Santana: OC Vets Cemetery in Irvine Stuck?

The effort to site a federal veterans cemetery in Irvine may have hit a snag.

And veteran leaders are livid.

Earlier this year, veterans agreed to swap a 125-acre parcel already dedicated as a veterans cemetery by the Irvine City Council, for a similar-sized lot near the 405 freeway, currently used as strawberry fields.

Or so they thought.

This week, as preparations began for next Tuesday’s Irvine City Council meeting to finalize the transaction, city staff apparently started communicating some heartburn over the details of the deal — which involves developer Five Points, 125 acres of land they own and $10 million to help fund the first phase of development for a veterans cemetery, which will utilize 25 acres.

So what happens to the other 100 acres over the next century while the cemetery is built out?

That, it seems, hasn’t been thought out.

Yet the answers could blow up the whole deal.

Now, as is usual in government circles, some city officials want to have this entire discussion next Tuesday behind closed doors.

That would be wrong.

First off, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal.

California’s open meetings laws only allow closed session discussion of public sector real estate deals when the discussion involves price and terms of the transaction.

That’s already been decided.

What’s up for debate now, it seems, is what happens to the rest of the idle public land as the veterans’ cemetery gets built out.

That’s a legitimate policy question council members should indeed explore and answer…in public.

I’ve heard many different takes on the issue – which doesn’t seem as resolved as many thought.

There also apparently are significant challenges with the negotiations involving Five Points and city officials as well as issues regarding how the $10 million will be paid out.

Irvine has legitimate reasons to be cautious about how the land is transferred.

Note that the city is in the middle of a legal dispute with the County of Orange on a nearby 100-acre parcel – with county officials playing with all sorts of different uses – including a civic center, a water park, a homeless shelter and housing – for the land tract.

So it doesn’t seem crazy to ask what happens to this 125-acre parcel.

The big question is what can the city leaders do to make sure the land is used for a cemetery and nothing else?

Can they place deed restrictions on the property or zone it as institutional open space?

Some elected officials apparently already have been told there may be alternatives for idle portions of the land.

“I have heard that there have been thoughts of putting this matter (or portions of it) on our closed session agenda so that various alternatives might be discussed – alternatives that include the City retaining control of most of the property, and only turning a portion of the land over to the State for a veterans cemetery. Possibly even using a portion of the property for the city to develop hotels, and possibly housing,” wrote Councilwoman Christina Shea in a Wednesday email to City Manager Sean Joyce, obtained through the state’s Public Records Act.

Shea voiced opposition to dealing with the issue in closed session, arguing in her email to Joyce, that “this Council has made promises to both our residents and the veterans of Orange County. Therefore, I strongly urge you to place this matter on our public agenda, if it is ready for review, including these suggested options, so that everyone might understand what is being considered, and the ramifications of these options to our Veterans community.”

Reports that local developers like the Irvine Company and Five Points are trying to attract Amazon to site its headquarters in Irvine also has veteran leaders speculating publicly whether there are plans to switch land parcels on them once again for another commercial interest.

Veterans leader Bill Cook, who headed up efforts to find the original land for the veterans’ cemetery and then supported the 125-acre land swap, said the last minute questions from staff seemed like “a complete betrayal of the veterans.”

“They agree to convey 125 acres,” Cook said, “then they get down to the end game, and they change it to 25 acres. What that tells us is OK, we have to go back now, every few years and do a new battle for the whole cemetery, again and again.

I’m 71 years old for Pete’s sake, how much longer am I going to be able to do this?”

Cook sees the WWII and Korea veterans slowly disappearing.

And as a Vietnam vet, the former Marine knows his generation isn’t far behind.

“It’s getting to that time…and they want to jack us around into the future?”

City Councilman Jeff Lalloway said veterans’ groups are getting played.

“City staff is still negotiating this agreement. So to suggest there’s a final resolution to any issue is premature. But I do know the city will commit to giving 125 acres, if approved by council. To suggest we’re only going to give 25 acres is pure nonsense.”

Lalloway didn’t support the land swap and proposed keeping the existing site designated by the city council, endorsed by state legislation and financed by earmarks from the federal, state and city governments.

“I said so from day one. This is a complicated deal and we should have stuck with the original proposals. We had it all ready to go.”

City officials are indeed facing tough challenges here to stay in control of their own local planning – balancing the interests of taxpayers, developers, the county and the state.

Yet veterans deserve certainty.

These brave men and women, who will soon be followed by the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, shouldn’t have to keep on fighting, literally into their graves.

