OC Supervisor Don Wagner hosted a press conference 22 miles from Irvine (and just 5 five miles from Riverside County), along the 91 freeway to “welcome the Gypsum Canyon site as OC’s future home for our deserving veterans.” In addition to County veterans, local reporters, and other elected officials, Irvine Councilmembers Mike Carroll and Tammy Kim attended the press event.
The Gypsum Canyon site is simply the latest in a long series of “anywhere but the ARDA site” proposed locations. It is unlikely there will ever be a Veterans Cemetery in Gypsum Canyon because there are too many costly development problems.
The nearest infrastructure (water, electric, sewer, etc.) to the Gypsum Canyon site is 2 miles away; it’s in a high fire hazard area; it’s a landslide area; it requires an expensive bridge for access; it’s unknown whether it could ever be a State Veterans Cemetery because the proposal also includes a public cemetery to share the site; and it is unclear whether the donation of the property, as specified in the deed to the County from the Irvine Company, permits a cemetery. And, there is no State legislation that would provide the basis for an appropriation of at least $600,000 for CalVet to study the site.
This isn’t the first time Wagner has supported an inferior site. Back on June 6, 2017, then-Irvine Mayor Don Wagner called an emergency meeting to reject $30 million that had been inserted into the State budget, specifically to prepare the ARDA site at the Great Park in Irvine for construction of the State Veterans Cemetery.
The Council then introduced a land-swap plan with FivePoint Communities to put the proposed Veterans Cemetery immediately adjacent to the I-5/I-405 freeway interchange — one of the nation’s 10 busiest, noisiest and most polluted freeway interchanges — in exchange for giving the ARDA site to FivePoint with 812,000 sq. ft. of office, industrial, R&D, commercial and apartment development rights.
Fortunately, that plan was defeated on June 5, 2018 when Irvine voters rejected the land-swap (Measure B) by a 63% to 37% vote.