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Background - Proposed Southern California State Veterans Cemetery
In 2014, Assembly Bill 1453 (AB 1453) was introduced in the California legislature to establish a Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County (by former California Assemblymember Quirk-Silva) in the California legislature proposing to establish a Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County. The legislation, co-sponsored by Assemblymember Donald Wagner representing the City of Irvine, was approved by the State legislature as of August 25, signed by Governor Brown on September 27, 2014 and is effective January 1, 2015.

On March 11, 2014 the Irvine City Council adopted Resolution No. 14-27, which, in part, supported the passage of AB 1453 and expressed the City Council’s strong interest in providing land at the Orange County Great Park to develop a State Veterans Cemetery. The City Council also established an Ad Hoc State Veterans Cemetery Committee to consider this matter. The Ad Hoc Committee was comprised of Irvine Mayor Steven Choi, Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lalloway, a representative of Five Point Communities Management, Inc., a representative from the California Department of Veterans Affairs, and two members representing veterans groups.

The Ad Hoc State Veterans Cemetery Committee met on June 13, 2014 and on July 11, 2014. The Committee considered and discussed information regarding potential sites and the process required to establish a State Veterans Cemetery, and received comments from members of the public.

On July 22, 2014 the Irvine City Council adopted Resolution No. 14-92 expressing its intent to convey the Amended and Restated Development Agreement (ARDA) Transfer Site (at the former Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro) to the State for the purposes of creating the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery, subject to all necessary and appropriate studies, procedures and agreements with the State and Federal governments.

AB 1453 directs the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), in voluntary cooperation with local government entities in Orange County, to design, develop, construct and equip a state-owned and operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery. It also directs CalVet to apply for federal Veterans Cemetery Grant Program funds for a Veterans Cemetery.

Next Steps

As a key initial step, AB 1453 directs the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) to submit a pre-application requesting Federal Veterans Cemetery Grant Funds (administered by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) to design, develop, construct and equip the cemetery.

CalVet indicates that it is working towards meeting next year’s Federal grant pre-application deadline – July 1, 2016 – due to time required to complete the work necessary for submittal. CalVet shared that its next steps include hiring consultants to assist with the pre-application, determining burial rates and developing cost estimates. CalVet shared that they are unable to predict timing for this project beyond the July 1, 2016 pre-application submittal goal. This because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs determines project eligibility, plus timing is dependent on the Federal Veterans Affairs’ evaluation of applications received from all States.