the state can't take the money because the city's agreement with the developer is an “enforceable obligation” agreed to before redevelopment was axed and requires the city to build the park.

If that battle is not enough, the city is also fighting on another front.

While most of the attention has been paid to the $1.4 billion, the state is also laying claim to at least a portion of another $812.9 million in revenue that the city was counting on for the park. This money was scheduled to come via a 2007 financing deal between the city and its redevelopment agency.

Story continues here: Behind Irvine's $2.2 Billion Fight for the Great Park's Future

Don't miss part two in Adam's series report: How Can the Great Park Be Built Without Redevelopment?

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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