As most Irvine residents know, construction of a beautiful Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery should have begun two years ago, in 2017 — on the City-owned, 125-acre “ARDA” site in the Great Park.

Instead, at the last moment, the City Council suddenly turned down $30 million in State funding for the project and chose to launch a deeply unpopular two-year search for an “alternative” Veterans Cemetery site — outside the Great Park and even outside of our City. This culminated in the Measure B referendum election of 2018, with voters resoundingly rejecting the idea of an alternative Veterans Cemetery site, 63% to 37%.

Implementing the Will of the People
Irvine residents and voters have continued to tell the Mayor and City Council that, yes, they want a Veterans Cemetery built in Irvine and they want it built now.  But they want it built on the original ARDA site in the Great Park, in accordance with the plans, designs and approvals (2014-2016) of the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

So, here is some good news. A bipartisan group of State lawmakers has introduced legislationAssembly Bill 368pledging that the State will build, operate and maintain a Veterans Cemetery — at no cost to the City of Irvineif the City of Irvine agrees to locate the Veterans Cemetery on the original ARDA site in the Great Park. In response, two City Councilmembers have stepped forward, Melissa Fox and Farrah Khan, to say “yes” to the ARDA site. But a third Councilmember’s vote is needed.

So far, Councilmember (now Mayor) Christina Shea still seems to want to continue searching for another site. Councilmember Anthony Kuo has recently been silent on the matter.  (The fifth City Council seat remains vacant.) This matter was scheduled to be heard at a Council meeting in May. But in a troubling development, the item was removed from the May agenda — either by Mayor Shea or City Manager John Russo.

Preparing a Veterans Cemetery Initiative
Meanwhile, in the event the City Council doesn’t act promptly to support AB 368 and also designate the original Great Park ARDA site for construction of the State Veterans Cemetery, Irvine’s all-volunteer citizens’ committee — the “Build the Great Park Veterans Cemetery” committee — is preparing to launch an initiative campaign for a public vote. The initiative, once qualified for the ballot and then passed, would require the City to transfer the 125-acre, City-owned ARDA site to the State in order to begin construction of the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park.

Raising Funds for the Fight Ahead
Ed Pope, Co-Chair of the citizens’ committee, has begun raising the $75,000 needed to launch a successful citywide initiative preparing all the legal documents, printing thousands of initiative petitions, and organizing hundreds of volunteers to gather the 20,000 Irvine resident signatures needed to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

We, the people, have done it before and, if necessary, we can do it again. My wife Phyllis and I have already made a donation. And Frank Lunding, publisher of Irvine Community News & Views, has said that ICNV stands ready to be a major sponsor of the initiative. But we need hundreds of individual donations now to insure our success in securing the earliest possible construction of the Great Park Veterans Cemetery. Will you join us to help turn our vision of the Great Park Veterans Cemetery into an on-the-ground reality?

Whether you wish to donate or not at this time, please take just 3 minutes to view our Veterans Cemetery video.

 

Larry Agran

For almost three decades, Larry Agran served on the Irvine City Council — including ten years as Mayor. He led the fight to preserve Irvine Open Space, and defeat an international airport at the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, creating the opportunity to build the Orange County Great Park and the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery within the Great Park.
Larry Agran