Editorial: the bubble is ready to burst

As August 2016 approaches, Irvine Unified School District continues to prepare for the addition of a fifth school to its chain of well-developed, award-winning high school campuses in hopes of alleviating overcrowding at current locations. But after inviting 2,400 new students to receive an education from California’s 7th best school district in terms of API scores, how long will this solution to lessen overcrowding in the city last? Our prediction: not long.

Portola High School is not the only addition to the Irvine community that is yet to come. Irvine is the largest city in Orange County and the most rapidly growing city in California, with a 4.9% growth rate in 2014 and a total population of 236,716, according to the last population census in 2013. This census showed an increase of over 66,000 residents since 10 years prior.

The city of Irvine is still expected to gain over 62,000 residents by the time the city master plan is carried out, yet residents are already feeling the repercussions of this rapid expansion. High school overcrowdedness and an increase in traffic jams are just a few of the major factors that have negatively affected the quality of living in Irvine, and these problems seem to only be getting worse.

Despite Steven Choi’s re-election as mayor of Irvine on Nov. 4, 2014, many Irvine community members disagree with Choi’s pro-growth mentality.

The incumbent mayor approved plans to build ten thousand homes near the Great Park, and the Irvine Spectrum Center continues to grow larger as buildings are stacked higher and restaurants, shops, hotels and entertainment establishments are added to accommodate the growing population.

In 1988, voters approved a plan called the Open Space Agreement, which set aside 16,000 acres of wilderness areas to be preserved. Between 1988 and 2012, expansion was closely supervised so that new roads and public areas were in agreement with the addition of new residents. However, residents are struggling to see the principles behind the agreement make a difference in their community today.

In addition, UC Irvine experienced a 7.7 percent rise in applications this year, with 88,792 students applying to attend in fall 2015, which is the highest number of applications the university has ever received. The increase in applicants could partially be a result of the thousands of new Irvine residents. The increased number of applicants caused the university’s GPA mean for applying students to rise to 3.3, potentially denying students who attended high school in Irvine the convenience of receiving higher education in their hometown.

Suggesting that Irvine quell its streak of flourishing economy and striving businesses is not what we are after; instead, as a staff, we believe that Irvine city officials should switch gears and focus on satisfying long-time citizens by making decisions that will improve their quality of living. We believe that the Irvine Company should consider the needs of the current population of Irvine and slow progression until current community needs are met, before looking towards expansion. It is time to disregard the master plan and remember the importance of quality over quantity.