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O.C.'s Great Park at risk after $1.4 billion in tax money lost

May 30, 2012 |  6:23 pm

Marine base
The Great Park that officials had promised would be built on a retired Marine base in the heart of Orange County was in jeopardy Wednesday after state officials ruled that $1.4 billion in property funds can’t be spent to transform the sprawling stretch of land into what had been billed as America’s next great urban park.

The funds make up much of the money that was to be tapped to turn the old base into urban parkland featuring sculpted canyons, a lake, meandering pathways and dozens of athletic fields.

The state’s ruling leaves Irvine scrambling for alternatives, such as a scaled-down park.

“Are there options? Sure,” Irvine Councilman Jeff Lalloway said. “Are the options going to be on the same scale that was originally promised? No. I think that’s fairly clear because the income stream won’t be there.”

The city was relying on property taxes collected from housing and commercial development to be built around the Great Park to fund the project, with $1.4 billion expected over 45 years.

But the state Legislature’s decision to eliminate redevelopment agencies means the money is no longer Irvine’s to use for creating the park.

Irvine received the decision from the state Department of Finance late Friday and filed a lawsuit the same day, asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from taking any funds until the issue is settled.

Lalloway said $2 million to $3 million is at stake now, with up to a billion dollars in future tax funds hanging in the balance.

The city has been looking for alternatives to help fund the Great Park for several months. Lalloway said the city has been in negotiations with developer Fivepoint Communities Inc. about nearly doubling the number of homes around the park while cutting back on commercial projects.


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-- Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: An old airplane hangar remains fenced off at The Great Park in Irvine. Credit: Christina House/ LA Times.