Through a series of backroom deals, in April Councilmember Christina Shea became the first unelected Mayor of Irvine in more than three decades. She filled the vacancy in the Mayor’s seat when Mayor Don Wagner was elected to the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Since becoming Mayor, Shea has doubled-down on her 5-year crusade to defeat the Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery at the ARDA site in the Great Park. Her crusade continues even after the State has budgeted millions to build, operate and maintain the Veterans Cemetery, at no cost to the City of Irvine.

In a stunning move, Shea sent a letter to Sacramento legislators on City letterhead (co-signed by Emile Haddad, CEO of developer FivePoint) in an attempt to block Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva’s bill, AB 368 (which will establish the ARDA site at the Great Park for the Southern California Veterans Cemetery so that — with the City Council’s approval — construction can begin later this year).  Assemblymember Quirk-Silva called Shea’s letter “extremely irregular” saying that the State Veterans Cemetery project should not be driven by developer interests.

After the Shea/FivePoint letter failed to block the bill, Shea orchestrated a Council vote (held on  July 23rd) to cancel plans to build the Veterans Cemetery at the ARDA site, in favor of a new, never-studied site.

Mayor Shea, joined by Councilmember Anthony Kuo and City staff, told a small group of Great Park Neighborhood homeowners five days before the Council’s vote that her intention in promoting a new site was to stop the State from building the Veterans Cemetery at the ARDA site.  As revealed in a video, recorded at what Shea later complained was supposed to be a “private meeting,” the Mayor said the selection of the “Golf Course” site was a “diversion” and a “short-term solution.”

Thinking her remarks would never be made public, Shea further disclosed that she wants to hand over the 125-acre ARDA site at the Great Park to a developer — presumably FivePoint — by granting an unprecedented “99-year lease” for commercial development.

Shea’s scheme to replace the Veterans Cemetery at the ARDA site with commercial development is similar to the Shea/FivePoint referendum (Measure B) that was overwhelmingly rejected (63% to 37%) by Irvine voters in June 2018.

To watch the video with the Mayor discussing her plan to stop the State from moving forward with construction of the Veterans Cemetery, click here.


Irvine Community News & Views’ latest Community Poll asked Irvine residents if they approve or disapprove of Mayor Shea’s handling of the Veterans Cemetery issue.

The response to the poll has been overwhelming!  So far, 87% of respondents say they disapprove of Mayor Shea’s handling of the Veterans Cemetery issue.

A large proportion of the 1,000+ poll takers left comments voicing their disapproval of the Mayor’s actions.  Only a handful of the Mayor’s supporters took the time to leave a comment and their name.

Below is a representative sampling of the hundreds of comments Irvine Community News & Views has received regarding Mayor Shea’s handling of the Veterans Cemetery issue.  If you haven’t had a chance to weigh in on this issue and offer your own comments, the poll is still open (scroll down to take the poll now).

Comments Opposing Mayor Shea’s Actions

The people voted in favor of the ARDA site.  Obviously our Council does not value our votes.
—Lynne Ruedy

Mayor Shea’s conduct at the (July 23rd) City Council meeting was overbearing and deplorable.  She appears to enjoy wielding her power.  She insulted Senator Umberg, Larry Agran, and other knowledgeable speakers, even threatening to get the Sergeant-at-Arms to eject Senator Umberg.  She was not interested in what anyone had to say — her mind was clearly already made up.
— Nona Demetre

Voters never should have re-elected Wagner as Mayor. He was also opposed to the ARDA site.  I couldn’t understand how that happened, especially since it then gave us Shea as his replacement when he bailed on his post.  It’s time to get rid of Shea and the others come next election.  Shea and the others care more for FivePoint than our veterans, and it’s because of greed and money.  The voters approved the site.  These officials are ignoring our wishes.  Vote them out and send a message!
— Jim Post

I’m appalled at the actions of Shea (I refuse to recognize her as Mayor), Kuo, and Carroll.  Their relentless refusal to abide by Irvine voters’ clear mandate to leave the Veterans Cemetery on the approved ARDA site is inexcusable.  Enough is enough!
— Cindy Eddleman

