Marianne Gaido, a former Irvine city council member, mayoral candidate and co-author of the city’s master plan, was denied a new term on the Irvine Community Land Trust at the organization’s meeting last Monday. The Land Trust is an important organization that works with the City of Irvine to develop homes for people of modest means – whether its low income or affordable housing.
The ICLT recently separated from the city – even though millions in city tax dollars fund the organization – so meetings are closed to the public. The board consists of two city council members – chair Melissa Fox and Christina Shea, along with two members with close ties to developers who have contributed to the city council campaigns of both women. By a vote of 4-3, Gaido was denied another term on the Land Trust Board. Gaido ran on a ticket with former Mayor Larry Agran and current council member and ICLT chair Fox in 2014. Gaido was endorsed by DPOC in several elections.
A reason offered to Gaido for not granting her a new term was she had sent emails critical of members of the board for spending too much money on legal fees and marketing/public relations services instead of for projects related to actual low income/affordable housing development. And some of this goes back to the initiative by Irvine for Responsible Growth, a ballot measure that missed out on qualifying for the ballot.
The ICLT called for a legal analysis of the potential effect on affordable housing by the IRG initiative that was still in circulation mode. The cost was $9,000 even though the measure – pointed out by Gaido — had not even been qualified for the ballot and that the Trust’s action could be seen as political. The DPOC also passed a similar resolution viewed by some as protecting Fox.
Members of the IRG circulators asked to be heard at a public meeting of the Land Trust in April and May, and they were ignored until after the vote was taken to “oppose” the IRG initiative and to publicize the Land Trust stance. Gaido objected to the board’s position.
In July, 2017 the head of the subcommittee on the Bylaws for the Trust, Patrick Strader, requested that the Board no longer be subject to the Brown Act. Gaido again spoke against such action suggesting instead that meetings on affordable housing remain open to the public. The meetings are closed, even though funding for the organization comes from city tax dollars — millions of city tax dollars. The board also began spending serious money on PR and marketing communications services which Gaido questioned because the Land Trust has a wait list for the affordable units that is already years long and really doesn’t need to spend money to market affordable housing in Irvine.
Numerous complaints were filed with the City, HUD, and the FPPC against the Land Trust’s actions causing undue criticism of the non-profit established to create affordable housing.
At the August meetings, Gaido tells The LiberalOC that Fox and Shea complained vociferously about being attacked on social media. By September, the two city council members had been a target of an ongoing FPPC violation submitted by Dee Fox, who is a sister-in-law of an alleged aggrieved party in a legal contract controversy of the Fox Law Firm.
The Land Trust Attorney responded that he was working to represent Fox and Shea with the FPPC complaint. The board’s PR team had created a brochure, launched social media channels, had spearheaded design of a website, and created videos to cover responses to complaints made to the Fair Political Practices Commission. PR Community Forums, earned media, advertorials and E-newsletters are in the pipeline. Without Gaido to raise questions about their actions, Irvine residents fear the troika of Strader, Fox and Shea will use the cloak of secrecy, lack of public access, and millions inf taxpayer dollars to turn the Irvine Community Land Trust into their own political and partisan communications organization.
We’re told the DPOC will entertain a resolution on community land trusts for its September meeting; we have no doubt the measure was drafted to protect Councilmember Fox even thought the board she chairs takes public money, closes meetings to the public and sits on a board with developers who fund her political campaigns for city council and county party central committee. If the DPOC truly stands for accountability, transparency, open meetings, they will reject said resolution.