The City of Irvine announced plans to acquire the All American Asphalt facility in North Irvine and is opting to cease its operations by the end of the year, according to Irvine City Manager Oliver Chi.

The news comes after years of frustration from Irvine residents who have voiced concern about the potentially toxic emissions associated with foul odor emanating from the facility.

During his presentation on Tuesday, Feb. 28, Chi unveiled the city’s most detailed plans to date to acquire and remove the asphalt manufacturing facility in Orchard Hills.

Chi explained that in addition to removal of the facility, a generous land donation from the Irvine Company will convert the area into hundreds of acres of open space. The project will be officially known as Gateway Preserve.

“What we’ve been able to do, to date, is enter a tentative agreement with AAA, to have the facility acquired by the city and shut down before the end of this calendar year – all of that will be done to advance a project that we’re calling Gateway Preserve,” he said.

Chi explained that the land donation from the Irvine Company will give the city the ability to generate funds to acquire the asphalt facility.

“We’ve also been working with the Irvine Company on a land donation that will ultimately serve a couple purposes. First and foremost, the land donation will facilitate evaluation, that upon entitling that property for residential development will facilitate our ability to pay for the All American Asphalt site,” he said. “There’s additional property that we’ve negotiated with the Irvine Company that will allow us to create an overall preserve with public accessibility that will be more than 700 acres in size.”

In the months leading up to the announcement, Chi added that the Council formed the AAA Council Subcommittee, with Council Members Larry Agran and Mike Carroll as representatives in discussions, in an effort to expedite the acquisition process.

While Chi expressed optimism, he admitted the process was ongoing and complex, adding that both deals — the land donation from the Irvine Company, and the acquisition of the AAA facility — included “substantial risks.”

“I can say definitively today, thanks to the efforts of the Council subcommittee, and the City Council as a whole, we do have a pathway forward to shutting down the AAA plant and to create a Gateway Preserve that all of us can be incredibly proud of.”

While the official price of the acquisition has not been released, Irvine City Council Member Larry Agran told Irvine Weekly that the figure will be north of $100 million.

Agran, who is an environmental lawyer, said he worked with fellow Council Member Mike Carroll on the recently formed AAA City Council subcommittee to ensure this outcome. However, Agran added that he faced the inability to move items related to the removal of the facility due to the now-defunct Rule of Two, in the past.

“It was my position as early as 2019 that the only real answer to the incompatibility of the continuing operations at the asphalt plant and the quality of life that we aspire to here in Irvine – would be to see to it that the plant be shut down and removed from the site,” he said in a phone interview with Irvine Weekly on Wednesday, March 1. “As Carroll and I began to work together – it became clear to us that the other part of this deal would be to acquire land from the Irvine Company that would not only enhance our open space, but a portion of that land would be developable in a way that allowed for the city to sell off that land, about 100 acres of the 500 acres we’re acquiring, and pay AAA.”

In recent months, the AAA facility has continued to be the source of odor violations in North Irvine. The facility was cited for odor violations twice in January and the South Coast Air Quality Management District has received more than 1,400 odor complaints for it since 2019.

Echoing Agran, Carroll expressed optimism regarding the progress.

“This is really one of those unbelievable, unthinkable things – when you’re at the beginning of it. It feels pretty darn good to be able to say that we’re on track – nothing’s closed until it’s closed — but we’re publicly talking about the likely permanent closure of All American Asphalt.”

Carroll added that despite public disapproval regarding the numerous closed session meetings surrounding this acquisition, the work beyond the dias seems to have paid off.

“The ability to do all this stuff was a series of closed sessions – a lot of people were rightfully upset,” he said. “Government can actually do good things, the proof is in the pudding. We have an amazing master plan – the five of us are basically here to protect and guard this master plan that was put together 50-something years ago – and we basically had an error on this plan, that’s the way I look at it.”

Once completed, the Gateway Preserve, will become an extension of the Jeffrey Open Space Trail, along with the North Irvine Open Space and will also include the addition of two new parks and a new residential village, according to a staff report.

Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan said the city would continue to monitor the community’s concern regarding the facility and its impact on the quality of life in Irvine.

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

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