It is sad that Mayor Shea does not listen to the will of her residents. This shows that big developers win again.
— William Wilson

How can Shea disrespect the vote of Irvine voters and apparently get away with it?
—Pat Wilhoit

Why would we not follow through with the ARDA site that has state funding behind it?  I am really sick of Irvine’s “recycled” Mayor/City Councilmembers who continue to railroad Irvine for their own financial gain.  I’m sure that is the reason behind it.  Must be some developer promises being made.
— Joyce Cheng

Losing the ARDA site for the Veterans Cemetery: Disgraceful pandering to developers.  Disrespectful to the veterans.  So unpatriotic.
— Vivien Atlas

How many times do we have to take this poll? And how many times do we, Irvine residents, have to address this issue that we think was settled many years ago? All because one non-elected Mayor is in the pocket of the developer who has made millions from overbuilding the Great Park.
— S Wentzel

The Interim Mayor should listen to the taxpayers of Irvine. We want the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park at the site it was always suppose to be at. How many times do we have to vote and win while the interim mayor refuses to listen to us?  Do the right thing.
— Cindy Davis

It’s time to follow the will of the people and not the desire of developers.
— John Nann

It is a disgrace that we, the residents of Irvine, have to spend so much time and effort to fight for what is right.  We have previously spoken with our vote and continue to support the ARDA site for our Veterans Cemetery.  Unfortunately, Mayor Shea does not represent our interests.
— Mary Navarro

There is no better place for military veterans to be laid to rest than at a former military base.  The mayor obviously does not want to go along with the wishes of the majority of her constituents.  Let’s build the Veterans Cemetery where it is supposed to be.  Tell Shea and FivePoint to go away!  Irvine needs better leadership!
— George Mors

Shea’s ignoring the will of the people is so egregious it might be time for a RECALL.
— Robert Stein

Mad! My husband was a Marine, stationed at Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Oceanside.  We were looking forward to a Veterans Cemetery closer to home.  He passed away a couple of years ago.  Riverside National Cemetery was the closest to us, but a long drive for an 81-year-old lady to visit.  We were promised a Veterans Cemetery here in Irvine.  I’m very disappointed in Mayor Christina Shea.
— Darlene Hecht

Mayor Shea’s oppositional positions and actions, especially regarding the Veterans Cemetery, are shameful.
— Pam Reagor

When you go to the ballot box in 2020, recall what we voted for in the wake of the Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro base closure.  Remember what Irvine politicians promised and then contrast that with what has since transpired. Hold politicians accountable!
— Jeffrey J. Melnick

Through her actions, Shea has given up her right to represent Irvine.  All that remains is her recall.
— Dennis Lowry

Mayor Shea has been in politics too long.  Time to move on.
— Barbara Robertson

Mayor Shea’s allegiance to developer FivePoint is understandable (they donate heavily to her campaigns) but bad for our city.
— Carolyn Inmon

Mayor Christina Shea has continuously demonstrated a gross disregard for the veterans and residents of Irvine.  We have loudly expressed our desire to go ahead with the state-operated Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park.  In this proud and patriotic city of ours, our only recourse in order to be heard is the ballot box or a recall.
— Abraham Navarro

I am a former Irvine resident, so it’s easy to cast my disapproval and comment aside.  However, I am a veteran and just visited the National Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Miramar, San Diego today.  I visited the gravesites of three veterans and friends who had positive influences on my military career and personal life.  They rest with thousands at this extension of the Point Loma/Rosecrans National Cemetery here in San Diego. It was scrub barren fields before the Cemetery was opened.  Now it is a well groomed and attractive place of rest for numerous veterans and family members who have passed on.   I am distressed at Mayor Shea’s opposition to the Veterans Cemetery at the former MCAS El Toro site.  I do not understand how people who enjoy the benefits of freedom have little regard for the men and women in uniform who protect those freedoms.  There is no other reasonably close Veterans Cemetery that can meet the needs of veterans in Orange County and the surrounding area.  I welcome the development of the Veterans Cemetery where it was intended to be.  I’m sure I will have friends to visit there when it is opened.
— F. Mike Wifler, Maj, USMC (Ret)

