LIVEBLOG! Irvine City Council Meeting Vote on Siting of the Veterans Cemetery!


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This post will follow the events of this afternoon’s “special” Irvine City Council meeting as they occur.  They will be voting on whether to move the planned Veterans Cemetery from the current “ARDA” site (near the top middle of the map below in very light grayish green) to the “Strawberry Fields” site (below the purple planned Broadcomm campus near the middle bottom.)

Want a more “Central Park-like” Great Park? Build the Veterans Cemetery to the south!

4:02 Technical Difficulties. The Irvine station is playing an episode of David Ihrig’s “Irvine Today.” Too important to preempt? Unbelievable.  THANKS, IRVINE! (Time to go rock the boat and call the city!)

4:07  On hold with the City of Irvine.  949-724-6600.  But hey, I GOT THIS!

4:09 “Drowning accidents are the leading cause of injury and death among children younger than 5, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.  When  you spend time with family and friends this summer, the …”  (Took four cycles to transcribe that much.)

4:15  On! It was showing Jeff Lalloway, now the whole council — but it’s not playing.  I suspect that I’m not the only one watching online.

4:18  Lalloway complaining that we’re not putting this in front of the Transportation Commission, the Planning Commission, not doing a traffic study.  He hasn’t read the developer’s proposal.  “This is absolutely crazy.  We had a committee!  I was chair!  We looked at every alternative!  This one never came forward!”

Note: the City did not own it at the time.

4:20  He’s concerned that there’s a major backroom deal.  VOC said that it’s coming back with $9mm.  Now $10mm.  Did it go through the City Manager?  I’m sick of what’s going on with this transaction.  The Republicans would be screaming from the rooftops if the Democrats under Agran did this.  I’ll make a motion to put this off for a while.  No one has FivePoints offer.  Why don’t we just rip up our Master Plan, because that’s what it’s worth.

Hahaha — that’s what Lalloway did back in 2013, opening the way to all of the FivePoints development!  It also meant that Larry Agran had to consider a different way to put the “Great” in “Great Park” — which led to the veterans cemetery proposal after he learned that Sharon Quirk-Silva would head the Assembly Veterans Committee.  (And the two of them did a fantastic job of pushing it through!)

4:23  SHEA:  This is just a vote to go forward with the Land Swap.  Will still have to go forward with swap.  I brought it up 2 years ago and you voted it down!  It will go through all of the proper processes.  They sent in a transportation study — took me 45 minutes.  If you don’t have the time in your schedule …

Audio keeps dropping out.

she is still slamming Lalloway for not reading it.  Will still go through proper channels.

4:25  FOX:  “_______”

… and, the audio drops out, and is staying dropped out.

Lalloway got a pretty big ovation when he spoke.  We only heard about one second of applause after Shea, too little to gauge.  She only had about twelve tenth-of-a-second bursts.

Missed the whole thing.

4:27  SCHOTT, or else Melissa has really changed her look.  (HER, we get to hear!)

We don’t have an appraisal — why wouldn’t we do that?  Want to know the value of the land pre and post swap.  Land in the north belongs to City, land in the south to FivePoint.  We keep being told … … … break ground.  FivePoint wants to get rid of that land and let the city take it.  That’ll be the next step.

The question is WHAT LAND IS BETTER SUITED TO WHAT PURPOSE?

She thinks that they’re being rushed.  And should read before making a commitment.

4:33 WAGNER: Motion has been made.  It’s the one in the packet, it’s not for a real estate deal,  Move to public comments — but will let public officials jump to the head of the line, who will have letters read into the record.  Will start with Michelle Steel.

4:34  STEEL:  Watchdog to avoid extra spending, without $80MM price tag.

4:35  Carey O’Malley for Asmb. CHOI.  May 27 letter.  This already exists online.  Not gonna type it in.  He favors the land swap.  They let him tour it with Brown.  This land swap would be done by swapping the land.  He fawns over FivePoint.  Will save $10MMs in site preparation, because it needs cleanup.  By accepting in timely manner, will save millions of dollars for cleanup.  Will get this into the budget by the June 15 budget deadline — [which is the actual legitimate point here.]

4:39  CORREA (by Jose Guevara).  Sound drops off immediately.  Is there a Democratic filter at work here?

4:41  NEWMAN — His rep says that he’ll support either location.  Encourages thoughtful and serious? consideration to the alternative site.

Now to public comments:

#1  BRIAN CHUCHUA   First, thanks to Wagner and Sharon Quirk-Silva for bringing this to a head. Am a member of OCVMP. Strawberry Field not presented to us at the beginning, if it had been, it would have been chosen.  Veterans are dying now. This can be built in a long time. ARDA has 3-year study for spotted oil, toxic waste — 10 years down the line before opens.  Strawberry Field can be done in a year. Near transit, people won’t need to drive through streets with houses. You won’t have volleys of guns near the H.S.  This isn’t about money, but the best site for a vets cemetery. He gets good applause.

#2  LARRY LARSEN, who either spoke very briefly or who yields to BILL COOK.  This is 99th anniversary of Bella Wood (sp?), 5th & 6th Marine regiments got a special decoration from France.  There’s a vets cemetery there.  This is the 73rd anniversary of D-Day.  We can create something treasured for years.  Have been pushing for this since 1999.  Had had a year of silence, put aside politics, vengeance, and spite, and vote.

#3  RON BENGOCHET  Has attended every vote.  Thanks them for 2014 vote.  Thanks Sharon Q-S.  He’s always lived in Anaheim except 1967-69 — two other states and then a year in Vietnam.  Focus on Vets of OC.  Get moving on this project.  Will need traffic studies & CEQA no matter what.

