Irvine’s Veterans Cemetery Report Released Amid Controversy

A report for a state veterans memorial park and cemetery in Irvine, California was released recently amid controversy over where the site should be built.

The California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) released a report on June 4 analyzing two locations in Orange County Great Park, Irvine, where the cemetery could be built.

One option is the El Toro Marine Base, called the Amended and Restated Development Agreement (ARDA), which is located on an area of ​​125 hectares. It would cost more than $ 110 million to build the site there. The second option is a 100-acre property on which the city had previously built a golf course. It would cost nearly $ 75 million to build at this point.

The construction, operation and maintenance of the Veteran’s Memorial Park and Cemetery would be state funded, while site selection is the responsibility of the Irvine City Council.

Proponents of the ARDA site claim the location is ideal because of its rich military history; Troops were once deployed from the base. It still has its control tower and aircraft hangars, which some veterans said could be repurposed as a permanent tribute to the thousands of men and women who served there.

The site would include a botanical garden, a park, memorial gardens, the “largest US flag in the world” on the old runway, a meeting area, the historic El Toro control tower and a heroes’ promenade.

The site has been under review and planning since 2014, and in 2018 Irvine residents voted to build the cemetery.

As the council did nothing to begin construction on the site, ARDA supporters collected more than 19,000 signatures in March 2020 for a voting initiative to rededicate the site as a veterans memorial park and cemetery district.

The city council certified and adopted the initiative ordinance on May 12, 2020.

With the publication of the CalVet analysis, the results will now be presented to the Council and it will decide which site to proceed with.

“I hope the council will simply reiterate all previous expressions of approval from residents and voters on the ARDA side,” Councilor Larry Agran told The Epoch Times.

He added that it will be a “long, hard road and a very unpopular one” if the council selects the golf course [of] cancel … [what] People made decisions over a period of seven years. “

Agran said his resolution on the matter would be “implementation, demolition, site clearance, site cleaning, preservation of historical facilities out there – the control tower, the original hangars and the runway. All of this can begin within 60 days of my decision being approved. “

He said that CalVet estimates that it would take 30 months to build at the ARDA site.

“It would be a wonderful convenience, not only for the Great Park, but also for the residents nearby, to turn the ARDA site into something beautiful and usable for the rest of the community,” said Agran.

Proponents of the golf course location say it’s a cheaper route.

Former Irvine Mayor Christina Shea told The Epoch Times on May 28 that the golf course was not only cheaper but also more remote.

“Instead of having a golf course, we’ll put the cemetery there,” Shea told The Epoch Times on May 28.

“It’s away from residents because [residents] I don’t want it that close, it’s half the construction cost and it’s clean land. I’ll introduce that and then [the ARDA group] came and they fought and fought because they are not going to leave the ARDA site.

“Everyone who goes out there and looks at both sides [would know the golf course site] is the cleanest, the fastest to develop and the most cost-effective. “

During the last session of the city council, many public commentators expressed their support for both sides.

“It is now city law that the only site the State Veterans Cemetery can be built on is ARDA,” said Harvey Liss, executive director of Build the Great Park Veterans Cemetery Committee, during a council meeting on June 8th .

“I think it is unprecedented in the history of the city that the council refuses to enforce its own law and also defies the will of the population – 19,790 residents have signed the initiative petition.”

Another public commentator said the ARDA site has “the legacy and memories of tens of thousands of soldiers and soldiers who have passed through it.”

“A beautiful memorial park will enhance the neighborhood and increase the value of the house around the park.”

A public commentator for the golf course said, “We want to be economical with our money and we must be economical not only as representatives of the Irvine budget, but also of the State of California.”

Another said that for those living near the ARDA site, which is near a public school, the proposal is “very worrying”.

“I don’t want the cemetery across the street from the school to be forced into… grounds. If it doesn’t make sense logistically and now also financially. “

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