Op-Ed: City Council Designated ARDA Site But Will They Pursue Funding?
At the May 12, 2020 City Council meeting, the Irvine City Council voted 4-1 to adopt the terms of the qualified Veterans’ Cemetery initiative, and place the Veterans’ Cemetery back at the original ARDA site, which is land owned by the City of Irvine.
City Council Abruptly Changes Course on Veterans’ Cemetery Site — But Why?
People may wonder why the City Council voted to adopt the terms of the Citizens’ Cemetery Initiative after previously voting to approve the Golf Course site for the Veterans’ Cemetery. Could it be related to a sudden lack of funding due to the current economic downturn?
FivePoint Not Immune to Economic Slump
Any initiative to relocate the Veterans’ Cemetery to the ARDA site would typically be expected to meet heavy resistance from FivePoint, who likely wishes to acquire the ARDA site for future development purposes. To that end, FivePoint had even pledged $28 million to help fund the Veterans’ Cemetery at the Golf Course site instead ($18 million which FivePoint is contractually obligated to spend on the golf course feature, plus $10 million toward the building of the cemetery). Voice of OC
The lack of resistance from FivePoint in this instance may simply be an indication of the company’s current economic state. Santa Clara Valley News reported that the company’s land sale revenues in the Great Park fell from $127.7 million to $0.7 million in the first quarter of 2020, contributing to a net $30 million loss during this period. Its stock price has fallen from a high of $9.16 (2/12/2020) to $4.93 at close of business this past Friday (5/15/2020), a 46% drop over this period.
State Funding May No Longer Be Available
Just two days after the City Council voted to adopt the terms of the Veterans’ Cemetery Initiative, Governor Newsom announced that his May Budget Revision proposal would move the $24.5 million Southern CA Veterans’ Cemetery funds to the General Fund subject to the approval of the legislature. The budget proposal was confirmed by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva in her Voice of OC article in which she wrote “I was just called and notified that the $25 million dollars allocated to this project is being moved back to the general fund for critical budget needs. The world has changed in the past two months, and now we have a $54 billion dollar state budget deficit, staring us in the face”.
However, if our city is serious about building a veterans cemetery, we can expect to see our city lobby to maintain the $24.5 million before the budget decision is made by the state legislature in June.
If There Is No Cemetery Funding, Can The Zoning Changes Created by The Adopted Citizen’s Initiative Be Amended By The City Council?
Probably not. State law appears to require that Irvine Voters approve any change in voting for the ARDA and Golf Course sites. Thus the Irvine City Council may not be able to amend the terms of the Citizen’s Veteran’s Cemetery Initiative. California Election Code 9217 provides that ordinances “proposed by initiative petition and (are) adopted by the legislative body of the city (i.e. our City Council) may not be amended without submission to the voters”. In other words, short of a vote by Irvine citizens, the City Council can’t change the new zoning code provisions on its own.
So… what will become of the ARDA and golf course sites?
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Roger SieversMay 24, 2020 at 4:50 pm
Looking back, the veteran’s cemetery issue was about one group keeping a developer from the ARDA site. Another group was about thwarting the first group. Some lip service was paid to the need for a cemetery or cost but really it was about stopping the developers and not about the veterans.
Today, the virus has blown holes in budgets at every level. Each agency involved in funding the cemetery is facing massive budget deficits and has withdrawn their commitment(s) to the cemetery.
At one time, the veterans may have had a champion but today they are alone. Pounding the drums to fund the ARDA site has no one listening as there is no money.
To get a veteran’s cemetery, seek a site with the lowest cost that can get funded. There have been two in the recent years. Seize that opportunity when it comes up again, years from now, and move ahead. Fight the fight with the developers in another forum.
deefoxMay 26, 2020 at 1:52 pm
The Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery has always been about constructing it on the best site in Irvine which is the ARDA site. The State approved the ARDA site and committed $30 million. The Department of Veteran Affairs also approved the ARDA site and, an announcement from Sharon Quirk-Silva said the Federal Government would commit another $10 million. The City Council also approved the ARDA site and committed budget funds of $38 million.
The funds were there. Everyone was ready to roll until CHRISTINA SHEA and developer, FIVEPOINT COMMUNITIES came up with a scheme. This was the beginning of the SHEA and FIVEPOINT mission of giving control of the ARDA site to FIVEPOINT to build massive development for an enormous profit!
So, it became an issue because Christina Shea made it one. If Mr. Sievers believes that the overwhelming majority of citizens were just trying to stop a developer from getting their hands on it, I guess he could look at it that way too. But he conveniently leaves out the “why”? And if he REALLY believes Christina Shea will construct a Veterans Cemetery at the Golf Course site because the cost is lower, then why didn’t she pursue it when she had the chance? Instead she called it a “diversion” site in order to keep the State from getting it, AND, was unable to get a Study because she neglected to request the funding for it.
So, yes, we are in hard times right now but I assure you no one has given up on making sure the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery becomes a reality. It may take a little longer, but it will get done. The Veterans should not have to “settle” for anything less.
Ferry RolandMay 30, 2020 at 9:36 pm
I honestly think Irvine should fund the development of the cemetry site. It is time to do so, or if it is not it’s a disrespect to the veterans and the veterans who died of the COVID-19.
About the golf course, it should be the site of a botanical garden, with the developments around Cultural Terrace seems going to bid farewell for the Botanical Garden at Cultural Terrace (Wild Rivers moving towards the intersection of Skyhawk and Great Park Blvd is the one). Frankly, golf is in decline across United States and people of Irvine should get it. With a botanical park in the heart of El Toro Air Station, it will and still fulfill the premise of the Orange County Great Park alongside with the move across times we are now.
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