Seven hundred and sixty-six new residential units are set to be added to the Great Park Neighborhoods in Irvine within the next several years — despite complaints from many residents who say they aren’t welcome.

Plans are well underway for two residential developments at the Great Park Neighborhoods, which include 684 new condominiums near Great Park Ice spread across approximately 61 acres and 82 units in Cadence Park across 15 acres.

Construction has not started for the homes near Great Park Ice, according to city spokesperson Kristina Perrigoue. For the project in Cadence Park, rough grading of the site, cleaning up and smoothing out the surface, is underway but construction of the residential units has not yet begun, she said.

Completion of the new units and a new retail center at the southern portion of the Great Park Neighborhoods would, in an ideal world, be very close, said FivePoint spokesperson Kory Lynch. Construction on the retail center is scheduled to wrap up in the first quarter of 2026 and be up and running that summer, said city manager Oliver Chi.

The retail center is expected to be completed before these 766 new homes are occupied, said Chi.

Development of the 82 new homes at Cadence Park was jeopardized after a resident challenged it over a lack of shopping facilities nearby and concerns of overcrowding. The City Council, however, said the coming retail center will alleviate the need for shopping options, giving the project a final stamp of approval this week.

Filing the appeal on the project was Phillip Pham, a Great Park Neighborhoods resident who lives within 500 feet of the project site. Pham — who grew up in Irvine, moved to New York in 2008 and came back to the city in 2019 —  said the proposed site is “ideally positioned for a shopping center.”

“Around the Central Park area, there were lots and lots of food, whereas in the Great Park, there are not many options,” Pham said. “The closest proximity for food and beverage for Great Park residents is Woodbury Town Center. For the residents at Portola Springs and Altair, there is not a single thing for them nearby. They have to go to Irvine Spectrum, Foothill Ranch or Woodbury. Woodbury has been very, very crowded.”

David Suk, who began living in the Great Park Neighborhoods in 2021, said there is a “relatively huge retail desert” at the Great Park compared to the rest of Irvine.

Suk, who said he mostly goes to Woodbury for retail, says the sheer number of visitors to the Great Park once it is developed, plus the additional housing, will place a “tremendous amount of demand” on the retail center in the middle of the park, scheduled to break ground next year.

“At the end of the day, as a resident, I understand that development must happen in stages,” said Suk, who noted he was excited about the planned retail development. “But to give up this parcel of land, which is essentially the last possible retail location along the north of the park, is irresponsible city planning.”

The retail center, according to the staff report, will be about 1.5 miles away from the Cadence Park homes and within 1 mile of the ones near Great Park Ice.

However, said Suk, the size of the retail center is “a fraction of the size of Woodbury Town Center,” and he thinks it will not be enough for residents who need retail options.

The planned retail center will be spread over approximately 77,000 square feet, while in comparison, Woodbury takes up 450,000.

In addition to retail offerings, Great Park Neighborhood parents are also worried about overcrowding at Cadence Park K-8 School, Portola High School, Beacon Park School and Solis Park School, where children at the planned 766 residences will go.

The city, on the other hand, says the Irvine Unified School District is in a good position to accept more students.

“These units are accounted for within a larger development plan and align with the district’s long-range enrollment projections for schools within Great Park Neighborhoods,” said IUSD spokesperson Annie Brown.

Enrollment at the four impacted schools stands at 4,222 students for the 2023-24 school year, according to IUSD. Capacity is 5,600 students, which leaves room for 1,378 additional students, per IUSD data.

But parents of Cadence Park K-8 students, including Parisa Yazdani, co-chair of the city’s Great Park Task Force, said she doesn’t believe the school has the capacity. Two years ago, she said, her daughter was in a portable classroom for her fifth-grade class.

And Cadence Park K-8 parent Jennifer Chan says her children, one in second grade and the other in fifth, have more than 30 classmates.

But city staff say residential use of the land at Cadence Park is appropriate and compatible with adjacent homes and homes are less impactful upon the quality of life at the Great Park Neighborhoods than previously approved uses of the land, which included a gym.

Ground broke for the Great Park Neighborhoods in 2013, and of the 10,556 dwelling units allowed, developer FivePoint has sold to homebuilders approximately 8,601 units, according to staff. That leaves around 1,955 units vacant.

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The sites for the new homes in Cadence Park and near Great Park Ice have had several multi-use projects planned over the years, including a LifeTime Fitness facility in 2019, but were never constructed, according to a staff report.

A FivePoint spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on why those projects never materialized.

At the time, FivePoint identified that “providing additional single-family detached homes on the project site would better meet the city’s and California’s needs for additional housing,” according to a staff report.

The gym “would’ve resulted in about 5,000 vehicle trips per day,” said city planner Bill Rodrigues. “This project, only having 82 detached single-family units is much less intense … and as a result, less trips are actually generated by the development.”

“I’m in favor of this project. We need more housing units here; we have a housing crisis,” said Councilmember Kathleen Treseder.

Councilmember Larry Agran said he recognizes residents’ frustrations that a long-promised retail site hasn’t yet materialized, but he assured them that retail is coming “relatively soon.”