Below is the timeline and path to completion for the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery (with links to official government documents supporting each statement we make).
Path to the Veterans Cemetery - Past/Present/Future
CalVet Veterans Site Report Due
AB 368, enacted on September 12, 2019, states the following:
SEC. 2. Section 1410 of the Military and Veterans Code is amended to read:
1410. (a) (1) Pursuant to Section 1412, the department, in voluntary cooperation with local government entities in the County of Orange, shall acquire, study, design, develop, construct, and equip a state-owned and state-operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery, which shall be located at either the site of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, on 125 acres known as the Amended and Restated Development Agreement Site in the Orange County Great Park in the City of Irvine or at the approximately 100 acres known as the Golf Course Site in the Orange County Great Park in the City of Irvine, as described and adopted by the City Council of the City of Irvine at the July 23, 2019, special joint meeting.
The department shall, after completing acquisition studies on both sites, consult with the Department of General Services to determine which site to pursue based on the economic feasibility, benefits to veterans and City of Irvine residents, and availability of each location.
However, on May 12, 2020, the Irvine City Council adopted the Build the Great Park Veterans Cemetery Initiative that exclusively zoned the ARDA site at the Great Park for a State Veterans Cemetery. Nonetheless, on May 21, 2020, State Senator Archuleta requested Governor Newsom to “reconsider withdrawal of $700,000 to conduct the study of the sites in the Irvine area.” (The sites referred to are the ARDA site and a golf course site.) Those funds were reinstated and the study is still underway, scheduled to be released mid-May 2021.
Mayor Khan announced at a Council meeting and again at a public forum that she will hold a Council meeting after the State study is complete to make a decision on the location of the State Veterans Cemetery, even though City law prohibits any location other than the ARDA site.
Presentation to Irvine City Council
On June 23rd, the Irvine City Council failed to approve Councilmember Melissa Fox’s motion to begin construction of the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery, and also to begin the complex negotiation for transfer of the ARDA site to CalVet. Although the vote was 2-2, with Councilmembers Anthony Kuo and Michael Carroll opposed, Mayor Christina Shea said she opposed the motion and left the meeting before the vote.
Irvine City Council Adopts Citizens’ Initiative that Rezones the ARDA Site Exclusively for a State Veterans Cemetery
At the May 12, 2020 meeting, the Irvine City Council ended the six-year battle by adopting the citizens’ initiative to rezone the ARDA site exclusively for the Southern California Memorial Park & Cemetery. This is the original City-owned 125-acre “ARDA” site on the former Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro at the Great Park.
The 4-1 vote was an amazing victory for the all-volunteer grassroots Build the Great Park Veterans Cemetery committee that eliminated the need for a ballot measure.
The citizens’ committee — made up of hundreds of Irvine residents — has worked tirelessly for years to make sure that Irvine delivers on a promise it made back in 2014 to build the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery on the ARDA site.
OC Registrar of Voters Certifies Ballot Initiative for November 2020 Ballot
Today, the Orange County Registrar of Voters notified the City of Irvine that a petition initiative to rezone the original 125-acre ARDA site on the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station at the Great Park exclusively for a Veterans Cemetery has qualified for the November 3, 2020 ballot.
In an example of direct democracy, residents have sent a message to the Irvine City Council that they want the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery project back on track at the original site.
This marks the second time that Irvine residents have organized and rejected the City Council’s attempt to move the Veterans Cemetery to alternate locations. Measure B, a ballot referendum proposing a land swap with developer FivePoint, was soundly defeated by the voters in 2018 — 63% to 37%.
The Irvine City Council is required to act upon this initiative at the next regularly scheduled Council meeting, likely to be held on May 12, 2020. They can decide to adopt the measure or put it on the November 3rd ballot.
To read the full press release, click here.
Mayor Shea Wastes $67,337 in Taxpayer Money!
Ordinarily, the Orange County Registrar of Voters conducts a random sample of 3% of petition signatures to quickly and inexpensively determine whether sufficient valid signatures have been submitted to qualify a measure for the ballot.
According to City records, Shea apparently demanded that the OC Registrar of Voters count every single initiative petition signature — even past the number of signatures needed to qualify the initiative petition — at a cost to Irvine taxpayers of $67,337.
As expected, our initiative easily qualified for the November 3, 2020 ballot so the extra cost was not only unprecedented, it was also a totally wasteful expense by Shea.
