Mayor Christina L. Shea delivered her State of the City Address in Irvine City Hall Council Chamber on Feb. 25, covering the topics of sustainability in the community, public safety, Irvine’s fiscal strength and the ongoing development of the Orange County Great Park.
Shea announced that the California Environmental Protection Agency awarded Irvine for its sustainability, most notably in recognition for its organic landscape policy, which features a reduction in the use of synthetic pesticides on city property and the implementation of goats for fire and weed mitigation.
“Our non-toxic pesticide policy… is maintaining all of our parks, our greenbelts, and our open space with non-toxic pesticides and organic methods,” she said in her State of the City Address.
A prominent feature of Irvine’s organic policy is the use of goat herds which reduce brush and eat invasive plants in order to reduce fire risk. Five years ago, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy brought Spanish and Boer goats to Bee Canyon for a coastal sage scrub restoration project to help consume thatch in steep, rocky areas. Laguna Beach has been employing goats since 1992 as a way to control potentially flammable vegetation.
In her discussion of her planned green initiatives for Irvine, Shea said that she intends to expand goat herds,into more areas of Irvine to continue weed and fire abatement.
To investigate cost effective measures to reduce energy consumption in Irvine, she proposed the development of a Strategic Energy Plan.
Shea also addressed an approved review of Community Choice Energy, an alternative to the rising cost of electricity which serves as a means of giving residents a choice of clean energy while enabling reductions in the amount paid for monthly energy bills.
Additionally, drawing attention to Irvine’s Green Waste diversion recycling program and Zero Waste Initiative, Shea said that “these efforts collectively have diverted more than 12,000 tons of green waste and food from landfills since the inception of the programs.”
Touching on Irvine being one of the safest communities in the nation, Shea said that “once again, the City of Irvine was honored for the lowest violent crime rate in the United States for a city its size.”
In her address, Shea also turned to rehabilitation initiatives in Irvine. The Council has approved an additional $10 million in funding, ensuring upgrades to the Aquatic Center; improved equipment and new safety surfaces for playgrounds in Las Lomas, Heritage, and Deerfield; the continued remodel of the Irvine Animal Care Center; and improvements for the Lakeview, Rancho and Trabuco Senior Centers.
“We are committed to keeping the City of Irvine facilities well maintained and with top-notch amenities,” Shea said.
The issue of traffic congestion was addressed in the speech as well, with Shea stating that plans are being developed by the newly-formed Transportation Commission’s leadership in order to relieve the problem.
The staff is creating new project improvements to elongate left turn lanes in order to enable smoother traffic flow. Additionally, nine million of Measure M2 grant funds will be used to help reduce congestion.
Shea intends to expand the walking and biking system in the Irvine Business Complex as well, and presently more bridges are being built to enhance transportation.
“With the largest park development project currently underway,” Shea said, referring to the upcoming Orange County Great Park, “we continue to add exciting amenities.”
An updated trail system, training facility for police and firemen, botanical gardens, a fire museum and a permanent amphitheater are all intended to be a part of the new park. She plans to enhance family entertainment with an ice rink, a tree lighting ceremony, more holiday activities and a food court.
Shea also intends to establish the Veterans Cemetery at the Golf Course site in the Great Park.
Along with restating her commitment to the Veterans Cemetery, she announced her plans to establish a Mayor’s Veteran Advisory Council.
Shea also addressed the topic of education in her State of the City speech.
“The City Council continues to provide financial support to Irvine schools to ensure skilled teachers and a dynamic learning environment is available for our students,” Shea said.
$11 million is invested annually to support Irvine — and some Tustin — students.
Shea acknowledged UCI’s development of a landmark medical complex adjacent to UCI research park. “The new center will redefine medical research, doctor training and patient care,” she said, “by shifting the focus from treating diseases to avoiding them in the first place.”
“Thank you to all of our learning institutions for providing Irvine with a diverse and exciting range of talented people who contribute to a creative, innovative and inspiring educational environment — a benefit for Irvine businesses, residents and the local economy.”
Shea ended her speech by pointing to the unmatched quality of Irvine as a city, restating aspects such as the city’s reputation as being one of the nation’s safest communities, the City Council’s unwavering support of Irvine’s public schools and the thriving business community.
Alessandra Arif is a City News Intern for the 2020 winter quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.