Council votes to uphold Irvine’s master plan for veterans cemetery
In the latest twist to the cemetery saga, all five Irvine councilmembers agreed that the Southern California Veteran’s Memorial Park should be located in the city. However, the council was divided on how to move forward on the emotional issue.
In the end, Mayor Don Wagner, along with councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox, voted in favor of city planners and members of the city’s planning, finance and transportation commissions to study the cost and impact of a 125-acre cemetery on the ARDA site near Irvine Boulevard.
Irvine has long been recognized as one of the most carefully planned and managed cities in America and as a result it has been lauded for its solvency, safety and beauty as a global model for master planned communities. Wagner said his motion calling for a series of feasibility studies on the cemetery plan at the ARDA site reflects the “prudent planning” that has been a hallmark of Irvine’s planning process since the city’s incorporation nearly 50 years ago.
The council’s 3-2 vote followed more than three hours of debate about the future of the cemetery in the city. More than 60 speakers, many of them veterans, urged the council to push forward with plans to locate a cemetery in Irvine to honor military servicemen and women. A month ago, Irvine voters essentially nixed a plan to put the cemetery on agricultural site known as the Strawberry Fields, just south of the Great Park when they defeated Measure B, a zoning referendum.
Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway opened Tuesday’s discussion with a motion to return the cemetery project to the ARDA site, which was first approved by the council in 2014. The site was ultimately abandoned because of the $78 million price tag to clean up the parcel and construct the first phase of the cemetery. Lalloway also proposed immediately allocating $40 million in city taxpayer money for the clean-up effort. But his motion, supported by Councilmember Lynn Schott, failed to win a necessary third vote for passage.
Echoing the council majority’s opinion, Wagner said he was a strong proponent of building the cemetery in Irvine. “But we have to do it right,” he said. “It’s all about the planning process and this motion puts that process in play.”