In a stunning development that threatens to derail the entire Veterans Cemetery project, Mayor Don Wagner, joined by Councilmember Melissa Fox, has called a hurry-up “special meeting” of the Irvine City Council for Tuesday, June 6, at 4:00 p.m. at City Hall.
The purpose of the meeting is, apparently, to abandon the Veterans Cemetery project in the Great Park and, instead, give the 125-acre site to FivePoint Communities for massive commercial and office development, and possible residential development as well. This would generate huge profit for FivePoint, but huge traffic problems for Irvine residents from an estimated 10,000 additional daily auto trips. And, of course, the Great Park would be reduced in size by 125 acres — from 1,300 acres to just 1,175 acres.
FivePoint has said that as part of a “land-swap” scheme, they would “discuss” building a veterans cemetery on their privately owned land — two miles away from the Great Park, down near the I-5/I-405 El Toro “Y.” But, no specifics have been offered.
Just two weeks ago, at the May 23rd Council meeting, City staff reported that having gained all the necessary State and Federal approvals, demolition of old buildings and preliminary site preparation for the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park could begin in just “a couple of months,” if the City Council gave that direction.
And State Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva announced just days ago that $30 million for the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park had been inserted in the State Budget, scheduled for adoption by June 15th. Coupled with an expected $10 million grant from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, and the City’s standing pledge of $38 million from the City’s $250 million Great Park development fund, the entire $78 million would be enough to pay for the estimated $77.4 million to build the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park and make it operational in just two years.
So, why is recently elected Councilmember Melissa Fox — for years an advocate of the Great Park Veterans Cemetery — apparently willing to now “flip” and join Mayor Don Wagner and Councilmember Christina Shea in abandoning the Veterans Cemetery project in the Great Park and embracing, instead, a vague FivePoint “land-swap” — which some call an outright “land-swindle”?
Perhaps this question, and others, will be answered at the Tuesday, 4:00 p.m. special City Council meeting.