Agran Makes His Moves at Great Park

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Photo by Christopher Victorio
A familiar role for Larry Agran on Wednesday: moving chess pieces at the Great Park.
When Great Park Corp. board members several months ago were chewing the fat at one of their monthly board meetings at Irvine City Hall, chairman Larry Agran mentioned how he envisioned open-air chess being played at the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

His wish is his command this weekend.

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Photo by Christopher Victorio
Joaquin Perkins makes his move.
The city councilman--a one-time presidential candidate, Irvine's former longtime mayor and Master Plannedville's version of Boss Hogg--squared off against national kindergarten chess champ Joaquin Perkins for publicity shots to promote this weekend's three-day "Chess at the Park" event at the Great Park.

The event, which runs Friday through Sunday, features kids' crafts, sports activities, chess games and, on the opening day, chess grandmaster Melikset Khachiyan playing 50 park visitors at once.

"Chess at the Park" also hosts the qualifying rounds for the SoCal Super State Chess Championship, which is sponsored by the Chess Palace in Garden Grove. The open high school winner moves on to represent Southern California in a national tournament scheduled for July 31 at the Irvine Hyatt.

What's ironic, of course, is Agran is the one who moves the chess pieces when it comes to the --any day now, they swear--construction of anything significant at the Great Park--not to mention Irvine "progressive" politics as a whole.

(Yes, the balloon ride, free concerts and Preview Park plot of grass are nice, but Orange Countians were promised years ago a park near the 5 Freeway and Sand Canyon in Irvine that rivals New York's Central Park or San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. They are still waiting.) 

The Great Park Corp. board that Agran leads makes recommendations to the Irvine City Council. All five council members also sit on the Great Park board, whose meetings have gotten more bloated with Great Park staff, city officials, park designers, park builders, lobbyists, contractors and other assorted hangers-on since being established by the council a year after Orange County voters essentially chose the park over a commercial airport on the former military base in 2002.

And still the voters wait.

The park also hosts--at 7:30 p.m. Saturday--a free family screening on the lawn of the flick Where the Wild Things Are. Parking is free also.

Spike Jonze's film follows Max, a rambunctious and sensitive boy who feels misunderstood at home and escapes to where the "wild things" are.

One can imagine Agran feeling the same way about the park he views as his legacy.

His critics, meanwhile, wonder if the Great Park is like Where the Wild Things Are: just make believe.
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