Baran: Does Irvine City Council bid farewell to the ARDA Veterans Cemetery Site?

The biggest public development projects that will define the future landscape of Irvine – the Veterans Cemetery, OC Great Park and the Cultural Terrace – are set to be substantially impacted by the four recommendations under City Council consideration when the Irvine City Council takes up the topic at a Special Joint Meeting of the City Council with the Great Park Board on Tuesday (July 23rd) at 5 pm.

The Issue

Site Recommendation for the Southern California State Veterans Cemetery

City Staff Recommendation – Golf Course Site

In a memo from the Executive Manager of the Great Park, who is also the Irvine City Manager, the recommended action is for the Great Park Board to designate “up to 100 acres of land commonly known as the Golf Course Site” as the preferred site for the Veterans Cemetery, and for the Irvine City Council to pass a resolution stating this is the preferred site thus “rescinding and superseding all prior resolutions relating to the subject matter.”

 

Proposed Sites for Southern California Veterans Cemetery

 

Questions & Observations

  • If the ARDA land is not used to build the Veterans Cemetery and Memorial Park by the State who is going to build on this publicly owned 125-acre site? Who will pay for the cleanup?  Previous records show a no-cost conveyance of the property to the Stateand the State responsible for the demolition of existing on-site structures.
  • What about the Veterans Cemetery grant application timeline? The application is on hold because the ARDA site was rescinded by the City. Will the selection of the golf course site slow roll it until the 2020 election and beyond, when a new City Council reevaluates this decision yet again? The ARDA site is State studied & a majority of the heavy lifting has been accomplished to make the cemetery a reality.
  • If approved, the Great Park master plan forfeits a 168-acre recreation feature that FivePoint is obligated to construct. In its place, FivePoint will contribute $18M towards the construction of a Veterans Cemetery on the golf course site. Is the City receiving the appropriate amount of funds to relieve FivePoint of their obligation to build the golf course? The FivePoint contribution should be equal to the obligation they have to construct this feature.  Does the City have a recent cost estimate for this public benefit?  Finally, if in the future the State or other factors decide that a cemetery on the golf course site is a non-starter, will Irvine be left holding the bag- with none of the $18M, and no one obligated to do anything with the 168 acres?   What is “Plan B” if that scenario plays out?
  • Under the City proposal, the Cultural Terrace footprint is modified to accommodate the golf course cemetery.  What are the land-use themes for the Cultural Terrace?  Are they consistent with a cemetery?   Why doesn’t the public have more visibility to the planning study being done by the City / FivePoint joint studies committee on the planning & development of the Cultural Terrace?

Why Is This Important?

The veterans community was promised delivery of a State cemetery since 2014 in ARDA when the City and State had the application well advanced in the Veterans Administration grant program. First and foremost – our Veterans deserve a no-nonsense final commitment and expediency to build a State Veterans cemetery, ideally in Irvine.

Second, Irvine residents are feeling invisible in the process of planning the Great Park and the Cultural Terrace. The Great Park public-private partnership is behind in the delivery of some of the key public benefits, and the Cultural Terrace has yet to be defined.  With all of the housing being added to the Great Park Neighborhoods, new home buyers and all Irvine residents have a large stake, and should clearly understand what the vision is. This week’s City Council Meeting will hopefully provide some needed transparency on all of this.

Jeanne Baran is an Irvine resident and a member of the Irvine Watchdog citizens group.

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