Proposed Landswap for Veteran’s Cemetery Could Enrich FivePoint Dramatically

Washington Crossing National Cemetery

Washington Crossing National Cemetery

TheLiberalOC has learned that FivePoint, a major land developer building is offering to swap land south of the Irvine Metro Station with land earmarked for the proposed Veteran’s Cemetery and Memorial and a Veteran’s Group led by Bill Cook has asked the city of Irvine to make this happen.  The land FivePoint is offering is designated for commercial use and the site of the cemetery and memorial would be used for new homes contiguous to other Great Park Neighborhood Homes within the Irvine Unified School District.  One source close to city hall said if FivePoint gets the deal, the profit alone from new homes on the original cemetery site could be as high as $500 million while the Veteran’s aren’t assured the cemetery will happen if the site is moved.

In a letter to Mayor Steven Choi and the City Council, Veteran’s leader Bill Cook outlined his changed of position:

CalVet is in the process of submitting a pre-application requesting Federal Veterans Cemetery Grant Funds (administered by the US Department of Veterans Affairs) to design, develop, construct and equip the cemetery. They are attempting to meet the July 1, 2016 Federal grant pre-application deadline.

CalVet shared with the City and with us that they are unable to predict timing for the project beyond the July 1, 2016 pre-application submittal goal because the US Department of Veterans Affairs determines project eligibility and timing is dependent on the Federal Veterans Affairs’ evaluation of applications received from all States.

Based on this uncertainty and the fact that some neighbors of the site have voiced concerns over the adjacency, and as CalVet and DGS complete their study we have been in contact with FivePoint Communities regarding possible alternative sites. FivePoint has been extremely helpful and has come to the table with a genuine willingness to explore all options.

Through this effort, FivePoint has offered to consider a “swap” of the ARDA Transfer site for land it owns in the South-East part of their property. We believe that this site would meet all of our internal criteria for an appropriate cemetery site and we are anxious to have the CalVet team include the alternative in their pre-application.

Cook’s incorrect about any uncertainty in the project.  It’s not delayed at all and is on track to meet every deadline before it.  But the “uncertainty” is being used as a tool to convince the Vets they can get a cemetery on El Toro grounds faster somehow when there is no guarantee that can or will happen any differently than the site the cemetery is planned for now.


Cook contacted me Tuesday night to make the case for the Park and agreed that FivePoint CEO Emile Haddad’s rationale for the swap has little to do with community service and everything to do with selling homes in the neighborhood near the proposed cemetery site, but feels the new location is a better spot for the Veteran’s Cemetery and Memorial.  The neighborhood near the proposed site off Irvine Blvd is home to a number of Chinese nationals, many of whom have paid cash for million-dollar plus homes.  These neighbors have organized protests against the cemetery which they believe diminishes the value of their homes and is bad feng shui.

As we continue to support Cook’s efforts for a cemetery and memorial for OC’s Veterans, his failure to contact people like former Mayor Larry Agran and former State Rep. Sharon Quirk-Silva to discuss possible FivePoint negotiations is poor judgment on his part.

City Council member Christina Shea has asked that Cook’s request be agendized for the April 12 City Council meeting and her role in this endeavor has more to do with benefiting Haddad than helping Vets.  Shea did vote for the plan only after opposing it on the grounds that FivePoint should be consulted in some manner.

For FivePoint, this is more about swapping land zoned for commercial development with land that could be zoned for homes, making the deal far more valuable for the developer.  The Veterans are effectively giving the developer millions of dollars without getting anything in return.  After Sharon Quirk-Silva, who led the fight for the Cemetery in the State Assembly, was defeated in the 2014 elections, there was much discussion between this blog and people close to the developer that the cemetery would never see the light of day.

There was speculation that Irvine State Rep Don Wagner (AD-68) and State Rep Tom Daly (AD-69) were crafting a bill to authorize the land swap if the City Council voted in the affirmative.  Daly told us that’s not the case.

“I am aware of the proposed change of the site, but will need to have many questions answered before I take a position,” said Daly.  “My office is working closely with the Veterans to deliver the cemetery in the best and most timely manner.  No one has suggested the need for a bill.”

But the way Assembly Bill 1453 (AB 1453) was introduced in the California legislature establishings a Southern California Veterans Cemetery.  The bill requires the Cemetery to be placed on the land designated at the Great Park.  AB 1453 became effective January 1, 2015 and the process of developing the cemetery and memorial is underway from the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet).   A new bill approving a landswap would be required.

