In July 2014, by Resolution 14-92, the Irvine City Council identified the Amended and Restated Development Agreement (ARDA) site for a State owned and operated Veterans Cemetery. The City Council rescinded the ARDA site and identified the Bake Parkway/Strawberry Fields in June 2017 (Resolution 17-39).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.
At its July 10, 2018 meeting, the Irvine City Council requested additional information regarding the ARDA site for review by several City of Irvine Commissions. A subsequent Memorandum from Mayor Pro Tempore Shea and Councilmember Fox asked that the area within the Great Park planned for a golf course also be studied for viability as a location for the State Veterans Cemetery.
City staff prepared cost, financial impact, timeline, traffic, agreement review, and more regarding the ARDA site adjacent to the Great Park and the “Golf Course Site” located on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro within the Orange County Great Park. The City of Irvine Finance, Transportation, and Planning Commissions all recommended the golf course site for development of a Southern California State Veterans Cemetery.
On July 23, 2019, the Irvine City Council approved 4-1 to designate up to 100 acres of land, referenced as the “Golf Course Site,” in the Orange County Great Park for the development of a Southern California State Veterans Cemetery. Following this approval, staff began taking the necessary regulatory steps to designate the identified property, and City management worked with the State of California to expedite review of the new location and formulate the next steps for the development of the Southern California State Veterans Cemetery. Shortly after this designation, California governor Gavin Newsom placed $700,000 in his initial budget proposal to pay specifically for site evaluation. At this time, the proposed project budget was approximately $59 million.
On March 17, 2020, petitioners submitted signatures to certify an initiative ordinance rezoning the ARDA site as a Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery District, and removing cemeteries as approved land uses within the Great Park land designation. At its meeting on May 12, 2020, the Irvine City Council certified the sufficiency of an initiative ordinance and adopted the required ordinance.
On May 14, 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom released his May Budget Revise proposing a transfer of $24.5 million from the Southern California Veterans Cemetery Master Development Fund back to the State General Fund. This transfer, which eliminated all project funding from the state, also recommends eliminating $700,000 for site evaluation in Irvine for future development of a Veterans Cemetery in Southern California. In response to the Governor’s May Revise, the State Legislature has proposed the $700,000 site evaluation funding be included in the State budget. City Management are continuing to work with the State Legislature to determine next steps.
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