Image drops out.  Reloading.  Just a series of still images.  Looks like about one minute per speaker, but the feed won’t keep going long enough to be sure..

4:53  [BEHR?] Anti-swap, says that studies will take too long after swap.  Approving it says to vets that it won’t happen.

4:54 PETER KATZ (of OCVMP)  Anniversary of D-Day.  Has been going to many vets’ funerals recently.  [sound drops — I don’t know if this is happening for everyone or if I am singularly blessed.]  Need 31 more cemeteries nationwide.  Colin Powell says just want enough land to bury vets in.  Costs cheaper, access easier, traffic easier — hard when you have to shut down streets, EIR reduced, speed, Irvine’s prestige will be enhanced.  Says “everyone has a university” (!) [If the vote were somehow lost, that would have been right where it happened!]

4:58 RALPH FARRINGTON  Wife and he and dying to get into a vets’ cemetery, but not too soon!  [Bah-dum, skish!  Laughter.  Sound drops out and stays out.]

4:59 KEN MONTGOMERY  Engineer, head of Transportation Commission.  Goes out and looks at traffic.  At 5:00 he goes out and looks at sites.  Has been visiting the two sites.  In his professional opinion, having looked, traffic will be much better if we build at the Strawberry Fields site.  He gets much applause.  People love traffic engineers!

5:01 MISSED NAME  Broadcomm campus will add traffic.  He doesn’t trust developers.  People that live in Irvine will have to deal with the traffic.  Something will be built in ARDA site that will cause more traffic.  Lots of the vets don’t live in Irvine.  If buy a car, do buy a contract before know what it will cost?  No, don’t sign and then get the price.

Maybe they should use as much of the $30MM as necessary to buy back the Broadcomm site and expand the cemetery — maybe with a museum?

5:04  BILL LEWIS  Lived in Irvine before was a City.  Long family and personal military history.  As starts with meat of speech, sound drops.  Now it’s back on!  Carl Sandburg poem, “Grass”:  “I am the grass, I cover all.”  Gotta go look that one up.

5:06 JEAN ___?  She’s holding flags.  Why are we talking about this again?  Asking on vague, guess?  Illusion.  Business model is proposals and contracts — but FivePoint is playing games.  Now get a viewpoint with $$$ attached.  This is about money.  Fact that no appraisal isn’t kosher.

Suddenly she freezes and we hear only a a man’s deep voice.  Possible haunting?  Hope not!  Then craps out entirely.  Sense from the audio is that the crowd is mostly anti-swap — Agran was really pounding the drum to get people out — but enough pro-swap as to not likely affect Fox’s decisive (and already well-informed) vote.

5:15  Site back up.  Video still is back up.  No sound or motion.

I’ll go back and review some of what we’ve seen.

The big problem here is FivePoint’s reputation.  People don’t trust it to finish the site expeditiously if it’s ARDA or to follow through with money and timely construction if it’s Strawberry.

One thing that people seem to be missing is that the cemetery is intended, in order to save funds, as a site for cremains.  A single structure could be set up VERY quickly for that purpose, to allow burial of cremains SOON, while the larger construction that makes the site into the something great it will eventually be.

FANCHER: Audit FivePoint’s contributions in last three cycles.  Big round of applause.

STEVE GREENBERG:  Transportation Committee Vice Chair, Shea appointee.  Pro-switch.  125 acres is free.  Waves around Agran’s paper, calling it “Fake News!”

Not the guy you want speaking for your cause.

PANKAJ VENDOKER:  Never saw burial places, but saw monuments, has to be in Great Park, which is in the City.  Why need to do it all now?  Nobody goes to old site.  Should be in heart of Irvine.  Will lead to traffic congestion in old site.

Does not seem clear on the concept — people will visit veterans gravesites with as much memorialization as is planned.

LARRY AGRAN: Set aside land swap resolution.  Draw them and issue permits to begin demolition and site prep, as planned and approved by Council, State, and Fed DVA.  Staff says preliminary demolition can begin at old site within 60 days.  Have completed entire approval process, 9/27/14.  Law is clear and commanding: Irvine shall design and equip state owned and maintained Vet’s cemetery, on 125-acre site within the Great Park.  [And … sound drops out.  Pity, that.  Does probably go to show how many people are listening!]  Under 5Pt, will be development — office, commercial residential.  They’ll make $500 million of land sales.  Will lose most important feature of Great Park.

Again — if this land had been City owned back in the day, it would have been GUARANTEED to be part of the Great Park.  Why can’t that happen NOW?  And, wow, does he really not realize that laws can be changed?  He sure saw it happen to him when they blasted his Master Plan out of the Municipal Code!  No law “commands” that it cannot be changed if a better proposed law comes along, with the exception of one provision of the U.S. Constitution.

CAROL YOAKUM — Astounded by proposal for land swap.  Was Planning Commissioner, Finance ___, concern — not concerned about where would be buried, but whether people would forget.

Can be part of Great Park.  Why would they be MORE likely to forget about people buried at the MORE visible site?

Didn’t get name of next speaker.  Is concerned about cost of maintenance.  Is guaranteed at ARDA site.  No one talks about it here!

Cemetery will, after being built, be donated to either state of federal government to be an official vets cemetery.  They will take over the maintenance, etc.  NO WAY will they turn it down.

OK, we got through the main Vets and through Agran.  Given the technical difficulties, we’ll wait until we get to the vote.

See update above.  No surprises.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)