The US Veterans Administration, under both parties, is one of the worst when it comes to delays in construction of major projects.  For example, a 2012 Congressional Hearing addressed major delays in building new VA hospitals authorized in 2004 and 2005 that still weren’t operational seven and eight years later.  A landswap 16 months after AB 1453 became effective just might cause the Department of Veterans Affairs to give pause to awarding the grants further delaying this project in Orange County.

Being against a landswap where the developers stands to profit to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars doesn’t mean we are against a Veteran’s Cemetery and Memorial.  It simply means the Veterans are selling themselves short and could get more from this deal, like having FivePoint pay for the entire development of the Cemetery and Memorial.  More importantly, even offering the landswap places FivePoint in breach of its agreement with the city over development around the Great Park.  It’s a slippery slope that makes us wonder, “what else do they want?”  And will the city council roll over for Five Point while using a compromise with the Veterans as a rationale?

Leave the cemetery where it was intended to be.



  17 comments for “Proposed Landswap for Veteran’s Cemetery Could Enrich FivePoint Dramatically

  1. Micheal St. Claire
    March 17, 2016 at 11:39 am

    If this deal was to go through who is going to be held accountable to cleaning up the Military Toxic Dump that sits on this property which is close to New Portola High School in Irvine, California? Plus during clean up of this toxic dump would students be able to attend school being potential of flying toxic materials and toxic dust? Will it be Five Point’s Community or The City of Irvine? What about future liability?

  2. Michael St Claire
    March 17, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    I wonder how much FivePoints Communities plans to contribute towards $200 Million Plus Steven Choi Great Park Metropolitan Library and other Culture Terrace Features to get more housing approved for area if this land swap is approved.

  3. LARRY
    March 19, 2016 at 6:38 pm


    The American Veterans of Orange County need your support. I am asking you to contact The Irvine City Council, and the O C Board of Supervisors, and the Committee to establish a Veterans Cemetery. Simply e-mail to attached email addresses.

    I am appalled and saddened by the opposition of the immigrants from Communist China who have bought their citizenship to get here. May I remind you not one of the Asian opponents served any time in the United States Military.

    Tony Pan, leader of the Asian group opposing the cemetery along with real estate builders are concerned with property values. Asian neighbors say graves near Irvine homes would create bad Feng Shui, and hurt property values. Gang Chin, who is running for mayor of Irvine is the leading opposion to the Veterans Cemetery, silting his belief in Feng Shai. The City of Irvine will no longer have American Values, as the Feng Shui philosophy will GOVERN the city. We the people under God will no longer exist.

    The Military plane took off from the El Toro Marine Corps base, overloaded, the plane crashed into the mountain top near El Toro. Eighty four military personnel were killed on their way to Viet Nam. As gruesome as this may sound, the body parts of some of those are still up there on the hill.

    “By the way, the soils where the ‘Chinese’ development is being built contains tens of thousands of cremated human bone fragments from the 5,000 years of Juaneno occupation of the area!

    What it comes down to is this. MONEY. Real estate developers want to make money with the development of the land. Their political contributions buys elected officials votes. It’s what rules Orange County Politics.

    Thank you,

    • Thomas
      March 24, 2016 at 5:07 pm


      You sound like Donald Trump. And, that’s NOT a compliment! Let’s stick to the facts and not stir up xenophobia and try to turn residents of Irvine on each other. The city government is here to serve the residents of Irvine. And, like it or not, the people have spoken. If you truly believe in American Value you’d know that democracy is the cornerstone of our success. Stop using God’s name in vain. It’s one thing to try to get the best possible deal, but resorting to demagoguery about the residents of Irvine is a simply classless.

    • Jack
      March 24, 2016 at 11:16 pm

      Bill Cook is no fool. If the site can not be used for a cemetery he would not agree to the swap. Stop spreading baseless rumor. Unless you have some real fact to share it’s just an attempt to create FUD.

      Did you know that less than 8% of US population served in the military as of 2014? Why single out Chinese?

      Why does this have to be a zero sum game where if someone wins someone else must lose? That simple-mindedness is for simpletons. I applaud Christina Shea and the city council for coming up with a creative solution that benefits all parties involved. Nice work!

      • March 25, 2016 at 8:35 am

        The chief benefit being millions in profits in the pocket of a developer. Bill is being misled here. And its not for him to decide any longer.