Volunteers Submit 19,790 Signatures
On Tuesday, March 17th, the all-volunteer citizens’ committee delivered 19,790 signatures to the Irvine City Clerk’s office, moving Irvine one giant step closer to fulfilling the City’s promise to build a beautiful Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery on the City-owned, 125-acre ARDA site at the Great Park.
The signed petitions have now been transferred to the Orange County Registrar of Voters for an official certified count to ensure the initiative can be placed on the Irvine ballot in November.
If passed by Irvine voters later this year, the citizens’ initiative would override the Council’s November 26, 2019 vote, by designating the City-owned ARDA site at the Great Park on the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station as Irvine’s once-and-for-all choice for a State-built and State-operated Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery, at no cost to the City.
Council Ignores 2018 Election Results – Votes to Rezone ARDA Site for Massive Development
During the holiday season (when they thought that nobody was paying attention) the Irvine City Council’s two unelected members — Mayor Christina Shea and Councilman Michael Carroll — pushed ahead with yet another scheme to derail and defeat the Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery at the Great Park “ARDA” site.
At the November 26, 2019 City Council meeting, two days before Thanksgiving, the Council — led by Shea and Carroll — voted to rezone the City-owned, 125-acre ARDA site at the Great Park for massive office, commercial and industrial development intended to net hundreds of millions of dollars for their favorite billion-dollar-developer, FivePoint.
Original Opening Day
Today, the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery was scheduled to become operational!
Instead of delivering on the City’s 2014 promise to our veterans, Mayor Christina Shea has spent the past five years colluding with giant land developer FivePoint to delay, derail, and defeat the project.
Shea is still trying to issue a 99-year lease of the City-owned ARDA site at the Great Park to FivePoint for massive commercial development.
Citizens’ Committee Begins Gathering Signatures
Today, the citizens’ committee to Build the Great Park Veterans Cemetery began work gathering the signatures necessary to qualify their Initiative for the ballot.
The volunteer-driven campaign has enlisted scores of Irvine residents to help gather the 15,000 signatures required.
Volunteers have begun gathering signatures all weekend at public libraries, City parks, and local shopping centers.
Although the committee officially has 180 days to complete the task, campaign leaders believe they will gather the necessary signatures much sooner.
Citizens’ Committee Files Initiative Petition
The citizens’ committee to Build the Great Park Veterans Cemetery filed a “Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition” with the Irvine City Clerk’s office today.
The initiative would rezone the 125-acre, City-owned ARDA site at the Great Park exclusively for only one land-use purpose — for a beautiful Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery.
In addition to the planned Veterans Cemetery itself, the site will also include complementary Memorial Gardens, a two-mile Memorial Trail with thousands of trees, and a small-scale air museum that includes restoration of the iconic control tower and airplane hangars dating back to World War II, when the site was part of what was the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro.
The City Attorney has 15 days to prepare a Title and Summary.
Council Cancels Veterans Cemetery…Again!
For the second time in two years, the Irvine City Council voted to cancel the State’s plan to build the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery on the ARDA site at the Great Park.
Instead, the Council supported a completely different, never-studied site. Councilmember Melissa Fox (the only opposing vote) stated she had only learned of the new site the week before the vote.
Mayor Calls New Site a “Diversion Tactic”
Days before orchestrating a Council vote to cancel plans to build a Veterans Cemetery at the ARDA site, Irvine Mayor Cristina was caught on video telling a small group of homeowners that she had come up with a completely different site as a “diversion tactic” to stop the State from moving forward with a bill (AB 368) that would designate the ARDA site as the Veterans Cemetery.
At the same meeting, Shea further revealed that she wanted to give a giant land developer (FivePoint) a “99-year lease” of the ARDA site.
To watch the video, click here.
State Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Unanimously Passes AB 368
State Assembly Unanimously Passes AB 368
State Assembly Appropriations Committee: $20 Million for First-Year Funding of AB 368
Councilmember Fox Announces Support for ARDA Site
Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox posted an entry on her blog announcing that she supports AB 368 and believes that the ARDA site in the Great Park is the only location that has a real chance of receiving the necessary funding for the Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery.
To read Councilmember Fox’s post, click here.
Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs Unanimously Supports AB 368
Today, the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs unanimously (10-0) voted in support of AB 368.
The bill now moves on to the Appropriations Committee.
To view the latest on the AB 368, click here.
AB 368 Text Update
Today, California Assembly Bill AB 368, was amended to read:
Pursuant to Section 1412, the department [California Department of Veterans Affairs], in voluntary cooperation with local government entities in the County of Orange, shall acquire, study, design, develop, construct, and equip a state-owned and state-operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery, which shall be located at the site of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, on 125 acres known as the Amended and Restated Development Agreement Site [ARDA] in the Orange County Great Park in the City of Irvine.
