Irvine Directs $42 Million in COVID-Relief Funds Toward Park Repairs

The City of Irvine is considering spending 80 percent of its federal COVID-19 relief funds on improvements to a local park.

It received $53 million from the American Rescue Plan, a pandemic stimulus package, and will discuss during an April 27 meeting whether to put $42 million of that money toward Heritage Community Park upgrades.

According to a staff report, improvements to the park would include rebuilding the community center, expanding the fine arts center, adding parking and shade structures, expanding sports courts, and reconfiguring the pond with water features.

Councilmember Anthony Kuo said he was surprised and disappointed Heritage Park was on the staff report, adding that he directed staff that the money should be spent on one-time expenses, since it is a one-time grant.

Kuo said he would like to see the city use the money to waive certain fees for residents.

“Newport Beach as an example, they actually waived business license fees for a year for their city,” Kuo said. “If we chose to do that in Irvine, that would be at a cost of about $1 million a year to us.”

About a month ago, the city waived fees for youth sports programs, and Kuo said he could see some of the money going to fund that.

“That was something that we thought was hitting the pocketbooks of families throughout town,” he said. “And so really, these dollars, while one of the components that the federal government has said is it can be used as revenue replacement to offset revenue decreases, we really want to have these revenues impact the local residents and the local families as much as possible.”

Councilmember Larry Agran put out his own memo of what he thought the city should spend the money on. His suggestions included establishing a city hall office of public health, an office of small business assistance, an office of emergency housing assistance, and more.

Kuo said he disagreed with most of the ideas on Agran’s memo and that Agran put out the document for purely political purposes.