  • dc matthews
    • dc matthews

      I prefer the easy access, high visibility site with low/no hazmat /deconstruction needs. There does seem to be an Irvine Co vs 5Points battle in City council, but it wont effect the 125 acres the state now controls for us. “Sep 26, 2017 – Irvine will immediately donate the land to California so the state can start building the cemetery, which will be the only permitted use. ” OCRegister

  • LFOldTimer

    We agree 100% here.

    The OC vets were backstabbed by the so-called vet advocates.

    And now they feign anger. lol.

    What great Kabuki theater.

  • USMC Air Station El Toro was created in 1942, the name was taken from the nearest city El Toro with 130 residents there. It supported the Pacific theater in WWII, and Air Force 1 would land there when presidents would visit the area. This was long before Irvine existed (created in 1960 incorporated in 1971) I can remember passing through in the 1960’s all citrus groves from the Tustin Blimp hangars to San Juan Capistrano.

  • merelyashadow

    The entire 125 acres should be a veterans’ cemetary. We will have no shortage of vets as time goes on. Use the portion now, and the rest for park space until needed. Incrementally take it from park space and utilize it a few acres at a time. Would be proud to have a veterans cemetary in the area.

    • Huh

      Would you be proud to have a cemetery next door to where you live?

      • Yes, actually I would. You apparently have no idea of the Orange County military heritage or you wouldn’t have to ask that question.

        • Huh

          Yeah, well knock yourself out – just stop telling other people where your cemetery must be.

          • merelyashadow

            No, I don’t think I will. I support this very much. Why are you afraid of cemetaries? The veterans cemetary in LA is beautiful. A wonderful place of rememberance.

          • Or any of the other 20 cemeteries in Orange County.

          • merelyashadow

            Exactly.

          • verifiedsane

            may I suggest you go —— yourself 🙂

          • Huh

            That is rude, and frankly what I would only expect from an idiot.

          • verifiedsane

            Coming from a coward…I find your response quite entertaining 🙂

          • Or possibly a remark from someone that actually served this country, instead of leeched wealth from it.

      • merelyashadow

        I grew up the same block as a cemetary. I didn’t find it objectionable. It was actually quite beautiful. What’s to object to?

  • verifiedsane

    OC politics….the same old bait and switch sell out being played out in secret time and time again! These bought and paid for Irvine city council political elites have no shame…

    • Huh

      They are doing just fine. A cemetery is no little thing, for wherever it ends up, the property prices surrounding it will hugely suffer. Moving it out of the Great Park area was brilliant, but the new area by the 405 had truly better be away from future housing.

      • merelyashadow

        Why? Are you afraid of a boogyman or something? There is something wrong with you. Ghosts are not real.

        • Huh

          Property Values moron. Money. Cemeteries do NOT increase property values – they decrease them. Anaheim would be a much better place to put a cemetery. Many more people live there and it would be more centrally located.

          • merelyashadow

            100% wrong. Look at the homes in Costa Mesa next to the cemetary that houses veterans. Some of the most expensive in that town. You seem to have a habit of not doing your homework before commenting. Check out the home prices before you make such statements.

          • Huh

            Nope – Lake Forest sports a cemetery and the prices of the home nearby are lower than they otherwise would be. You seem to have a habit with anecdotal evidence, thinking that one example proves your point.

          • merelyashadow

            You made my point for me. Thanks. What I said is true. Assuming what you said is also, then there is nothing to worry about. A veterans cemetary does not affect whatsoever on property values.

          • Huh

            Your point is that some of the homes in Lake Forest are lower than they would otherwise be due to the cemetery?

          • merelyashadow

            People in a cemetary don’t need it to be “centrally located”. They don’t drive. What a screwball. Where is there any open space left in Anaheim? The space promised was in Irvine. Not anywhere else. Perhaps you didn’t get the memo?

          • Now who’s being rude?

  • LFOldTimer

    “Veterans leader Bill Cook, who headed up efforts to find the original land for the veterans’ cemetery and then supported the 125-acre land swap, said the last minute questions from staff seemed like “a complete betrayal of the veterans”.

    You got played, Mr. Cook. You trusted liars who broke their original promise to our vets. You agreed to the land swap which was a HUGE disservice to vets like me. Go read our former comments. We warned you that this was all about the money from the get-go and not to agree to a deal with these snakes. You did it anyway. It’s on you.

    Now they want to reduce the vet cemetery to 25 acres and develop the other 100??? LOL! These lowlife politicians who never served a day in the military have no absolutely respect for those who risked and sacrificed their lives so that they can live behind their gated communities. FOLLOW THE MONEY!

    Wagner, Shea and Melissa Fox are the culprits here. Particularly Fox who was the swing vote. Hopefully she’ll get recalled from office. And Sharon Quick Silva stuck her big nose into Irvine’s business and helped cause this fiasco too.

