Orange County's proposed Great Park can't use property tax revenues as funding, California says

The Great Park in Irvine opens its new Palm Court Arts Complex and North Lawn this Saturday.  They are part of the first phase of construction in the park
The Great Park in Irvine opens its new Palm Court Arts Complex and North Lawn this Saturday. They are part of the first phase of construction in the park Photo courtesy of Orange County Great Park Corporation

State officials say the proposed Orange County Great Park cannot use nearly $1.5 billion in state tax revenues to fund the project.

The decision means Irvine’s plan for a 1,300-acre park at the old El Toro Marine Corps air base could be put on hold.

Irvine wanted to pay for the Great Park with property tax money from development planned around the park. But California's Department of Finance says the law that eliminated redevelopment agencies prevents that.

Economist Jan Brueckner of the University of California, Irvine says the Great Park is not dead, but the timing is off.

“In these hard times, these kinds of projects are luxuries we can’t afford," said Brueckner. "We have to wait until times get better.”

Irvine City Councilwoman Beth Krom told KPCC’s Air Talk that the city might raise more money by doubling the homes around the park or through public-private partnerships.

“We’re willing to look at new ways to advance the project," said Krom. "But what we’re not willing to do is to lower our standards for the kind of project that we want it to be.”

Krom also chairs the Great Park Corporation. She says Orange County’s 3 million people deserve an urban park.

“Great metropolitan parks by design take decades," said Krom. "Sometimes lifetimes.”

Krom says Irvine will see if it can reverse the state’s decision that blocks the city from using $1.4 billion in property tax revenue for the Great Park.

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