We need a new Mayor ASAP!!!!!!!!!!
— Sandra Choate

The Veterans Cemetery should be built on the original and already approved site in the Great Park. This is what we voted for — TWICE!  Tell Mayor Shea and FivePoint to go away!
— George Mors

Stop the backroom dealing and build the Veterans Cemetery that is needed for our vets.
— James Thomas, SMSgt USAF, Retired

I agree with the majority of Irvine residents who voted to keep the Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park as originally planned.  Isn’t a mayor supposed to represent the community she serves?
— Trish Whiston

I am appalled that Mayor Shea appears to be in partnership with FivePoint rather than being a public servant of Irvine.
— Stephanie Proffitt

Christina Shea has been pursuing her own interests for her own purposes for many years here in Irvine. She must be voted out of office.
— Maria Baur

Mayor Shea: I surely hope you get voted out on the next election because you don’t know how to handle your position. You work for the people, not the developers.
— Patrick Moynihan

Shea is a long-time politician. Whose interest does she serve? Not the veterans and voters of this city.
— Joaquin Raul Celaya

The people of Irvine voted to establish the Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park. Mayor Christina Shea, support the people you represent!
— Louise Beckerman

Mayor Shea: When last I checked this was still a democratic nation (and city). The citizens of Irvine have voted on this issue and rejected your proposed measure. Stop trying to block construction of the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery at the ARDA/Great Park site!
— David Nunciato

My husband is interned in the Military Cemetery at Miramar. Although it’s a lovely park, it’s too far away for me to visit when I want to honor special days that meant a lot to me and my husband. I would love to be able to move him to Irvine and the Great Park if the Veterans Cemetery ever gets built. Christina Shea is a stumbling block for my wishes and the Irvine Community.
— Carole A. Yarwood

After reading many of the comments of Mayor Shea’s outraged constituents, I can only echo their sentiments, which of course is outrage of my own. Who do you think you are, Mayor? The wheels are NOT greased in your favor! Now, get on with the will of the people of Irvine!
— Robert Fish

I hope she will not get another term. I would say elected, but Shea was not voted in as Mayor. I would support a recall, but will definitely not vote for her. She is not for the people, but for her own interests.
— Cathi Moro

Shea responded quite angrily to my email addressed to her on this topic. She’s a testy one, this Mayor Shea.
— Fred Godinez

What’s happened to the democratic process?  An unelected mayor actively working against the will of the constituents she supposedly serves!
— Janice Plahy

What is her problem?  The Cemetery was approved to be built in the Great Park, not only by the Council, but the voters in the City of Irvine.  We live in a democratic country where majority rules.  Something is wrong with this picture.  Why does one person have this much control?  Shea is a disgrace to our veterans and to the citizens of Irvine.
— Clara Brandon

Shea must honor the Veterans Cemetery and the voice of the Irvine residents. I hate corporate greed, and that is obviously where her heart is. Our service men and women deserve the respect and honor they earned by giving their lives for our freedom. We owe them a Cemetery to honor and praise their sacrifices. This is the voice of a majority of the Irvine residents.
— Dawn Bennett

In a popular vote, the Irvine community overwhelmingly voted in favor of building the Veterans Cemetery [at the original site in] the Great Park. Mayor Christina Shea is disgracefully out of step with her constituency. Time for a recall!
— David M Proctor III

Our veterans deserve better.  My father’s ashes have been waiting for final burial at an Orange County Veterans Cemetery for 3 years. He deserves to be laid to rest where he grew up. El Toro was a huge military base where many Orange County veterans served.  Because it was a former military base, it is only fair to keep part of the land for former military members as their final place of rest.
— Kelly Curran

Shea needs to be recalled immediately!  She was not elected to the office of Mayor and is currently running roughshod over the will of the people.  This is not how democracy works.
Patrick Rowley

Unelected Mayor Christina Shea is an embarrassment to the Mayor’s office & the city of Irvine. She should be recalled.
Shawn Mela, Proud Marine

