Irvine OKs 1,600 amenity-rich apartments near JWA

A couple thousand people looking for urban living, rooftop pool lounging and a bowling alley in Irvine will be able to do all three at the new Elements development.

Unanimously approved by the city’s planning commission Thursday, the project from Garden Communities proposes 1,600 apartments at the corner of Jamboree Road and Campus Drive near John Wayne Airport.

Residents would have access to their own private bowling alley, a two-story fitness center, and multiple rooftop pools, parks and tennis courts. Restaurants and retail are also planned. Public areas would include two half basketball courts, a carousel and tot lot.

While the project earned praise from commissioners, there were concerns including increased traffic and public access to the parks and basketball courts.

Commissioner Greg Smith said allowing the public access to areas inside a private apartment complex would be akin to letting someone into one’s backyard and was “asking for trouble.” Worse, allowing people to gather around basketball courts in an isolated area of the apartment complex might breed criminal activity, he said.

“It’s an attractive nuisance waiting to happen,” he said, adding that Irvine has gotten its renown for being the “safest city” in part because the Police Department has regularly patrolled the city’s basketball courts. He said he wouldn’t tell the developer to remove the feature from the design, but the company would be free to change it later.

The Irvine Business Complex, an area in the city originally intended as strictly industrial, has become more akin to urban living with dense and tall high-end apartment complexes and condos taking root. The buildings for Elements are expected to be 56 to 67 feet tall for apartments and up to 75 feet for parking structures with rooftop recreation.

Children living in the apartments would attend Santa Ana Unified School District schools.

Of the 1,600 apartments, 95 will be reserved for individuals earning a “very low” income defined as 30 to 50 percent of the county’s $84,100 median income. That concerned one resident who lives in Park Place across the street, who suggested during public comments that it could affect property values. The resident also lamented the potential jump in traffic with so many more people living nearby. Staff said traffic would increase in the area with or without the project, and estimates for traffic because of the development were within what was allowed.

Stuart Posnock, one of Garden Communities’ four owners, said the bulk of the company’s Southern California work has been apartment complexes in San Diego, and with each project the developer has been the land owner, general contractor and property manager. The company has been looking at Irvine for several years.

“We’re new to Irvine but we’re not here by chance,” he said.

It’s the developer’s second project in Irvine. The other, Metropolis, at the corner of Main Street and Cartwright Road north of I-405, is in the demolition phase and will include 457 units when finished.

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