To read the latest version of the bill, click here.
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva Introduces AB 368
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva introduced legislation [AB 368] that would direct the California Department of Veteran Affairs to establish a Southern California Veterans Cemetery…to construct a state-owned and state-operated Orange County Veterans Cemetery at the ARDA site in the Great Park.
Council Shocks Residents: Rejects Motion to Immediately Begin Construction at the Great Park
Councilmember Jeff Lalloway introduced an agenda item, directing staff to immediately commence construction of the previously approved Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park — beginning with demolition, cleanup, and site preparation — in accordance with the approved 333-page CalVet design and Concept Plan. To read Councilmember Lalloway’s memo and agenda item, click here.
The meeting included hundreds of Irvine residents who spoke for nearly three hours in support of Councilmember lalloway’s motion.
Shamefully, Mayor Donald Wagner and Councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox ignored the voters’ mandate, rejected the motion and then passed a substitute motion that will keep the Veterans Cemetery in red tape for years to come.
The meeting ended with chants for a recall!
Council Members Ignore Speakers
At the first Council meeting following the June 5th election, a dozen or so Irvine residents (mostly veterans) addressed the three pro-developer Councilmembers during the Public Comments portion of the meeting to discuss the issue of the Great Park Veterans Cemetery.
Ironically, as the veterans asked the Council to listen to the voters, the Council completely ignored them, staring at their phones and texting the entire time they spoke.
If Irvine residents take the time to attend a Council meeting, our City leaders should respect their constituents enough to pay attention and listen.
June 5th Election
On June 5th, 63% of Irvine voters REJECTED Measure B by Voting NO!
A NO vote NEGATED the October 10th City Council ordinance that “swapped” the 125-acre site in the Great Park with FivePoint’s strawberry field at the El Toro “Y”.
The developer keeps their crappy property next to the El Toro “Y” and veterans get to keep their property at the Great Park for the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery.
A NO vote also NEGATED the rezoning of the Great Park site for FivePoint’s 812,000 square feet of commercial development.
The almost 10,000 cars and trucks resulting from the developers building plans will stay at the El Toro “Y” instead of being dumped onto our city streets.
A No vote KEEPS the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery at the Great Park where it was originally approved by CalVet and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, and fully funded!
Contrary to what the opposition says, there WILL be a Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery. After being cancelled by the developer and their City Council cronies, the construction can be back on track within weeks of the election.
“Yes on B’ Receives $100,000 More from Developer FivePoint
After creating the “Yes on B” campaign with an initial investment of $600,000 in April, developer FivePoint donated another $100,000 in May.
The latest campaign disclosure shows more than half a million dollars has been spent in the last month on mass media advertising (TV, social media, and direct mailers), pushing the false statement that Measure B somehow stops development and reduces traffic.
To review their campaign disclosure form, click here.
More & More Lies
Developer FivePoint spends half a million dollars on TV ads, social media and direct mail pieces pushing the outright lie that Measure B stops development and traffic!
Who in the world believes that a developer is spending half a million dollars promoting a ballot measure that would stop any new development in Irvine?
Even though developer FivePoint is pushing outright lies about Measure B somehow stopping development and reducing traffic, the ballot tells the truth.
Although the language is technical, you can see the ballot states that Measure B moves (relocates) planned development (almost a million square feet of development) from the El Toro “Y” (Bake Parkway) into the Great Park (Pusan and Irvine Blvd.).
NOTE: The very first section on the ballot (dealing with development) is what we had to sue the “Yes on B” campaign to include. They wanted to hide the fact that this ballot measure is tied to moving almost a million square feet of massive development from the freeway into the Great Park.
City studies estimate that the transfer of those development projects would add 10,000 cars and trucks to Irvine Blvd., Sand Canyon, and Jeffrey every day.
“Yes on B” Campaign Insults Irvine Veterans
The “Yes on B” campaign (which has only ONE donor – developer FivePoint) flooded Irvine streets with signs attacking the military service of any veteran who is voting “NO on Measure B” claiming they aren’t “Real“ veterans.
Click on the video below to hear what Marine Combat Veteran Tom Robb thinks about FivePoint’s insulting street signs.
It’s Official: Developer Bankrolling the “Yes on B” Campaign!
Although they tried to hide it as long as possible, campaign finance laws forced the “Yes on B” campaign to disclose the fact that their ONE and ONLY donor is developer FivePoint, who contributed a whopping $600,000 to start the campaign!!