Mayor Shea:  The citizens have spoken through our vote.  Stop subverting the will of the Irvine voters.  You are the Mayor, not the Queen.
— James Stewart

The Veterans Cemetery should be a settled matter, not a political football fueled by a developer’s self interest.
—  T. K. McCranie

The State will pay for everything, forever!  And we can start implementation of the Veterans Cemetery NOW.  Any other site will delay the process for at least two years. What are we waiting for?
— Frank McGill

I do not appreciate any official — elected or non-elected — attempting to subvert the will of the people.
— Nathan Wray

It is highly irregular and inappropriate for the Mayor of Irvine to go against the wishes of the people of Irvine. It is even more disappointing to see her align herself with a developer whose greed is obviously more important than what is best for the citizens of Irvine.
— Richard Sarlitt

Mayor:  Stop representing the developers and do your job representing your constituents. Get politics out of this decision.
—  Kay Harvey

The Mayor needs to be recalled. She is truly a disgrace to veterans of the United States. The Veterans Cemetery should be and needs to be at the former El Toro Marine base. What more fitting honor can we give to our veterans than that of being laid to rest at a former military base?
— Carol Lapierre

Is there an expeditious way to recall her and kick her off the City Council in one fell swoop? It’s more than obvious that she’s in the pocket of FivePoint and is blocking the preference of Irvine’s residents and local aging veterans like me.  How many of us will die and have our remains shipped off to some distant burial site?  Surely her abuse of her office is plain for all to see. What can we do to remove her from office?
— Tim Hoffmann

Ms Shea’s long fight is getting tiresome. She is clearly going against the wishes of Irvine citizens.  It is time for her to listen to her constituents and move forward with the Veterans Cemetery at the original location in the Great Park.
— Elinor Newman

The Veterans Cemetery should be built as originally planned.
— Annette Bork

Any elected politician who puts their own self interests first and ignores the wishes of the majority of voters (Measure B) while openly disrespecting the veterans of Irvine , in my opinion, doesn’t deserve to be called “Mayor.”
— David Day

We already voted on this.  Please stop trying to change the location. You work for us, not FivePoint.
— Danny Prosky

Please build the state-operated Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park in north Irvine NOW!  This is what the City voted for, and what the State has agreed to pay for and operate. Go away Mayor Shea!
— Sandy Rushing

Shea is a bought special interest.  Unelected.  She doesn’t deserve to represent the good people of Irvine.
— Joshua Palacios

One is forced to question the motive in an obvious situation like this.
— Barbara Siersma

Mayor Shea:  Why don’t you just come right out and say that you value money over dignity, respect and honor?
— Kendra Bergen

Stop being a servant to the developers and start serving the citizens of Irvine!
— Robert Noel

Comments in Support of Mayor Shea

We don’t need the Veterans Cemetery in Irvine, but we definitely would like to have a beautiful golf club in our community.
— Kay Yang

No Cemetery in a residential area!  No Cemetery in the Great Park!
— Don Smith

No disrespect to the troops, but I do not want a Cemetery built anywhere in Irvine as it would be a waste of valuable land.
— Janelle Mattison

I voted for and honor Mayor Shea. So leave her alone. I am against the Veterans Cemetery being built here in Irvine.
—  Edgardo Abalos

Shea is right. You should not put a Veterans Cemetery near the high school.
— Xiyang Luo

Veterans aren’t special.  Should we also have a Teachers Cemetery, a Chefs Cemetery, a Construction Workers Cemetery?
— Joe Palaca

Move the Veterans Cemetery to the golf course.
— James Lin

We should not waste land on dead bodies. Cremate and strew the ashes on their homeland and favorite places. Burying people is a waste of land.
— Sharad Rao

 


What do YOU think?  Let us know if you approve or disapprove of Mayor Shea’s handling of the Veterans Cemetery issue.

Click here to take the Irvine Community Poll.

ICNV Staff

ICNV staff writers are local Irvine journalists who are personally familiar with the events and issues they write about.
ICNV Staff