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CityWatch by Larry Agran (July): A Shameful Giveaway of Our Great Park


Like so many others in Irvine, I say: “Shame on the Irvine City Council!” On June 6th, in a hastily called “special meeting,” the City Council voted 3-to-2 to express its “preference” for moving the Veterans Cemetery from the previously designated Great Park site, putting the Cemetery instead on property owned by developer FivePoint Communities along the I-5 and I-405 freeways.

When the three-member majority of the City Council (Mayor Don Wagner and Councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox) adopted their resolution, the trio embarked on a massive giveaway of 125 acres of our City-owned Great Park for FivePoint commercial development — even though the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park had already received all the necessary City, State and Federal approvals. In fact, the project was deemed “shovel-ready” and, on June 6th, was within 9 days of receiving $30 million of construction funding in the 2017-18 State budget.

At the behest of FivePoint Communities, Wagner, Shea and Fox have parroted the developer’s talking points, no matter how fallacious. Because this fight is not over, it’s important to put the developer talking points in front of us, and expose their fallacies.

FivePoint Fallacy No. 1.  The freeway site is a better site for the Veterans Cemetery.  

This is false. In fact, the freeway site is a very poor site. It’s located 2 miles away from the Great Park, at the convergence of the I-5 and I-405 freeways — with endless noise, traffic and localized air pollution.  The freeway site lacks the peace, quiet, privacy, dignity, and historic significance that the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park offers.  Because of its location in the Great Park, the Great Park site has been described repeatedly, by veterans and non-veterans alike, as the “perfect location” for the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery.

FivePoint Fallacy No. 2.  The freeway site is “free.”  

This is complete nonsense. In fact, FivePoint is demanding — and three members of the Council appear ready to comply — that the City “swap” the 125-acre Great Park Veterans Cemetery site, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, so FivePoint can take ownership of the land and develop it with mixed-use commercial, office, and residential projects.  This would be the biggest giveaway of public land — 10 percent of the entire Great Park — in Orange County history.  It would enable FivePoint to quickly net as much as $500 million in profit on the land acquisition and development, while saddling Irvine residents with the very real cost of yet more traffic congestion caused by 10,000 (or more) additional daily automobile trips on Irvine Boulevard.

FivePoint Fallacy No. 3. The Veterans Cemetery can be built and operational much faster at the freeway site than in the Great Park.

This is not only false, it’s an outright lie. It would likely take 5 years, or more, for the FivePoint Freeway site to receive all necessary City, State and Federal approvals for construction and operation of a Veterans Cemetery, if the site, in fact, receives the approvals at all.  Meanwhile, the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park has — beginning in 2014 — secured all State and Federal approvals.  Officials have declared the project “shovel-ready” for demolition, preliminary site preparation, and construction; this means the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery in the Great Park could be operational in just 2 years.

The Great Park: A Veterans Cemetery or Massive Development?  [1] This is an aerial view of the 125-acre site (the “ARDA” site within the Great Park) that was designated in 2014 by the City of Irvine and the State of California to become a Veterans Cemetery — to be built, operated and maintained by the State of California.  [2] With all approvals in hand, the project was deemed “shovel ready” this year — to commence demolition, site preparation and construction of the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park.  [3] Instead, on June 6th, the Irvine City Council, on a 3-to-2 vote, expressed its intention to give the 125 acres to developer FivePoint Communities to build a mixed-use office, commercial and, later, residential development — bringing an estimated 10,000 additional daily auto trips to Irvine Boulevard.  

Larry Agran


Irvine, CA
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