According to sources in the State Capitol, before the Legislature’s Fourth of July recess, Irvine residential developer FivePoint Communities was heavily lobbying the California Veterans Affairs Department — known as CalVet — against establishing a 125-acre Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery on City-owned land in the Great Park.
Moreover, FivePoint Communities was reported to be frantically trying to enlist a State legislator — said to be Irvine Assemblyman Don Wagner, recently announced candidate for Irvine Mayor — to push through last-minute legislation requiring CalVet to review a complicated FivePoint Communities “land-swap” scheme that would take the Veterans Cemetery out of the Great Park and put it elsewhere. This, in turn, would give FivePoint the opportunity to build thousands of additional homes and apartments on the 125 acres of land that is now within the Great Park.
FivePoint’s secretive efforts in Sacramento have so far failed. In fact, the CalVet design and plans for the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery within the Great Park were completed by July 1st, on schedule, and sent to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for review and Federal approval. The State’s estimated cost to prepare the entire 125-acre site and then to actually construct Phase I of the Cemetery is reported to be $77 million, half of which would be paid for out of the U.S. Veterans Affairs budget.
Councilmember Christina Shea, in her own continuing effort to defeat the Veterans Cemetery, immediately branded the cost as “exorbitant.” Former Councilmember Larry Agran, himself a U.S. Army veteran and, in 2014, the Council’s leading proponent of the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery, shot back: “Shea should be ashamed of herself. She says she supports veterans, but apparently not if it costs any money.” Agran added, “The estimated cost for the Veterans Cemetery is actually very reasonable. And it will be paid for — as it should be — mainly by the Federal and State governments.”
As for the continuing efforts of FivePoint Communities to defeat the Veterans Cemetery project, Agran said, “This was a brazen attempt by FivePoint Communities to undermine the City’s 2014 plan — approved by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor — to locate the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery on a specific 125-acre parcel of City-owned land in our 1,300-acre Great Park.”
Agran added, angrily, “Instead of helping us win final Federal approval, FivePoint Communities is apparently still pushing a so-called land-swap scheme in order to gain control of 125 acres of Great Park land, then get Council approval for thousands of additional housing units at the Great Park, and walk off with hundreds of millions of dollars in windfall profits.” After pausing for a moment, Agran said, “This is what corporate greed looks like. It’s disgusting.”