UPDATED: Irvine Veteran’s Cemetery Faces Significant Hurdle — “Death By Committee”

Here’s the breaking news from tonight’s Irvine Council meeting — according to sources on the scene!

Jeff Lalloway will be on the Site Selection committee, as expected, but Agran won’t; he is being replaced by Steven Choi.  All other appointees went as suggested by the staff report.

New non-voting Committee Members will be staff from Don Wagner, Mimi Walters, and Todd Spitzer.

The council agreed that the proposal should be on a fast-track and report at each Council meeting; but it didn’t formally change the meeting schedule.

The Council did not put veterans housing on the committee’s task list.

Lalloway apparently made a “guarantee” that he would get the job done and bring a Veterans Cemetery to Great Park.  (Does Choi know about this?)


The Orange County Veterans Memorial Park vets (and their supporters) are showing up again in Irvine right now, although in deference to the City Council only half-dozen of them will be speaking at tonight’s meeting.  Of all of the hurdles that stand in the way of completing the program this year — it’s best chance to pass for many years — today’s is one of the steepest … and most subtle.

Arlington cemetery

Irvine could have something more like this — or the Great Park can remain the Great Housing Tract.

The question for the next few months is whether Irvine will give over land within the Great Park to the state, which will then use federal money to construct a badly needed veterans’ cemetery in Orange County.  The Council will vote to refer the question of to a Site Selection Committee.  That could move the process along — or it could slow things down enough to make passing it this year impossible.

The “death by delay” contingent only has one certain member, Christina Shea, who already voted against endorsing the popular AB 1453, calling for a veteran’s cemetery in OC, for fear that it would offend the developer Five Point.  (She thinks that it would also lead to litigation — but that’s not a huge problem so long as Five Points loses, as is likely.)  Five Point doesn’t want a veterans cemetery near its almost 10,000 home development in the Great Park because its presence incurs bad feng shui that would cut into its home values.  If you’re wondering why Five Points has to worry that much about feng shui, given that East Asian immigrants care far less about it after a generation in the U.S., it’s because Five Point intends to market the homes to Chinese investors — that’s China, not Taiwan — who are trying to get their cash out of the People’s Republic of China while they can.  Why it’s in the interest of Irvine to give a damn about that aspect of their business plan is unclear, but Five Point is a developer, and in OC developerness is close to godliness.

Shea has tried to lard up the committee with an additional mission, to come up with veteran’s housing options, which the veterans on OCVMP like so long as it doesn’t get in the way of the committee recommending donation of a 100+ acre parcel of land for a veterans cemetery in time to pass the bill this year.  There’s no apparent reason to have the same committee cover both tasks other than to delay it, which is pretty transparently the point of Shea’s effort.  So, proponents of the Veterans Cemetery proposal, such as Councilmembers Larry Agran and Beth Krom, are hoping that Shea’s additional task will be excluded from the committee’s task list.  Short of that, having that part of the task deferred would probably do.

The swing votes on the City Council are Mayor Steven Choi, who voted with Shea last month on her killer amendment to strip out of the bill any consideration of donating land (but then switched sides to support AB 1453 itself) and actual swing vote Jeffrey Lalloway.  Lalloway is in a bit of a pickle, having to decide between a Communist Chinese investor-loving developer and increasingly excited and impatient U.S. military veterans.  (Where else but in Orange County would this even be a hard choice?)

If the committee takes too long to make a decision, then the plan dies for the year — and, without Sharon Quirk-Silva as Veteran’s Committee chair next session, possibly for a decade or more.  So, in addition to the question of who’s on the Site Selection Committee — Agran or Shea?  Choi or Lalloway? — the question will be the timeline of meetings.  City Manager Sean Joyce has set up a rather leisurely timeline if the committee is (as OCVMP members hope) going to decide at least that SOME site within the Great Park will suffice.  (Once that decision has been made, the Committee and Council can take longer to decide exactly where that site should be.  Right now, the land in question is right near the homes Five Point is building — but the planned sports facilities and such on the site can be moved around as need be.)  It doesn’t matter where in the Great Park it is, so long as it’s sure that it will be SOMEWHERE.  And that decision just should not take all that long.

So far, the veterans have been very optimistic about their dealings with the Irvine Council.  Hopefully, after the Council acts today, that will continue.  But if the Council clearly shows that it’s willing to delay too long for a bill to be passed this year, things may not be quite so friendly in Irvine.  This is a popular proposal; deferring to feng shui to fatten corporate profits from money taken out of China would be much less so.  Keep your eyes on Jeff Lalloway tonight, because he’s probably going to make some news.

Death by delay in a committee would be much subtler than death by negative vote — but dead is dead.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)