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Irvine Council to Vote on Developer’s Streamlined Great Park Plan

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Orange County Great Park designer Ken Smith was hired for his vision. When he looked out at 1,300 acres of runways and abandoned buildings at a former military base in Irvine, he imagined a gathering place that could provide a center to this sprawling county, rivaling New York’s Central Park and San Diego’s Balboa Park.


Great Park designer Ken Smith envisioned the 1,300-acre former military base as a gathering spot for Orange County, rivaling New York’s Central Park. (Credit: Los Angeles Times)

But after years of designing an ambitious park, for which he and his team were paid millions, it seems increasingly likely that Smith’s vision will be pushed aside in favor of a more pragmatic plan.

On Tuesday, the Irvine City Council is expected to vote on whether to approve a plan proposed by a developer to build about 688 acres of the park. Gone is the long, winding canyon that was described in the park’s master plan as a “beautiful oasis — a place to wander and daydream.” In its place could be a 188-acre golf course. Gone is the largely centralized parking that would have forced people out of their cars to wander around the park. In its place, parking lots scattered throughout.

“They really are developing something that isn’t creating a great public park in any way,” Smith said. “It’s just sort of cheap and fast and takes up a lot of space.”

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