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The Cowards Opposing Irvine’s Slow Growth Referendum

Last year, 19,000 Irvine voters signed a referendum saying they — not the developer-controlled city council — ought to decide the location of the Veteran’s Cemetery and Memorial.  And there’s another referendum petition aimed at giving citizens a stronger voice about development in Irvine that is getting unwanted and cowardly attention.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there on Irvine’s slow-growth referendum issue.  I encourage those with questions to see the social media feeds for Irvine for Responsible Growth.  Claims about how this effort would kill affordable housing developments is just one of the untruths being spread.

Worse, anonymous cowards are leaving letters in neighborhoods spreading false information.  Organizers of the referendum are having anon letters sent to employers with outright lies and falsehoods.  The quiet personal attack campaigns are — in a word — cowardly.  Citizens are supposed to participate in a democracy and underhanded campaigns to discredit organizers is just plain bullshit.  If you get a letter from a “concerned neighbor” consider that “concerned neighbor” didn’t have the backbone to put their name to the claims and likely isn’t a neighbor.

The note below was received by a volunteer from Irvine for Responsible Growth.  It’s worth a read as a warning to anyone in Irvine who might dare to oppose the major developers in Irvine while getting no support from the developer-backed city council majority:

High stakes political contests are expected to be hard fought, driven by a combination of passion, determination, and money. How should we feel about tactics fueled by misinformation, false speculation, and individual attacks attempting to destroy people’s reputations? Perhaps we have come to expect such things in politics, but we should not let them go unchallenged. 

This past weekend, volunteers with the Irvine for Responsible Growth initiative (IRG) were met with a mix of hostility and sympathy as they canvassed in University Hills. Overnight, flyers were placed on mailboxes in the neighborhood accusing IRG of being a deceptive extortion scam with a hidden agenda, secretly funded to line the pockets of lobbyists and political consultants while driving up taxpayer costs. IRG volunteers were painted as being misleading, defensive, borderline intimidating, unreasonable, slick, and not trustworthy. These are all words used verbatim in the flyer. 

Let us put aside the fact that placing these flyers on mailboxes is illegal in the first place.

Let us put aside the fact that all of these statements are accusatory and misleading.

Rather, let us focus on facts that will actually move the discussion forward.

1. Simply stated, the goal of IRG is to include Irvine residents in the approval process for development. There is no other goal. There is no ulterior motive. 

2. The process is already “very, very political” — IRG will change it to include Irvine residents whose voices and desires currently are not taken into account. 

3. If successful, voting will be done during general elections, with no added taxpayer cost.

4. IRG enables and empowers Irvine residents to make their own decisions. There are absolutely no roles for lobbyists or political consultants. No one will make any money from this. If there is some way to profit from this, we would love to hear about it. 

5. There is no shadow funding. IRG is driven by the passion and wallets of its volunteers. We are paying for paper copies, official documentation from City Hall, stationery, clipboards, and Facebook promotion fees. No one is being paid to gather signatures. We have nothing to hide.

Now let us examine the other side. Beginning with a nameless editorial in the OC Register ( and fast-forward to this University Hills flyer, IRG has come under baseless and relentless attacks since its very beginning. Its leaders have been harassed in person and online. So let us ask some real questions.

1. Who would potentially be hurt by a successful IRG campaign? Unscrupulous developers.

2. Who is behind these attacks on IRG, from the anonymous editorial to this University Hills flyer? Some anonymous coward(s).

3. Who has opposed IRG on the record with misinformation. Melissa Fox and Lauren Johnson-Norris. 

We would welcome a meeting with any IRG opponents before the city council so that all of Irvine’s residents can come to their own conclusions about IRG. 

In the course of our volunteer efforts, we have been encouraged by the thousands of residents who still care. Who still think Irvine is worth preserving, and worth fighting for. For them and for our beloved city, know that our fight does not end with IRG — it is only the beginning.


It only takes about 12,000 signatures to get on the ballot.  Sign the petition and let voters decide.


  1. BobbyS3 BobbyS3 January 17, 2018

    For more info:

  2. Arthur Strauss, MD Arthur Strauss, MD January 17, 2018

    The petition in question is not defined as “slow growth” by its proponents. Slow growth equates as no growth by those opposed to the idea that citizens should have any say in the future of town or city in which they reside. We want a re-balancing of growth that is matched by infrastructure ie: modern traffic management, real neighborhood schools, non-toxic environments, etc. We want a City Council that is not controlled by developers. We want a livable city. We don’t think that is asking for too much.

    • KK KK January 18, 2018

      Yes. This. I have no problem with growth in Irvine, just want the infrastructure and services to support that growth.

  3. Kenneth Stahl Kenneth Stahl January 20, 2018

    Although I do not doubt the motivations of the initiative’s proponents, there is no question that the initiative will slow growth, increase housing costs, worsen traffic, and make it impossible for affordable housing to be approved in Irvine, at a time when home prices and rents are already at record levels.

