The view of the former El Toro Marine Corp. Air Station from the Irvine Great Park balloon ride.
A dozen years after Orange County voters first approved a plan to turn an old military base into a massive park on par with San Diego’s Balboa or New York’s Central, only a fraction of Irvine’s Great Park has been built—and most of the allotted funds have disappeared.
Last week, Irvine City Council members voted to issue subpoenas to compel people to testify as part of a forensic audit looking at the project’s mismanagement of public dollars.
About $215 million has been spent on the project—and just 230 of its 1,300 acres have been developed. The first audit—presented in January—found that Great Park leadership overpaid contractors, hadn’t fully vetted vendors and had awarded most contracts without competitive bids. The city paid one consultant $12,000 to alter just one word in a groundwater report, according to the audits findings.
But auditors told Irvine’s City Council that many of the park’s primary contractors refused to talk with them, and the city hopes compelling these individuals to participate will provide a fuller picture of where the money went.
Last year, the council ditched its decade-old plan for the land and approved a developer’s proposal to build a golf course and sports complex in exchange for the right to build 4,600 homes there.
What happens next for Irvine’s Orange County Great Park? How much time and money should be spent auditing the project? Is more investigation warranted?
Larry Agran, City Councilmember and former Mayor of Irvine, CA
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