On the other hand, our “No on B” filing contains 25 pages filled with hundreds of individual Irvine residents that have donated $10, $25, $50, along with a loan we took out (and are paying back) to fight FivePoint.
Everything put out by the “Yes on B” campaign is coming directly from FivePoint who will spend whatever it takes to move their 812,000 square feet of commercial development from the El Toro “Y” over to the Great Park. Even at the cost of delaying our Veterans Cemetery, which would have already been under construction for a year at the Great Park site, and was scheduled to open by Veterans Day 2019.
It’s all about the money for FivePoint! Which do you think is more valuable to them? Selling apartments and offices overlooking one of the busiest, most congested freeway interchanges in the nation or selling apartments and offices overlooking a quiet park?
Official Irvine City Finance Reporting page (under “Search by Name”, enter “valor”)
Orange County Superior Court Ruling Validates “NO on B” Campaign Claims
The Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation (funded by developer FivePoint) sued U.S. Army veteran Ed Pope and the “No on B” campaign, claiming false and misleading statements in its Ballot Argument Against Measure B and in its rebuttal to the “Yes on B” Ballot Argument. The Court ruled in Ed Pope’s favor on the following issues:
The OC Superior Court ruled the following “NO on Measure B” statements (in bold) that will appear in the Voter Information Guide are VALID and TRUE [words in brackets provide context]:
[Passage of Measure B will result in] “massive, new office, commercial, manufacturing and industrial development and 8,000 more car/truck trips every day on Irvine Boulevard, Sand Canyon, Jeffrey, and throughout Irvine.”
“Claims that putting the Veterans Cemetery at the developer’s freeway interchange site would save taxpayers money are baseless.”
[A] “developer commitment to help fund the cemetery was not established by clear and convincing evidence.”
“The truth is that the Cemetery, at either site, will be built to the highest standards — and maintained forever by the State at absolutely no cost to the City.”
[The original site for the Veterans Cemetery, along Irvine Blvd., is] “the State-approved Veterans Cemetery alongside the Great Park”
Court Orders Irvine City Council to Re-Write Ballot Label
After three pro-developer Councilmembers submitted a deceptive ballot question (referred to as a ballot label) stating Measure B was only about building a Veterans Cemetery and nothing about the fact that Measure B would rezone the Great Park site for massive commercial development, we took them to court and won!
The OC Superior Court forced them to include the truth about Measure B.
Required Signatures Collected to Put City Council Land-Swap Decision on June Ballot
Volunteers from the Save the Veterans Cemetery Committee turn in 19,125 signatures of Irvine residents (far in excess of the 12,000 required), petitioning the City Council to reconsider and repeal its Great Park zone-change ordinance or, alternatively, put the matter on the ballot for Irvine voters in 2018.
Three days later, Councilmember Melissa Fox receives $10,000
Just three days after the Orange County Victory Fund received the $12,000 donation from StarPointe (affiliated with FivePoint), $10,000 was transferred to Melissa Fox’s account.
According to the Orange County Register, the sneakiness of this transfer is that it was deposited in Melissa’s obscure Central Committee account to bypass Irvine City’s campaign donation limits!
Just days after final land-swap vote, developer donates $12,000
Just 10 days after the Irvine City Council finalized the land-swap deal, StarPointe (developer FivePoint’s lobbyist), donates $12,000 to the Orange County Victory Fund, run by Democrats.
Irvine Veterans Launch Referendum Petition to Overturn City Council Decision
Irvine veterans, along with their families, friends and neighbors launch a Referendum Petition to overturn the October 10th ordinance and Council action. On this day, a lawsuit was filed challenging the Council action and its failure to adhere to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
City Council Finalizes Vote for Land-Swap Scam: Ordinance 17-08 (Measure B)
City Council approved Ordinance 17-08 (Measure B), in concept, a transfer of ownership of the 125-acre originally designated, City-owned, Great Park Veterans Cemetery site to developer FivePoint Communities, along with a zone-change ordinance entitles FivePoint to build 812,000 square feet of office and commercial development on that Great Park property.
Construction Cancelled for Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery
Construction of the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery at the Great Park location was scheduled to begin in the summer of 2017 after the California Legislature approved the State budget.
However, since the three pro-developer Councilmembers rejected the $30 Million in state funds (during their June 6th emergency meeting), construction was cancelled.
The first phase of the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery at the Great Park was scheduled to be operational by Veterans Day 2019.