    1) The initiative exempts affordable housing proposals “required by state or federal law.” As someone who has been studying land use law for almost 20 years, I can tell you that there is NO state or federal law that requires a zoning or plan change to approve affordable housing. In short, the initiative dos not have a meaningful exception for affordable housing. Having studied ballot-box zoning for years, I can also tell you that affordable housing is the MOST likely to be vetoed at the ballot box.
    2) According to this piece, local opposition to new housing is the number one reason why California is facing a historic housing crisis.
    We need to build more.
    3) The initiative does not require “concurrency” between housing and infrastructure. Voters can approve developments lacking the infrastructure and vote down developments that have it. In fact, the latter is very likely to happen, as homeowners typically oppose new housing growth in their communities for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with infrastructure – preserving community character, home values, misperceptions about the type of people who will be living there, etc. There is no reason to think voters will approve all the good projects and vote down all the bad ones.
    4) The initiative will slow down growth because the additional hurdle of a ballot measure and the unpredictable outcome of any such measure will deter many developers from even proposing new developments, and, as stated before, it is far more likely that good projects will be voted down by voters than approved.
    5) The initiative will make increase traffic congestion by pushing housing growth to neighboring communities. Irvine’s traffic is driven by the imbalance between jobs and housing — way more jobs than homes. This initiative will only make that worse.

    • Not an Affordable Housing Initiative Not an Affordable Housing Initiative January 20, 2018

      I seemed to read that there was a slew of affordable housing laws that Brown signed into law in the beginning of this year, starting from SB-35. From what I read from this initiative, it was not meant to solve the affordable housing problem so instead of criticizing, why don’t you find solutions even though, there have been many articles that state that Cali can’t legislate itself out of the housing crisis.
      Your solution appears to be to continue to allow our corrupt city council to continue to rubber stamp million dollar homes. How many of the recent projects are affordable in Irvine? As reported by this blog, Lauren-Johnson Norris voted in favor of a high $$ Strader project over an affordable housing project with consideration for alternate modes of transportation. The IBC traffic is a disaster and it’s only 25% built out. Cramming more without other mobility options is craziness. This is not the solution and this petition appears to provide voter oversight to this seriously broken process. As for increasing traffic congestion, your solution to continue to build without the requirement of infrastructure is pure folly and will the the ultimate disaster for Irvine and only make the problem worse. The problem with the traffic is not the supply, it’s the affordability and that’s what is driving people out and creating the traffic issues we have NOW without this initiative. Ask yourself – how many of the recent rubber stamping is affordable? What incentive does a developer have to build affordable housing units when Irvine city council is bought and sold by developers.

    • Sharon Toji Sharon Toji January 21, 2018

      This does concern me. I believe that Irvine must accept that it is an urban area, and build to acknowledge that, but it must concurrently marry much better zoning and design regulations with parking, mass transit, ride sharing programs along with the necessary pocket parks, schools, gathering places and other neighborhood amenities. It was short sighted to allow only 5 stories, for instance. Now every square inch of housing property in the areas near UCI and Jamboree are covered by buildings, with nothing but some interior pools and exercise rooms provided for the residents. The fiction is that residents are all 20-30 somethings, no families, no children or older people. I agree we need to take the power away from the developers and the developer influenced city council, but the regulations have to be complete. Nothing gets built without the infrastructure. And low-cost housing must be protected and rewarded.

      • senior senior January 21, 2018

        Thank you Sharon!!! You are a wise and informed woman!

  4. irvine isn’t new haven irvine isn’t new haven January 21, 2018

    Mr Stahl is trying to turn irvine into downtown LA or HongKong. He wants to pave over every blade of grass. remove the sunshine and destroy Irvine’s quality of life. Me Stahl – if you are going to blindly cram thousands of people in this city with complete disregard for the mobility, you are at the core of destruction of Irvine’s quality of life. you should take heed from your fellow chapman professor Joel Kotkin in his recent OC register article. or maybe because he isn’t an ivy leaguer he’s not as important? candidates like Dave Min should think twice about supporting your agenda because it shows that Dave cares not at all about the Irvine quality of life.

  5. OVER IT OVER IT January 21, 2018

    Listen, eventually California will be built out from the coast to state line. Irvine has absorbed more than it’s fair share of development, housing, and population growth. Over 21% (45K people) from 2010-2015! Which doesn’t even take into account all of the new deveoplment in construction.

    There is (was) a master plan for this city and its built out. IRG wants residents to have a voice in the expansion process. Right now most of city council isn’t listening. If giving residents a voice in the process slows down development and stress on our city infrastructure then so be it. Enough is enough.

  6. Correction: 39 v. 9 affordable housing units Correction: 39 v. 9 affordable housing units January 22, 2018

    Correction: 39 housing units, not 66

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