    I TOLD YOU SO!!!!

    • Huh

      “A huge disservice”? Not at all. The dead don’t care where they are buried, and the living visit cemeteries only on occasion. Moving the cemetery away from the housing tracts in the Great Park area prevented the destruction of the housing prices in that area. The new location has little other utility, so a cemetery there makes sense.

      • LFOldTimer

        it’s all about the money, isn’t it you ungrateful sap?

        The veterans risked and sacrificed their lives so that you can live free. Some came home without arms and legs.

        And you’re worried that the dead vets might affect your home prices???

        You don’t deserve freedom.

        Why don’t you move to North Korea?

        • Huh

          And the new area next to the 405 is fine for a cemetery. And yes, money is very important. Shame on you for judging me. You are not qualified.

          • LFOldTimer

            I wouldn’t walk across the street to hand you a glass of water if you were dying of thirst.

            We put our lives on the line so you could live free. And now you’re worried more about profit than respect for those who died to defend you.

            What a schmuck.

          • Huh

            Yadda Yadda. The area by the 405 is fine. Feel fortunate that it will even exist anywhere in Irvine

          • Ltpar

            You seem to have an attitude about anyone who has any thoughts other than what you spout. How many Veterans do you represent? How many Council meetings did you attend encouraging the Veterans Cemetery. Hell, you are not even up to speed as to the facts of this project, yet here you are criticizing those who have worked to make it happen. You bub, really need to get a life.

          • LFOldTimer

            I put vets over money.

            You put money over vets.

            Those are irreconcilable differences.

            So I will end this discussion.

          • Huh is actually a Korean family name. I would suggest this POS is not even an American citizen, certainly did not serve in this countries military. I will wager he has 2 loyalties, 1 to money 2 to either the N or South Korean Government, corporation or remaining family in Korea. I may be correct in guessing he is one of the leeches that lived outside the main gate of a US military installation in the ROK ripping off the military personnel.

    • If it wasn’t for Sharon Quirk-Silva, we wouldn’t even be discussing a veterans cemetery in Orange County. She can stick her nose in this all she wants, as far as I’m concerned.

      • LFOldTimer

        Nonsense.

        It was already decided to put the cemetery in the Great Park proper. It was a settled decision. Then Quirk came along with the bright idea of getting the state involved. At that point the land swap fraud was concocted in the minds of all the liars on the council and the rest is history.

        Both Quirk and Melissa Fox should be recalled from office.

        And if I ever hear these phonies say “Thanks for your service” I’m going to vomit in my mouth.

        • Huh

          The area by the 405 has little other utility – a perfect spot for a cemetery.

        • Ltpar

          With an attitude like that, you should be vomiting a lot. It must be tough having diarrhea of the mouth. Since you are brain dead, the cemetery was supposed to be a State Veterans Project from the start. Apparently the Feds were not interested in another National Veterans Cemetery. When the very high clean up costs of the original site were brought forth, Five Points suggested the acre for acre swap. In addition, they agreed to build Phase 1 of the Cemetery at no cost to Irvine taxpayers. Not only did it save money, but shaved ten years off the construction timeline. This is why Veterans groups supported the switch and are still backing it today. Council-members Shea, Fox and up until recently Wagner all backed the alternate site. It now looks like someone got to Wagner and he is thinking of changing horses in mid-stream. The City just received a notice from the State of California that without the full 125 acres, the cemetery is dead. That may have been Lalloway acting on behalf of the Irvine Company intent from the start.

          • LFOldTimer

            I guess you have trouble reading or comprehending. Maybe both:

            “Lalloway didn’t support the land swap and proposed keeping the existing
            site designated by the city council, endorsed by state legislation and
            financed by earmarks from the federal, state and city governments.”

            So you’re more concerned about saving money than our community showing the greatest respect for our deceased vets who put their butts on the line so you could live free?

            I’m different from you. I put our vet’s honor over money.

            Since we’ll never see eye to eye on that point there’s no reason to further discuss it.

        • I generally support your comments in this instance, but I disagree that Quirk Silva is responsible for the re-location, that was purely from 5 points who was stuck with 125 acres of strawberry field they could do nothing with, freeway noise etc. would make RE prices low. I think I would prefer to vomit on their suits.

          • LFOldTimer

            Quirk-Silva got involved and lobbied state money for the cemetery provided it was moved to the strawberry fields. So she is in it up to her neck. Irvine is not even part of her district. She was a catalyst for the land swap deal. Didn’t you see her with a big smile on her face when Jerry Clown visited Irvine a few months ago?

