City to establish new preserve

Irvine announced plans to acquire and close the All American Asphalt plant in North Irvine and transform the area into a natural open space preserve.

Gateway Preserve will extend the Jeffrey Open Space Trail and link residents to the 20,000-acre Northern Open Space Preserve.

An expansive new open space preserve for Irvine residents will soon grow from the site of an industrial asphalt plant that has operated at the northern reaches of the city for 30 years.

The plant had caused increasing odor and air-quality complaints from residents, which led the city to file a nuisance lawsuit against its operator – All American Asphalt (AAA) – in 2020. The plans announced by the city on Feb. 28 would ensure AAA shuts down and hands the facility over to the city. City officials noted final steps remain to finalize the plan.

In its place, the city would create the new Gateway Preserve, restoring the land to its natural form, providing new recreational and environmental opportunities, and connecting residents directly to the 20,000 acres of open space north of Irvine.

“As a city, we have and will continue to monitor, evaluate and implement programs to improve residents’ quality of life and public health,” Mayor Farrah N. Khan said. “The purchase and revitalization of All American Asphalt is a major milestone in continuing this mission. The acquisition will not only address community concerns, it will also reaffirm Irvine’s commitment to being one of the best and safest cities in the world.”

The vision for the Gateway Preserve will be shaped by the city and community in the coming months. Early concepts include new trails, restored natural habitats, two new thematic parks and, perhaps, a small interpretive center. The main trail – called the Canyon Trail – would cross under the 241 toll road, creating the first uninterrupted connection to the 20,000-acre Northern Open Space Preserve.

The agreement requires that the city purchase the facility from All American Asphalt. To pay for the purchase, the city will master plan approximately 70 acres of land – donated by Irvine Company at no cost – for a potential residential neighborhood. The city would partner with a future homebuilder on a plan consistent with adjacent villages.

“Creating the Gateway Preserve is a thoughtful, master-planned solution to respond to community requests, and we are pleased to support the city in making it a reality,” said Jeff Davis, senior vice president at Irvine Company.

Voices from the city council

Vice Mayor Tammy Kim: “This has been a long time in the making, and I think we’re going to make some great changes. Protecting the wildlife and the ecosystem is going to be critical.”

Larry Agran: “I am proud that my office heard the voices of the community early on and stepped up for the environment and the affected members of the city to help get this done.”

Mike Carroll: “It is an honor to work toward a long-term resolution that prioritizes the safety of the residents in Orchard Hills and throughout Irvine. This ensures a safe and sustainable environment.”

Kathleen Treseder: “This will represent a significant expansion of protected open space in Irvine and will serve as a buffer ecosystem between the existing open space and our housing.”