Veterans Cemetery could be stalled
FivePoint has and continues to be firmly committed to the City of Irvine’s long-held promise to build a veterans cemetery in the city for the men and women who have served honorably in our military. To that end, FivePoint originally offered a land exchange in April 2016 to allow the cemetery to be built faster, for less taxpayer money and on a site more favorable to the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Association.
In June, FivePoint submitted a written offer to the City detailing the plan to exchange approximately 125 acres of highly visible and accessible land near the 5 and 405 freeways along Bake Parkway to be used for the cemetery in exchange for approximately 125 acres near Irvine Boulevard, the site originally selected by the City several years ago for the cemetery. In addition, FivePoint pledged to spend up to $10 million to fund construction of the first phase of the veterans cemetery. FivePoint was pleased when the Irvine City Council selected the FivePoint site known as “the strawberry fields” as the preferred cemetery site and directed staff to draft an agreement to accomplish the 125-acre land exchange.
The State of California then amended the legislation authored by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva creating the Southern California Veterans Memorial to acknowledge the selection of the FivePoint site and to add additional funds to fast-track completion of the preliminary approval requirements. Gov. Brown signed these bills on June 27 and applauded the progress toward the goal of finally constructing a veterans cemetery in Irvine.
On Aug. 31, nearly two months after FivePoint’s offer was endorsed by a Council majority, City staff responded with four pages of contractual issues raising new concerns about the land exchange. None of these issues had been raised, discussed publicly or identified by the Council at the time they directed City staff to document the final land exchange agreement. One of the changes in the City’s response was a plan to transfer only a portion of the full 125 acres to the state for a cemetery. The rest of the land would be kept by the City for other uses, including revenue-generating uses like housing and hotels.
FivePoint believes the City should honor the original proposal directing all 125 acres to be used for the veterans cemetery. This requires transferring the full acreage to the State upon final agreement of the land exchange. Further, this land should have a deed restriction preventing any use other than a cemetery, consistent with the original terms of the land exchange.
FivePoint believes that straying from the original proposal would put the success of the veterans cemetery at risk, and will therefore reject any plan that would withhold transfer of any portion of the land to the State or transfer the land in phases. FivePoint looks forward to the City Council approving the land exchange as conceptually agreed upon in June.