IRVINE — When Deb Swensen moved to the Orange Tree community nearly 20 years ago, the area was largely home to strawberry and bean fields.
Sand Canyon Avenue was one-lane in each direction, and Swensen frequently shared the road with farm equipment. With barely any traffic lights, she said she could fly up and down Sand Canyon.
“It was a different world,” she said.
Such bucolic times, to the dismay of some long-time residents, are gone as Irvine has morphed into a mega suburb with a population over 250,000 — and still growing. And they are worried things may get worse.
Swensen was among a few dozen Orange Tree residents who attended a meeting Wednesday, July 19, at Oak Creek Golf Club — across the street from their community — to get information and voice their opinions about the Irvine Co.’s plan to build a 1,710-unit apartment complex.
The Irvine Co. is asking the city to amend the General Plan, which defines the city’s long-term plan for development, and change zoning so the company can build the complex on the former Traveland USA site off the I-5 freeway across Sand Canyon from La Quinta Inn & Suites. The 70-acre land, owned by the Irvine Co., sits empty.
In addition, the developer is proposing 250 condominiums and a 10,000-square-foot child care center on its 20 acres of vacant land at Sand Canyon and Great Park Boulevard, about 0.7 miles north of the Traveland site. The site was previously anticipated as a 205,000-square-foot commercial center.
These proposals, especially the apartments, have raised concerns among residents and elected city officials about the impacts of increased population on traffic and schools.
“I understand the need…