What exactly does the June 5th ballot measure do?

Irvine spent four years planning and receiving the necessary approvals to build a beautiful Veterans Cemetery, surrounded by nature and serenity in Orange County’s Great Park.

The June 5th ballot measure attempts to scrap those plans, hand the Great Park property over to a multi-billion-dollar developer for massive commercial development, and relocate the Veterans Cemetery out of the Great Park, miles away at the intersection of the I-5 and I-405, surrounded by industrial buildings and freeway congestion.

The Mayor and two City Councilmembers are trying to sell Irvine voters on their unconscionable scheme with FivePoint by saying that the mega-developer is generously “swapping” strawberry fields at the intersection of the I-5 and I-405 freeways for 125 acres in the Great Park so that the City can build a Veterans Cemetery faster and cheaper.

What the Council  doesn’t want voters to know is that the 125 acres in the Great Park will be rezoned for massive commercial development by FivePoint.  The Council knows that Irvine voters would never agree to their rezoning scheme if they knew it included massive commercial development in the Great Park — adding 10,000 more cars & trucks to Irvine streets EVERY day.

If this rezoning measure was really about helping to build a Veterans Cemetery, why does FivePoint need the property in the Great Park rezoned for massive commercial development?  And why doesn’t the City Council want Irvine residents to know?

Can you provide some background on the issue?

On October 10th, the Irvine City Council passed, for the second time (which is required for an ordinance to be legal), a Zone Change ordinance to rezone a 125-acre property, within the Great Park, which had been designated for a Veterans Cemetery by unanimous City Council vote in 2014. That property — and the Veterans Cemetery project— was subsequently approved by the State, CalVet, and the U.S. Veterans Administration, for a State Memorial Park and Veterans Cemetery. $30 million of State money was approved by the State Budget Committee to begin land clearing and construction this past summer.

However, the City Council’s October 10th approval, on a 3-2 vote, of a Zone Change ordinance changed the zoning of the site from a cemetery to office and commercial development. It also re-designated a similar-sized site alongside the I-5 and I-405 freeways for non-commercial use.

Our Referendum Petition campaign collected 19,140 signatures (we were required to collect 12,000 signatures) which stopped implementation of that October 10th Zone Change ordinance, and puts the ordinance on the ballot so that Irvine voters have the final say as to the location of the Veterans Cemetery, and where they want the location of 812,000 square feet of R&D (offices and related commercial development), at the I-5 freeway or at the north end of the Great Park.

The actual land-swap deal was negotiated for the City by Mayor Donald Wagner without any public hearing, and signed solely by the Mayor on October 26th without approval of the City Council.

The issue will be included on the June 5th ballot.

Can the Veterans Cemetery location be reversed without the loss of state funding?

Yes!  The Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park site had already been approved by CalVets, the State and the Feds, along with $30 million in state funding and $9 million in federal funding. That funding was rejected when the City Council voted to move the cemetery to the freeway site; however, all the evaluations, conceptual design and studies for the Great Park site still exist, and still apply.

Would the Great Park location cost taxpayers more due to site cleanup costs?

No! That’s the absurd part of the FivePoint argument. Eventually, the entire Great Park would have to be cleaned up. Giving away incredibly valuable park property because it needs to be cleaned up is ridiculous. Those cleanup costs were anticipated from the very beginning of development of the Great Park. In fact, if you look at the cost estimate that was prepared for the Great Park Veterans Cemetery, the State’s $30 million would cover all those cleanup costs and site preparation.

To review the cost estimate prepared by CalVet, click here.

Your opposition says the freeway location is the fastest and cheapest way to build the cemetery. Is that true?

No! There have been no approvals and no evaluations for the new freeway location. CalVet says their evaluation cannot be completed before June 2018. It then takes another four months for a pre-application to the feds.

It’s unlikely that any work could begin at the freeway location for at least another year. Meanwhile, the Great Park location site was ready for construction back in June, 2017.

The irony is that the City Council’s reckless rezoning scheme has delayed construction of the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park for a year!

Do you have documentation supporting your arguments?

Yes! To access documents (obtained from the City of Irvine), click here.

Aren’t both locations for the Veterans Cemetery within the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station?

No! That’s another fake news story put out by FivePoint Communities to confuse Irvine voters. One of the reasons the original location was chosen is because it is within the boundaries of the former Marine Base, which seemed like a perfect location to honor our veterans.  The patch of land alongside the two freeways is not located on the grounds of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.  To see the map, click here.

I’ve been hearing from one side that the original site (ARDA site) for the Veterans Cemetery was in the Great Park, and from the other that it was not in the Great Park. Where was it?

The original Veterans Cemetery site (the ARDA site) is contiguous with the original Great Park (See map: 2017 City of Irvine Vicinity Map for Land-Swap), and represented as an expansion of the Great Park. The City Council Resolution 14-92 passed on July 2, 2014 states: Section 1. That the City Council of the City of Irvine hereby designates the Amended and Restated Development Agreement (ARDA) Transfer Site at the Great Park as the best possible site for a State Veterans Cemetery.  So, not only is the property geographically contiguous with the original Great Park, it’s described as “at” the Great Park in the transfer agreement.

Oddly, opponents of locating the Veterans Cemetery on the ARDA site claim that the freeway site is in the Great Park. Looking at the same map referred to, above, it is obvious that the freeway site is quite far from the Great Park. However, calling the freeway site also in the Great Park is strictly a legalism, since the legal boundary of the Great Park includes the widely separated wildlife corridor that cuts through the middle of the freeway site. Human entry into the wildlife corridor will surely be prohibited, and other military activities, such as gun salutes, would also likely be prohibited in a Veterans Cemetery located there. No one looking at the map could reasonably call the freeway site as being in or at the Great Park.

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