Throughout September, developer FivePoint Communities has continued to press ahead with its controversial Veterans Cemetery “land-swap” scheme — replacing the previously-approved, 125-acre State Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park with a massive development of office, commercial, and residential projects — that would soon generate nearly 10,000 additional daily automobile trips along Irvine Boulevard, in north Irvine.
On September 5th, Mayor Donald Wagner’s newly formed Irvine Transportation Commission rubber stamped a specious “Traffic Evaluation” — false on its face — that concludes “the Project will not cause any significant traffic impacts on intersections, arterial roadway segments, freeway mainline segments and/or freeway interchange ramps.” Tell that to the residents of Portola Springs, Stonegate, Woodbury and the other neighborhoods and villages along Irvine Boulevard and Sand Canyon, who will suffer the daily effects of extraordinary added auto and truck traffic, as well as localized air pollution. Testimony of several Irvine residents was largely ignored, and the Commission voted to approve the “traffic evaluation” 3 to 2. (Commissioners Rose Casey and Sandy Moody, appointed by Councilmembers Jeff Lalloway and Lynn Schott, respectively, voted NO; Lalloway and Schott have been strongly opposed to the FivePoint land-swap scheme.)
Two days later, on September 7th, the Irvine Planning Commission, on a divided vote, also rubber stamped the land-swap and accompanying “Zone Change,” permitting conversion of 125 acres of the Great Park into 812,000 square feet of office and commercial development. A majority of Planning Commissioners found that FivePoint’s massive development “would not result in any new additional environmental impacts.” This appears to be in obvious conflict with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires a thorough environmental analysis to be prepared for any project that would significantly affect traffic, air pollution or otherwise expose nearby residents to environmental hazards, including toxic contamination. A number of Irvine residents testified to this effect, pointing out that there has not been an environmental study of this area since 2012, and that the land-swap and development of this property requires, at least, a focused Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
The momentous decision to transfer ownership of the Great Park Veterans Cemetery site— along with development rights worth an estimated $500 million to FivePoint — is expected to be made at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, September 26th.