Veterans deserve the best site for a cemetery
We at Irvine City News are but one voice among a multitude asking that those who serve and protect our nation and our freedoms, now and in the past, benefit from the highest honors a grateful nation can bestow upon them. The least of these, it seems to us, is being buried close to home. Thankfully, Irvine seems to be unified on this point.
However, the location of that cemetery is the center of a growing debate. Three years ago the city council voted to approve what is known as the ARDA site, a property with 77 structures, concrete, asphalt and underground utilities that will need to be demolished and the land remediated at a cost of $30 million.
An alternate site was proposed a year ago, close to the 5 Freeway, and was offered by FivePoint. That site has nothing on it but strawberries. The then-city council refused to approve (or even vote on) a proposal from Christina Shea to study the offer from FivePoint.
A year later, the current council voted 3-2 to proceed on two tracks toward the goal of a veterans cemetery within the city. The majority (Mayor Don Wagner, Councilmember Melissa Fox and Councilmember Christina Shea) agreed to both consider FivePoint’s alternate site proposal while also committing $38 million of the estimated $77-$80 million necessary to build the veterans cemetery at the ARDA site, contingent on the state of California also contributing $38 million to that site.
At the April city council meeting, dozens of veterans came to the dais to speak to the council. Many wore their uniforms, and spoke movingly of their service during WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq and other conflicts.
They were all in favor of the city locating their final resting spot at a Veterans Cemetery in Irvine. Many spoke in favor of the alternate site near the freeway. Others preferred sticking with the ARDA site near Portola High School.
Some who spoke at the hearing and were opposed to studying the alternate site may have been influenced by a mass email sent out that called the alternate site proposal a “scheme” and alleged that any study of the FivePoint proposal would “effectively kill our Veterans Cemetery.”
Luckily, the majority of the city council and many, if not most, of the veterans at the hearing saw through these divisive statements.
What does anyone have to lose by exercising due diligence in vetting FivePoint’s offer?
If it indeed will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, and won’t significantly impact the timeline for first burials at a new veterans cemetery, than there can be no real reason to oppose making the analysis.
Comparing the two sites pros and cons makes sense, especially when the future and final home of our country’s and county’s veterans is at stake. So Irvine City News did just that.
So why, then, were some at the hearing so adamant in opposing a fair and balanced analysis of the FivePoint offer, while moving forward with authorizing expenditures for the ARDA site? No doubt some believe that considering another, possibly much better, cemetery site would set back the progress made on the ARDA site.
But we’re worried that others wish to re-fight the political battles of the past rather than honor the heroes among us now. For those folks, committing to the best location for a veterans cemetery seems less important than the political scores they keep.
After hearing the debate and weighing the options, Irvine City News strongly believes there is only one course of action: Accept FivePoint’s offer and move the cemetery from the ARDA site to the highly visible alternate site next to the 5 Freeway.
If approved by the council, this option will save the taxpayers millions of dollars, speed construction and delivery of the cemetery’s first phase faster and remove concerns nearby residents and school officials have about the proximity to the ARDA site.
That’s our opinion, and it’s one shared by a significant number of veterans.
Gov. Jerry Brown is said to be coming to Irvine in May to visit the ARDA cemetery site, and hopefully the alternate site, too.
We urge all Irvine residents to look at the images of the two sites, study the maps. We believe you will agree with us that the alternative site is the superior location for the long overdue Veterans cemetery in Irvine.