As part of the City’s yearlong 40th Anniversary Celebration, the GrapeVine will feature Irvine employees with an Irvine story. For the month of July, long-time City employee, Larry LeVoir, Senior Building Inspector, shares his Irvine story.
How did you come to work for the City of Irvine as Building Inspector?
I was in the right place at the right time. I just happened to hear about an opening in Building and Safety for a Building Inspector with a specialty in electrical. As an electrician, this sounded like something I could do. It was very intimidating at the time because just about all inspectors nationwide were still retired tradesman. A 26-year-old inspector was unheard of. Now it is much more commonplace. I would guess Irvine was one of the first to embrace this concept.
I was hired as full time temporary in July 1986 and was officially hired as a Building Inspector in October 1986. After a few years, I was promoted to Senior Building Inspector.
What do you remember most about working for the City during the early days?
We moved a lot. We were in leased space on the corner of Jamboree and McGaw. City Hall proper was on one side of the street and we were on the other side in the annex. We shuffled around a lot to make do with existing space.
One memory that stands out is that we used to drive our city vehicles home. We were short of parking at the leased building we were in.
The City actually seemed bigger back then. It was a long way between places because of all the agricultural fields and orange groves still in place. Many streets we have now did not exist or did not have the length they do today. Alton did not go through to Irvine Blvd. and Barranca ended at Jeffrey. In fact, the only way to the Spectrum area north of the I-5 freeway or East Complex as we used to call it, was to drive around the north side of El Toro MCAS or go down the freeway and get off on Lake Forest and double back on Rockfield. Those were busy times and I was constantly learning, as there was a new type of project coming in every month it seemed.
What are some of the biggest and most challenging projects the City has taken on?
Working on complex projects and a diverse range of projects has been what has kept me energized about my job. I can be inspecting a non-descript office remodel and my next stop could be the Western Digital Fabrication Facility. That was a state of the art facility at the time. I saw and learned many new things. I’ve inspected a big majority of the high-rise office buildings in Irvine from the ground up. Those high rises were a big learning experience for all of us in Building and Safety. The high-rise condominiums and hotels I have worked on were a different type of challenge because so much was installed at once. There was so much to keep track of, much more so than the empty office high rises. These were all privately funded projects yet the City took the lead in attracting these businesses and developers, so I think you could say the City took on these projects in a sense. Of course, the biggest project and the most challenging project I’ve been associated with is the Orange County Great Park. I’ve been involved with this since the beginning. When I saw this coming, I did everything I could to be involved with it.
Growing up in a neighboring community, you spent a lot of time camping and hiking the Irvine Ranch. Can you give us some insight to those times and what Irvine was like to you then?
I was a member of Boy Scout Troop 36, which was sponsored by the Irvine Ranch. The troop still exists and the scouthouse is located in the same place next to the Katie Wheeler Library. While I’m not old enough to have gone to Boy Scout Jamboree, we did have some great times. When I first joined in 1968 Irvine did not yet exist as a city. We had our choice to camp almost anywhere on ranch land and we did from the mountains to the beach. Of course as young kids, we really didn’t appreciate how great we had it. There are not many troops who can meet at their scouthouse and start hiking to a campsite. There were many times we would meet Saturday morning and hike to Camp Myford which was right across what is now Jamboree in Tustin Ranch. After Irvine was incorporated, it was still a long way away from us. There were still lots of fields that separated our scouthouse from what was built in Irvine at the time. As a young teenager, the incorporation of Irvine completely escaped me.
One of my earliest memories with the troop was retracing the Portola Trail through what is now the Portola Springs area of Irvine. We did this in 1969 on or about the 100th anniversary of Gaspar de Portola’s trek through the area. As I recall we started at the Tomato Springs, which was located somewhere near the east end of Portola Springs. We hiked west to and camped at Rattlesnake Reservoir. Some of the older scouts had researched Gaspar de Portola and a plaque that commemorated the trip still hangs in the scouthouse. Our hike was documented and was included on planning maps when Irvine was doing advance planning in that area.
Another place on the ranch we camped at was Tricky Lake which was actually a reservoir that was located where the Laguna Altura development is now. It was barren of trees but the reservoir was stocked with fish so that made up for it. Further down Laguna Canyon yet still within current City limits was the site of a huge camporee (sort of a mini jamboree weekend campout) that was held with all scout troops from Orange County attending.
Many of my friends from the troop lived in Irvine and one lived in Turtle Rock. I remember going over to his house and you could still see Turtle Rock from Campus and Culver and it really did look like a turtle.
What did you find dynamic about the City then and what is dynamic about the City today?
The City was growing so fast when I started. I don’t think places like Orchard Hills and Portola Springs were even in the city limits yet. The City had the master plan yet was still trying to find what new things it could offer prospective businesses and developers. Now as the City is close to having all land either developed or set aside as open space, it is still trying to find new things such as the residential development in the IBC and of course the Great Park.
What has been the biggest change in Irvine?
For a city that has been constantly evolving, that’s tough question because change and growth has been a constant occurrence. I can’t name just one thing.
In my division of Building and Safety, the biggest change has been the addition of many young inspectors to carry on for the next ten to twenty years. There are not many left who were here when I started.
Citywide the most significant change has been the transition of residential into the IBC.
Any final thoughts for us?
I can honestly say I have not been bored while working here and I expect to face new challenges until the day I retire.
Are you a long-time Irvine resident and/or employee? We are also looking for those of you with an Irvine story. Send an email to Melissa Haley at email@example.com in which you “Tell Your Own Irvine Story.” Throughout 2011 we will publish these compelling stories in the GrapeVine. Please visit the “Intranet” often for 40th Anniversary news, and to participate in the photo and motto contests.