Shortly after posting the story about Irvine Councilwoman Christina Shea’s opposition to placing a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park, a press release from Third District Supervisor Todd Spitzer landed in LiberalOC’s inbox. Never missing an opportunity to make himself the center of attention, Spitzer announced that he and Bobby McDonald, Chair of the Orange County Veterans Advisory Council, had partnered to host a meeting of mayors in the Third Supervisorial District “to get the word out that we are in search of a land donation of over 100 acres to build a veterans cemetery.” Spitzer’s office said that meeting would include an intense discussion of possible locations. Spitzer said the County has already received interest in a parcel located in Modjeska Canyon. The 100.36-acre Saddleback Vineyards property is located between Modjeska Grade Road and the Cleveland National Forest in the Foothill-Trabuco Specific Plan Area. The Santiago Truck Trail access route to the Cleveland National Forest is located on the northern ridgeline of the property. Click here for a map of this parcel. Frankly, the area isn’t the easiest to get to at all. There has also been support for a cemetery and memorial to be constructed at the closed El Toro Marine Base, which Spitzer still supports but based on recent conversations, believes that alternative sites need serious consideration. We have to wonder how much did FivePoint Communities do to influence Spitzer’s new thinking?
“Whatever happens there, I’m going to work to honor our veterans and celebrate their heroism. We need to preserve and promote the important sacrifices that men and women have made to keep our country free,” Supervisor Spitzer said.
California has the largest veteran population in the Nation with over an estimated population of 130,000 veterans in Orange County. As a County, Orange County has the third largest population of veterans but we don’t have a veterans cemetery. The Advisory Group will be looking for possible land donations of parcels larger than 100 acres. Spitzer’s announcement leaves a big chunk of available land seemingly off the table. His release makes no mention of the proposal that the Irvine City Council, a.k.a.The Great Park Board, has been batting around for months of using property adjacent to the new FivePoint Communities project at the Great Park. Recently, at the first meeting of the ad-hoc Committee for the Veteran’s Cemetery and Memorial, FivePoint Communities made a presentation fully supporting a cemetery and memorial — just not one at the Great Park. The developer identified a site off the 5-freeway owned by Saddleback Church as an idea site. But the obvious problems for the committee is no one had contacted San Juan Capistrano at the time, and the city of Irvine and FivePoint have no claim on that land at all. Now we have this call from Spitzer and his appointed representative on the County Veteran’s Advisory Council, Bobby McDonald, for land donations along with the disclosure of a new potential site at Saddleback Vineyards. Nowhere in his press release did Spitzer even mention the largest holder of available public land, the Great Park. I’m sure that if Irvine Mayor Stephen Choi can find time in his busy schedule to attend Spitzer’s meeting, he won’t be offering to donate Great Park land, even though the Great Park board has already agreed in principle to support the idea. Now, in addition to the foot dragging by Stephen Choi and his Republican colleagues on the Great Park Board and Irvine City Council who have delayed any meaningful progress on a veterans cemetery in Orange County, we now have Supervisor Todd Spitzer grandstanding and creating further distraction from already available land at the Great Park that could be used for a veterans cemetery. Even without media available, Spitzer loves attention. He held a megaphone at the start of the July 4th Orange Park Acres 5/10K and made a comment that he used to do stand up comedy but was so bad he decided to run for office instead. Stick to the comedy next time Todd, the Veteran’s want action on a memorial at the Great Park, not more delays from Republican elected.