Proposed Southern California State Veterans Cemetery

July 16, 2018 Letter to CalVet regarding Strawberry Fields; related press release

Site Studies, Information Requests, and Next Steps

On July 10, 2018, the City Council approved the following motion on a 3-2 vote (Item 4.4):

  1. Direct the Planning Commission to:
    1. Work with the City's legal team, to prepare a comprehensive review of contractual agreements with our development partner and any other legal constraints, so that we might understand our Great Park construction obligations; and,
    2. Prepare an accurate time line for clean-up and first phase development and if in fact the first phase can be built and opened by November 11, 2020, as described in Councilmember Lalloway's memo.
       
  2. Direct the Finance Commission to:
    1. Review all available sources of potential cemetery funds, (including Great Park Fund 180's presently and expected future receipts);
    2. Analyze the impact to the Great Park construction of removing $80 million from Fund 180; and,
    3. Prepare an update of expected cost of demolition, clean-up, design, and construction of the first phase of the proposed cemetery plan (as described in the 2016 Concept Plan).
       
  3. Direct the Planning Department staff to prepare a report of any known hazardous   contaminants at the ARDA site and suggest how best to quickly address those matters with the least impact on City funds. (If outside consulting support is needed, staff is to bring to Council, within 60 days, a request for consultant approval, a description of the anticipated scope of work, and needed budget adjustments for Council review and authorization of this special environmental consultant.)
     
  4. Direct the Transportation Commission to complete a comprehensive traffic study for the proposed cemetery at the ARDA site, for the complete build out of the 125 acres.
     
  5. Direct the Mayor (whoever that may be over the coming year) to work with the OC Veterans groups, the State Legislature, CalVet, the Federal VA Department, and the County of Orange to:
    1. Gather all available pertinent information regarding the proposed ARDA site idea regarding full build out costs, including maintenance responsibilities, oversight of undeveloped acreage, responsibilities for construction of the additional phases of the cemetery, and impacts of internment services on the surrounding schools, and property owners (e.g. funeral processions, gun salutes);
    2. Amend legislation to change the designation of the site and put money into the FY 2019-2020 state budget for the first phase of construction; and,
    3. Evaluate and report to the City Council on the question of Irvine participation in potential other Orange County sites.
       
  6. Direct the City Manager to:
    1. Meet and confer with the County CEO and appropriate County staff members to receive updates about its plan to consider construction of a Veterans Cemetery on County land; and,
    2. Report regularly to the City Council and the public for ongoing review, discussion and deliberation.

Summary Status

The Irvine City Council identified the ARDA site for a State owned and operated Veterans Cemetery in July 2014 (Resolution 14-92).  The City Council rescinded the ARDA site and identified the Bake Parkway/Strawberry Fields in June 2017 (Resolution 17-39).

The City Council approved a Veterans Cemetery Land Swap Agreement, signed in October 2017, for the City to acquire the privately owned Bake Parkway/Strawberry Fields site in exchange for conveying the ARDA Site to the private property owner. The City Council also approved a zone text amendment (Ordinance No. 17-08) required for the Agreement. A voter referendum placed the zone text amendment on the June 5, 2018 Irvine Special Election ballot, Measure B, which was defeated. 

A summary follows. For additional details since 2014, see the Background link at the bottom.

Measure B – Irvine Special Election – June 5, 2018

  • A voter initiative, “Referendum Petition Against Ordinance No. 17-08,” was placed on the June 5, 2018 Irvine ballot (Measure B).  For information:  June 5, 2018 Special Election Information
  • Measure B to approve the zone text amendment failed

Designating Bake Parkway Site & Land Exchange Agreement

  • Designating Bake Parkway/Strawberry Fields Site:  The City Council adopted Resolution 17-39 on June 6, 2017 (by a 3-2 vote) to: rescind its designation of the ARDA Site and designate the Bake Parkway/Strawberry Fields site as the best possible site for a State Veterans Cemetery; pursue a mutually satisfactory land exchange of the City-owned ARDA site for the Heritage Fields’ owned Strawberry Fields/Bake Parkway Site (formerly District 2); and convey up to 125 acres of the Bake Parkway site (after exchange) to the State to create the Southern California Veterans Cemetery. Both parcels are on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, just outside the boundaries of the Orange County Great Park, about equal in size.
  • Land Exchange Agreement & Zone Change: The Irvine City Council signed the Veterans Cemetery Land Swap Agreement in October 2017 for the City’s acquisition of the approximately 125-acre Bake Parkway/Strawberry Field site in exchange for its conveyance of the ARDA Transfer site to the private property owner. The City Council also adopted Ordinance No. 17-08 approving a zone text amendment required for the Land Exchange Agreement.
  • Maps:  The Land Exchange Map shows the two sites in the Agreement. The Strawberry Fields/Bake Parkway Site Map shows the site designated in Resolution 17-39, pending ownership transfer to the City with the land exchange.

Lawsuit

  • Claims lack of appropriate environmental review for the zone text amendment (Ordinance 17-08)
  • Claims the City did not comply with the Development Agreement statute, claiming that the Land Swap Agreement amended the Amended and Restated Development Agreement with Heritage Fields.
  • It is difficult to provide timing information for a court case.

​California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) Status

  • CalVet submitted a pre-application for Federal Cemetery Grant funds for the Strawberry Fields/Bake Parkway Site on June 27, 2018. CalVet Submittal and Design Options
  • The FY 17-18 State budget:
    • Authorizes CalVet to acquire, study, design, develop, construct, and equip a state-owned and state-operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery at the Strawberry Fields/Bake Parkway site. 
    • Allocates $5 million to the Southern California Veterans Cemetery Master Development Fund, including $500,000 for CalVet to complete site studies, a concept plan and Phase I cost estimates for the Strawberry Fields/Bake Parkway Site.
       

Additional information is available via the following links:

Background and Project History

Reference Information Including Location Maps
 
Contact Information