Irvine residents and voters have said over and over that they want the State Veterans Cemetery built, without delay, at the original 125-acre Great Park site that was designated, planned and approved by the City, State (CalVet) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, from 2014 to 2016.  But, three members of the Irvine City Council — Mayor Donald Wagner and Councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox — have systematically thwarted the will of the people…for more than two years.

Now, Councilmembers Shea and Fox, backed by developer FivePoint Communities, are working to extend this deplorable injustice.  They are pushing yet another half-baked scheme to avoid building the Veterans Cemetery at its original, planned-and-approved Great Park site.  They want it relocated elsewhere, to an unstudied and unapproved site.

The last time they did this, with the help of Mayor Wagner, it led to an Irvine voter revolt and the NO on B referendum campaign that repudiated the Wagner-Shea-Fox “landswap-and-development” scheme.

As a cautionary reminder to Shea and Fox — and Mayor Don Wagner, too — we have decided to re-publish just a small sampling of the many hundreds of letters and comments we received in 2017 and 2018 on the Veterans Cemetery issue.  They reflect the kind of widespread community anger that comes from blatantly disrespecting the will of the people.

So, here is the question:  Are we going to have to go through this all over again in 2019?

– FJL

2017

I have recently purchased a home in the Great Park Neighborhoods and will be honored to share this space with those who died fighting for this great country.  Those Councilmembers who voted for the “land-swap” are despicable.
William C. Hyser

What an abomination for the City of Irvine to have a Mayor and two Councilwomen who are obviously in collusion with land developer FivePoint — voting to replace the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park.
—  Ana Gutierrez

I am a veteran with 20 years of service with the U.S. Marine Corps.  I have lived in this community, off and on, since 1960 and retired from active service in 1980.  I hope all the residents of Irvine will unite to keep our Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery at its originally planned location.
—  Robert Torres

I think it’s disgusting that the City Council is so blatantly going against what the Irvine community wants.  They are giving away our precious land to FivePoint.
Jeff Woo

I have lived in Irvine since 2006, and I served in Iraq in 2007-2008, in close ground combat.  I want a Veterans Cemetery that honors those we lost over there.  I am not happy about my fellow brothers and sisters in arms being pushed aside by corporate interests.  The actions of the City Council reek of corruption.
—  Captain Mike Anderson

I’m extremely disappointed in Melissa Fox for her support of this sellout to FivePoint — as is my 94-year-old father who is a World War II veteran who was stationed at the El Toro Marine Corps airbase (and who Melissa has known over the years).  Shame on you, Melissa.
—  Patricia Santry

Original Proposed Veterans Cemetery

The original Veterans Cemetery, which has been approved by the City, State, and Federal governments, is pictured here in diagonally-hatched, light-green, as part of the Great Park.

2018

It is absolutely shameful that the interests of FivePoint Communities should trump the desires of the veterans and spouses and children of veterans who served during World War II, the Korean War (like my husband), the Vietnam War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Our veterans served to secure our freedom, not to enable FivePoint to profit from the land in the Great Park meant for the burial of our veterans.
Ernestina Benson

Without question, we need a Veterans Cemetery — as originally planned, in the Great Park.
—  Roger Bowman, U.S. Navy, Vietnam Veteran

My husband would like to be buried in the Veterans Cemetery, as originally planned, where he was stationed at El Toro in 1943.  When he returned from overseas, we married and later bought our home in Turtle Rock in 1972, and still reside here.  It is sinful what is happening.  It is all political and disgraceful to our vets.
—  Aggie Piampiano

My brother, who is a Vietnam veteran, passed away in November of 2016, and we are waiting to bury his ashes.  I think it is absolutely ridiculous that we were approved for State funding of the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park, only to have Mayor Wagner and Councilmembers Fox and Shea now favor a land-swap.  Shame on all three of you!  Follow through on the original plan and represent the people of the City instead of the land developers.
Sheila Nyberg

I served in the Army Medical Corps for over 20 years, caring for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.  These brave patriots deserve to be laid to rest on the hallowed land within the Great Park.  What a disgraceful and cowardly stance by Mayor Wagner and Councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox!
—  Col. Peter Fredericks, M.D.

My husband and I have been for this Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park since the idea was first generated.  My husband was a Naval officer and we’ve lived our nearly 56 years of marriage here in Orange County.  This is where we want to be buried.  For us, time is running out.  It is important that the Veterans Cemetery be where it was originally planned, on the former military base, in the Great Park.
—  Susan Selman

I am fiercely against the decision made by the City Council to sell out Irvine’s citizens and scrap the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park.  The Cemetery would be a perfect way to show patriotism and preserve a lasting legacy.  A message must be sent to our elected officials that it is their duty to listen to the people and not be influenced by major corporations.  We need to set things right by voting against replacing the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park with development.
—  Daryl Brandino

The City Council’s willingness to side with big developers rather than respecting our veterans is disgusting.  The Mayor and specific members of the Council have voted for their funding base rather than their voting base. I, for one, am absolutely disgusted.
Molly Peukert

Shame on Wagner and Shea, and now Fox.  It is obvious that POLITICS got in the way of support for veterans and their families.
—  Robert Radus, USAF (1967-1971)

I believe that the current Council as constituted cannot and will not deliver a Veterans Cemetery no matter what the voters decide.  For whatever reason, Mayor Wagner and Councilmembers Fox and Shea have decided to side with FivePoint and deny the citizens of Irvine what they actually voted on.

As someone who has been a registered Republican for most of my life, I was truly ashamed to be part of a party that included Mayor Wagner and Councilmember Shea.  They do not represent me or my family.  They have betrayed the voters for their own self-interests.

I have talked to my husband and my brother who are the last surviving veterans of my family.  We are all in agreement.  We feel very strongly that any official that flouted the will of the voters, particularly on the issue of the Veterans Cemetery, should not continue to hold office.
—  Michelle Johnson

Frank Lunding

Franklin J. Lunding is the founding Publisher and Editor of Irvine Community News & Views. A lawyer and businessman, Mr. Lunding has served on the Irvine Planning Commission and, prior to that, as Chair of the Irvine Transportation Commission.
Frank Lunding

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