      • LF, it was far from a done deal. Quirk-Silva’s bill sealed the deal and got the state involved when the VA wouldn’t. You do know it is a state veteran’s cemetery, right?

  • If it is up to the cowards at the Irvine city council and their financial cash cows at five points us veterans will be dumped in the land fill at the N. end of Sand Canyon.

    • Huh

      How would you like a cemetery next to where you live?

      • LFOldTimer

        How would you like to be speaking russian today?

        • Huh

          Pschaw – the area next to the 405 is fine enough for a cemetery.

        • Ltpar

          Not any more than I would like to be speaking German or Japanese. I am all for the America First philosophy.

      • verifiedsane

        I would love it…cemeteries are quiet, most often beautifully landscaped, and well maintained…The real bonus in this situation…is that this cemetery honors those who fought for our country…Huh is really one selfish piece of work; first they judge & degrade the homeless in another comment section, and is now dishonoring our nations veterans……hopefully Huh is not a representative model of Irvine’s population in general.

        • Huh

          cemeteries are creepy for many people, and they definitely cause property values to suffer. Nothing wrong with placing the new cemetery along side the 405

          • I am guessing you may have a personal stake in re locating the veterans cemetary, and of course I am going to take a wild guess that you are applauding stealing 100 acres from the veterans cemetery? I can be pretty sure you are no veteran.

          • Huh

            One cannot steal that which does not belong to someone in the first place. The plot by the 405 is perfect for a cemetery. Personal stake? Yes, I do live in Irvine, and most of us residents are tired of the jealousy of other OC cities and their never ending quest to attempt to ruin Irvine. No airports. no cemeteries in prime locations. Period.

          • merelyashadow

            I think a beautiful veterans’ cemetary would enhance Irvine. Not sure how you think you speak for “most” residents, but I can assure you, you do not. Nor are the other cities jealous of Irvine. You need to get a grip on yourself.

          • Huh

            Do you live in Irvine? Probably not. San Clemente successfully fought off the toll road extension, and Irvine will successful move the cemetery down to otherwise useless land near the 405. Don’t worry though – it will be beautiful.

          • merelyashadow

            The land near the 405 is prime because it is perfect for retail, residential and industrial. Don’t kid yourself. You haven’t a clue. Look at the businesses popping up next to the 405 just north of the Spectrum. All put next to a freeway due to access.

          • Why are you bothering to respond to any obvious 5 Points shill? Ignore it. They’ll go away.

      • Ltpar

        Won’t be long before that is my home. Just hope I can hold out long enough for the Veterans Cemetery to be finished. Lot”s of open green space, I would love to have a home overlooking such a place.

    • Ltpar

      You got your Council Members confused. It is “Bully Boy” Lalloway and his clone Lynn Schott who have been against the Veterans Cemetery from the start. Now Don Wagner is turning politician and jumping in bed with them. Some believe they are acting on the behalf of the Irvine Company who has never wanted a cemetery in Irvine, in the first place. It is Christina Shea and Melissa Fox who are holding the line and backing the Veterans.

      • Incorrect, according to the LA Times OC and previous VOC articles Lalloway was for the Original cemetery promised at the Great Park. He was against moving it to the Freeway location.

        • dc matthews

          Lalloway and Schott were against the move and yes this does seem to be more about developer & other politics than what is best for us veterans. CalVet and the governor are happy with choice and Note NEITHER site was in Great Park proper and BOTH were part of the ET base. NOTE too Irvine Community News & Views isn’t reporting comments for the 125 acres/locale deeded to CaLVet and is now knowingly repeating misinformation and I ,for one, wonder why.

      • You better check your facts.

        • dc matthews

          DEEP BS ALERT: Seems there’s not even need to read between the lines to see most ICN&W commenters in Irvine are not so much worried about vets as trying to use us vets for their NIMBY agenda.. ” These are right off their front page.

          Also, I don’t want more traffic in Irvine from a new development.

          — Lenore Rauch

          I am a veteran. Irvine is my hometown. I need the
          Veterans Cemetery built! No more building of houses and condos. Enough
          is enough! Shame on you!

          — Robert Kawalec

          No land swap. This area is crowded enough.

          — Jack Tatham

          Our once wide-open spaces have become housing tracts. Now it
          appears the new trend is high-density apartment buildings. I say NO WAY
          to the FivePoint plan and YES to the Great Park Veterans Cemetery.

          — Elizabeth Wymore

          We urge people to sign and support the Veterans Cemetery Petition to save our City from becoming another Los Angeles.

          — Daria Johnson

          all this so a developer can put high-intensity development in its place.

          — Kyle Ankney