By Adam Elmahrek
Designs of major Great Park features – a man-made lake, hundreds of acres in park land and a wildlife corridor — were so poor that they couldn’t be built as presented in schematic documents, the park’s former program manager testified in a deposition released this week.
Brendan McDevitt told auditors that the lake couldn’t be built because the U.S. Navy – which was concerned with cleaning up contaminated groundwater – wouldn’t have allowed the necessary excavation.
And other designs – like the planned flow of “enormous” amounts of water into a wildlife corridor – were not logistically possible, according to McDevitt’s testimony. The corridor had to be redesigned from scratch after spending “north” of $500,000, he said.
Unnecessary spending on unrealistic plans could have been prevented with skilled leadership that should have spotted obvious flaws in the consultants’ presentations, according to the testimony.
But the Irvine City Council and park board directors were so inexperienced in major projects that they were easily fooled by design consultants who took advantage of them, McDevitt told auditors.
“There’s a great board meeting you should watch of Pat Fuscoe and [master designer] Ken Smith presenting the plan, and it’s absolutely unbuildable,” McDevitt said, referring to a plan to construct 500 acres of the park. “Their argument for why you could build that much acreage for [$30 million or $40 million] is because it’s – it’s wide and shallow, which doesn’t have any engineering definition. It means nothing. But it sounds good, you know.”
McDevitt’s testimony is the latest in a series of depositions taken in the course of a forensic investigation by Newport Beach-based Hagen, Streiff, Newton & Oshiro Accountants into what happened to well over $200 million spent on the 1,300-acre project.
The Great Park was supposed to rival New York’s Central Park but instead became a poster-child for government boondoggles, critics argue.