Park Place Owners Have a Rocky History in Irvine

Park-Place-office.jpg
Maguire had this office tower built at Park Place in 2006.
Maguire Properties' announcement today that it has sold its Park Place I office property in Irvine is just the latest twist for a massive campus that seems to have been dogged by controversy since the Los Angeles-based developer acquired it five years ago.

To get a sense for this, just follow this timeline.

June 1999: After more than two decades as the most visible tenant at the futuristic, distinctive green-glass, 1.7 million-square-foot Park Place office complex off the 405 freeway in Irvine, engineering giant Fluor Corp. leaves for a campus-style complex in nearby Aliso Viejo. Left behind for owner Crow Winthrop Development Limited Partnership, a division of Dallas-based Trammel Crow Co., is about 600,000 square feet of now-available space--the single-largest vacancy ever to hit the Orange County market at the time.

2002: Crow Winthrop complains to the city of Irvine about its affordable-housing requirements and guidelines for minor development changes getting in the way of operating Park Place.   

April 2004: Maguire, the largest office landlord in downtown LA, buys most of Park Place from Crow Winthrop for an undisclosed price.
July 2004: Maguire tells city officials that it plans to buy most of the Park Place campus it doesn't already own. This now includes 275,000-square-foot Park Place II. Promotional materials boast, "The Park Place Irvine Office Campus is an architectural gem in the heart of Orange County's highly desirable Greater Airport Area submarket." Features include "2.1 million square feet of Class 'A' office space,"  "a relaxing, park-like campus design," "easy commuter access from every direction, "on-site retail, restaurants and residential" and "pedestrian walkways, waterscape features and outdoor art pieces" surrounding the office campus.

2005: As Maguire indicates it will build 3,450 apartments and condos on its Park Place properties, the developer carries over the previous owner's complaint about the affordable housing and development change rules.

November 2006: State records show Maguire contributed $120,000 to Planning 2020, which financially supported the Hometown Voter Guide that helped elect former Irvine mayor and now-City Councilman Larry Agran's preferred candidates, then-Mayor (now councilwoman and congressional candidate) Beth Krom and Councilman (now mayor) Sukhee Kang. Krom and Kang deny wrongdoing, and Maguire claims its Planning 2020 contributions were in support of Measure M, the voter approved half-cent sales tax funding transportation projects countywide.

2007: Irvine officials say Maguire is threatening to sue the city over the unresolved issue of affordable housing and plan-check rules. The Irvine City Council holds a series of closed-door sessions--in other words, out of the public view--to discuss the matter. At one point, an agreement between the city and the developer is proposed. Council members Christina Shea and Steven Choi--who represent a minority on the Krom-Kang-Agran-led panel--walk out of two of the closed meetings, arguing that they had not been informed of the agreement in a timely manner, and criticizing their colleagues for not discussing it before the public. Maguire's attorney Edmond M. Connor pins the developer's frustrations on city staff members changing requirements each time Maguire proposes changes at Park Place, saying the company needed clarification and the agreement was a way to end the dispute.

January 2008: Krom, Kang and Agran approve the agreement during closed session. Maguire agrees to pay the city $9.8 million if the project is completely built.

March 2008: Local attorney Phil Greer challenges the legality of the agreement being reached behind closed doors.

Early April 2008: The Irvine City Council brings the agreement back for a public vote. Shea and Choi move to send the matter back to the Planning Commission so the agreement process will begin anew "the proper way." They brand the previous closed session vote as illegal, but attorneys for the city and Maguire disagree, saying the developer's initial threat of legal action meant it could be discussed in private. Kicking it back to the Planning Commission fails 2-3. As the three amigos (Krom, Kang and Agran) begin to give another nod of approval to the deal, Shea and Choi walk out again, this time quite publicly. The agreement passes 3-0 with two sudden absences. Agran defends the vote, saying it will bring nearly $10 million to the city.

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