The single-story home in Irvine‘s Great Park surrounded by amenities and lush greenery had all the makings for an idyllic retirement Patricia Kennedy thought when she moved in in 2014.

Now, she says a multimillion-dollar amphitheater project threatens to upend those plans.

“If my husband wasn’t so in love with that house, I would sell it in a minute right now and get the max I can out of it and move,” Kennedy said.

On Feb. 22, Irvine’s council voted to continue negotiations with concert promoter Live Nation for a 14,000-seat amphitheater at Great Park instead of opting for a city-controlled, smaller facility that could seat around 8,000 people. At that meeting, residents who spoke overwhelmingly favored a smaller venue because they worried about the noise and traffic impacts of the large-scale venue.

“They (City Council) are responding to the billion-dollar interest in this town and not the people,” said Kennedy. “It’s not a progression.”

She is not alone in feeling this way. Other Great Park residents, Camiar Ohadi, Naveed Siddiqui and Daniel Chao, all moved to Irvine in the last few years, drawn to its highly ranked school districts, safe neighborhoods and ample green spaces.

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“Irvine and what Irvine Company built here years ago is a model suburb around the world,” said Siddiqui.

In September, the City Council initially approved an agreement with Live Nation for the design, construction and operation of a permanent outdoor 14,000-seat amphitheater to replace the temporary FivePoint Amphitheatre. In that agreement, the total cost of the project is estimated at $130 million with the city contributing $110 million and Live Nation $20 million.

However, that agreement wasn’t a done deal, with the concert promoter and the city going back and forth in negotiations on details such as the cost. City staffers eventually offered councilmembers an alternative at the last meeting, an 8,000-seat, city-controlled venue, but it was rejected.

The larger amphitheater, Ohadi said, would “change Irvine irrevocably” because the traffic, sound and noise from the large concert venue would affect the quality of life.

But Councilmember Tammy Kim, who supports the 14,000-seat venue, said the council is reviewing the sound levels and architectural designs to ensure “we do our best to mitigate the sound.”

There have been concerns, too — raised from residents and councilmembers— about moving forward with Live Nation as a partner. The concert provider said it is partnering with the city subcommittee and staffers to identify the best path forward.

“Together, we will find solutions to address sound mitigation, traffic and parking while continuing an open and transparent dialogue with City Council, city staff and Irvine residents,” Live Nation said in a statement.

City Manager Oliver Chi, who has been negotiating on behalf of the city with Live Nation, said as staff “re-engage Live Nation” they are aiming for “productive dialogue, productive discussions to try to get to a win-win agreement for everyone involved.”

As next steps, Chi said, city staff has been meeting with the amphitheater subcommittee comprising of Kim and Councilmember Mike Carroll to review deal terms and iron out a “negotiating strategy” to reengage with Live Nation on a “new design, operating, construction agreement.”

“The amphitheater project is prioritized currently as a recommended Phase One project that will happen in the next five years,” Chi said. “We are definitely reserving funding and location in the park for the project.”

Staff will meet with the Great Park Board, comprising of the mayor and councilmembers, on March 14 to seek a final determination on the projects to be prioritized.

Chao hopes the council will be forthcoming with updates and transparency on the continued discussions with Live Nation.

But not everyone is wary of the larger concert venue.

Danny Regalado, another Great Park resident, is “really happy” the city is continuing with Live Nation to build the 14,000-seat amphitheater. He said he was surprised to hear people in the Quail Hill and Turtle Rock neighbors were “disturbed” by the sounds of the existing FivePoint venue because they “are almost eight miles away.”

“I hardly ever hear any loud noise,” Regalado said, who lives about three miles from the amphitheater.

Pacific Symphony is Orange County’s major professional orchestra and was the resident orchestra at Irvine Meadows for 30 years, playing its summer concerts there before it shuttered. The symphony then moved its summer programming to the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, but because of scheduling conflicts and new ordinances, it now plays its summer concert series at the temporary FivePoint Amphitheatre.

“We are incredibly excited,” John Forsyte, president and chief executive officer of Pacific Symphony, said of the planned venue. “It’s an unprecedented investment on the part of the city of Irvine.”

“The city has assured us that they see us as one of their high priorities,” Forsyte said. “They are trying to better understand what our needs are, what our aspirations are, what our programming strategy would be.”

OC Supervisor Don Wagner, who previously served as Irvine’s mayor, said he was happy the city was moving forward with the 14,000-seat project as “the top artists in the world will tour our county.”

“While the permanent (amphitheater) will only compose a small 2% of the park, the economic impact analysis conducted by Beacon Economics projects big returns, $31.1 million annually across the county of Orange and 461 jobs,” Wagner said.

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