  4. Wendy
    March 24, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    You are illogical in your reasoning, Larry. The Vet doe not need to make money. They need someone to pay to build their cemetery. The site you proposed is not ready for building a cemetery. It needs clean up! Are you going to pay for that or help them get the funding? What the developer offered is an alternative site where no clean up needed, more accessible, and more visible in city of Irvine. It is honoring our vets! Your comments about the Chinese immigrants are very offensive and far from the truth. The Chinese immigrants worked very hard and earned their citizenship in this country. They make as much contributions to this country as everybody else. Served in the military or not does not change the fact that they love US and the vets. They want the vets have a good resting place. And this is what the vets will get from this plan. Thanks to Mrs Shea and five point. Your opposition is baseless and serve nobody any good, not vets, not Irvine residents!

  5. March 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    I commend Christina Shea, Bill Cook, and Five Point for their courage to work with us, the Irvine residents, to find a win-win solutions for the veterans and the residents. The veteran’s cemetery will be there for thousands of years, and we have to do it right. The new location is much better than the old location for all parties involved: Veterans do not have to spend a lot of money to do the demolition, and the new location is close to the intersection of the 5 and 405 freeway. It can be a very visible landmark for Irvine, and remind all of us the great contribution of the veterans.

    It is away from the new Portola High School and the homes, and Irvine residents love the new location.

    I talked to many Irvine residents about this. Everyone I talked to LOVE this new location. One of them said: “This is not just good for the residents near the old location, but good for the entire City of Irvine.”

    This is like a great puzzle, and now all the pieces have finally come together.

    Dan and Larry,
    If you really care about the veterans, why are you against the new location? It is much better than the old one for all parties involved. You should do the right thing and support the new location.

  6. Joe
    March 25, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Irvine is completely overdeveloped and Fivepoints wants to build more homes on their 125 acres. They have enough homes. This swap gives them more land for residential. There is no way the citizens of Irvine are in favor of allowing Fivepoints to build more homes through this land swap. No way to this developer proposal to build more homes.

    • March 25, 2016 at 9:09 am

      Just heard from another source that Haddad’s profits on the land swap could be more than a billion when you consider how many homes you can build on 125 acres…

      • John
        March 28, 2016 at 2:57 pm

        I heard from a source that Haddad will lose over a billion dollars on the swap but he’s making the sacrifice for the good of the city. He’s giving back because the city has been good to him.

        • March 28, 2016 at 3:51 pm

          no, he’s more likely to make a billion. He’s seeking to swap property zoned for commercial with property zones for residential which is much more profitable. If the council gives Haddad want he wants, the city will be very very good to him indeed. Here’s the difference with your sources and mine; I’m speaking with people in and close to city hall and to those in real estate development. Haddad will make out like a bandit if this goes through and Ms. Shea will have enriched him far beyond the charges she’s levied against Agran all this time.

  7. March 25, 2016 at 10:47 am

    I would have returned your call promptly if you can really treat people fairly. Unfortunately, every time I talked with you over the phone, instead of objectively telling your readers what I have said, you are distorting what I said and turned it into something that you can use to attack me. So, if you keep acting like that, what is the point of talking to you?

    For example, in 2014, I told you “We ALL love veterans and we think they definitely deserve a great final resting place, but the 125-acre site is at the wrong location.” What did you do after we talked? You wrote that I am “anti-vet” which is completely NOT true.

    I know you blog is called Liberty OC, and your views are more liberal. That is perfectly fine, but you should at least have the integrity of treating people whose views are different from yours fairly and with respect. That is the right way to do things.

    I am running for the Mayor of Irvine in 2016. The cemetery is one of the many issues that Irvine faces today. The issues that Irvine faces are complex but there are solutions. The key of being a good mayor is to truly represent ALL your constituents, and treat them all fairly. Representing and serving Irvine people is a difficult balancing act, you may not be able to make everyone happy, but you HAVE to listen to everyone, and be FAIR to everyone.

    The cemetery is like a great puzzle, you cannot bring out a knife and cut all the puzzle pieces square and put them together. It takes some extra time and effort to really solve the puzzle, and now all the pieces have finally come together. We have finally solved the puzzle, and worked out a win-win solution for all parties involved. Supporting this win-win solution is the right thing to do.

    If you really care about the veterans, why do you do the right thing and support the landswap this time?

    Gang Chen, Irvine Mayor Candidate

  8. Alan
    March 25, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    For Christina this is about two things. Satisfy her owners, Five-Points and with the coming election, Votes.

  9. Alan
    March 28, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    Gang, putting your election signs up all over the city just shows you have no respect for the citizens of Irvine who have to look at them for eight months. I have lived here for 30+ years and you are the first candidate to do this. I would never vote for you just because of this. Think about it!!

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