Suspicious Council Meeting Called on 24-Hour Notice – Rejects $30 Million State Funds
City Council meeting. Even though Councilmember Melissa Fox’s requirement of State funding was met, this special meeting was called on 24-hour notice by Mayor Don Wagner and Councilmember Fox, just 10 days before the State budget was to be adopted by the Legislature.
At this June 6th meeting, on a 3-2 vote (Mayor Wagner and Councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox voting YES; and Councilmembers Jeff Lalloway and Lynn Schott voting NO) the Council rejected the $30 million in pending State funding, abandoning the Great Park Veterans Cemetery project in favor of a vaguely described land exchange with FivePoint Communities that would put the Veterans Cemetery at the “Strawberry Fields.”
Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva adds $30 Million Grant to State Budget
Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva successfully inserted into the pending 2017-2018 State budget, a $30 million grant to CalVet to commence construction of the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park, beginning with demolition, removal of hazardous waste and site clearing.
Land-Swap Deal Introduced at City Council Meeting
Irvine City Council meeting: Motion made by Councilmember Lalloway, to: “Authorize and direct the City Manager to take all necessary steps in cooperation with Cal Vet,and the U.S. Veterans Administration, to accelerate the processing and final approvals for expedited construction of the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery on Veterans Cemetery Facts Supported by Documents… the State and City designated 125-acre parcel of land known as the ARDA Transfer Site within the Great Park, with the goal of commencing memorial park and cemetery operations on or before Veterans Day 2019.
The City Manager is further directed to: … Convey to the Governor’s office and the California Veterans Administration, … (…and the U.S. Veterans Administration), the City’s offer to guarantee local funding of up to $40 million from Account 180 at the Great Park toward completion of design, demolition, grading and construction in order to commence operation of the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery within the Great Park by Veterans Day 2019.
This motion first carried 3-2, with Fox, Lalloway and Schott voting YES; then, Councilmember Fox suddenly said she made a mistake and wanted to reconsider her vote. In the reconsideration, Lalloway’s measure was replaced by one limiting the City’s contribution to $38 million; requiring that the balance of the cost — $40 million — come from the State and Federal governments; and introducing a land-swap alternative in case the State failed to appropriate the funds.
With Fox’s changed vote, this new motion passed.
FivePoint’s Consultant/Lobbyist Gives $40,000.00 To Republican Party of Orange County
FivePoint’s Consultant/Lobbyist Gives $50,000.00 to California Democratic Party
Concept Plan for the Southern California Veterans Cemetery is released
Concept Plan for the Southern California Veterans Cemetery is released by the State’s Department of General Services, a 333-page report covering site design, plantings, grading, site demolition, hazardous materials removal, roadway systems, architecture, building program, soil boring logs, and cost estimate (totaling about $78 million).
Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 1453
Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1453, establishing what would be the first veterans cemetery in Orange County on 125 acres of Irvine’s Great Park, also appropriated $500,000 for the State Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) to complete preliminary design work and directed CalVet to seek federal funds to help cover the cost of construction.
Irvine City Council Unanimously Approves Transfer of Site
Irvine City Council Meeting: ”Item 5.3 consideration of Councilmember Agran’s request to convey specific city property to the State for purposes of creating the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery” in furtherance of AB 1453, putting the City “one giant step closer to the earliest possible realization of the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery at the Great Park.”
Adopted unanimously was Agran’s motion (seconded by Councilmember Jeff Lalloway) resolving to convey to the State the 125-acre “ARDA Transfer Site” at the Great Park.
This meeting was attended by a large contingent of veterans organized by Bill Cook and others, who spoke movingly of their service and the need for a Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park (the former MCAS El Toro) which was described as the “perfect site.”
Irvine City Council Approves Initial Great Park Site
Irvine City Council Meeting: Council adopts Councilmember Larry Agran’s proposal to:
- Support AB 1453
- Express the City Council’s “strong interest” in identifying and designating a site at the Orange County Great Park for conveyance to the State for purposes of creating and operating a State Veterans Cemetery.
Meeting with Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva
Councilmember Larry Agran, along with Bill Cook, Harvey Liss and others meet with Sharon Quirk-Silva at her District Office in Fullerton to discuss the process for establishing a Veterans Cemetery in Orange County.
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, Introduces Legislation [AB 1453]
Press Release: “Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, Chair of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced legislation [AB 1453] that would direct the California Department of Veteran Affairs to establish a Southern California Veterans Cemetery…to construct a state-owned and state-operated Orange County Veterans Cemetery.”