Letter: Privatization of Irvine Bowl Park

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The FOA and Terra lawsuits bring the headlined issue front and center. Although our city is the landlord for the entire property, all of the Park except for the tennis courts has been privatized for practical purposes. The Irvine Co. 1947 Grant Deed to the City is clear, the Park is to be used for live performances, cultural events and public recreation. For-profit wedding programs, the best venue to be an outdoor restaurant” and VIP parking for the venues are in no way shape or form fall under any of those categories as stipulated in the Grant Deed.

The consequence of violating the terms of the Grant Deed would be a reversion of the property back to the Irvine Company. Perhaps the latter would not be a bad thing as they would certainly respect the intent of the gift better than the FOA has. The 2019 FOA attempt to end-run the permit process (two-week notice to lock gates on tennis courts) in closed Irvine Bowl committee sessions did not engender any trust in the tennis community.

The tennis courts are the second most used recreational facility in the City according to the recreational committee. Main Beach Park came in first. We are fortunate to be graced by the natural beauty of the space. We have open play tennis while often sharing food with a diverse group of people and friends of wide-ranging age, multi-generations, faiths, social-economic status, political views and ancestry. That is the reason that we are so vehemently opposed to the elimination of this special and historical facility.

Numerous proposals within the last 30 years have been floated by the FOA to rid the Irvine Bowl Park of the tennis courts, principally to develop a first-class restaurant with a wedding venue. Those of us in the tennis community and other Laguna citizens concerned about active recreation and quality of life in Laguna have steadfastly opposed these attempts to undo public recreational facilities and will continue to do so even via the electoral process. It is our hope to persuade the City to support us and, specifically, renegotiate its lease with the FOA regarding control of the tennis courts.

The current FOA lease with the City runs through 2040. The latest lease was negotiated under the threat of FOA taking their show on the road. Thus the low rent and inclusion of the tennis courts parcel.  It may be a good idea for the FOA to take their show on the road and evolve their show. Many of us are tired of watching performers stand still. FOA should always be welcome to do performances at Irvine Bowl. However, the City has this big asset on the balance sheet not generating enough revenues to support projects that are beneficial to citizens, neighborhood parks for example. Using the facilities as envisioned by the Irvine Co. would be in the best interest of the citizens and not one private organization.

Ray Tang, Laguna Beach

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