Former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran files lawsuit to stop veterans cemetery land swap

By Tomoya Shimura

Former Mayor Larry Agran and two other residents have sued the city in their latest effort to overturn a decision on where to build Orange County’s first military veterans cemetery.

Agran and the other plaintiffs argue the City Council’s change of mind to put the proposed cemetery near the I-405/I-5 interchange, instead of city-owned property just north of the Orange County Great Park, “benefits wealthy developers at the significant expense of the people of Irvine, California, veterans and the environment,” according to a lawsuit filed Thursday, Nov. 9 in Orange County Superior Court.

They also claim Irvine didn’t take proper steps when the City Council approved an agreement to swap the originally proposed site with the freeway property owned by developer FivePoint. They are asking the court to nullify the agreement.

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Photo Credit: Michael Ares, Contributing Photographer

Irvine City Council Votes to Sue County Over Big Commercial Development Near Great Park

By Nick Gerda and Spencer Custodio

The Irvine City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to sue the County of Orange over a huge development plan on 108 acres south of the Great Park, hours after the Board of Supervisors moved forward with the project.

“They’re going with an ill-conceived project and we’re not going to let it go without a challenge because it’s not consistent with what we want to do,” Mayor Don Wagner said in a Tuesday night phone interview. “We got lots of problems.”

The massive project would create up to one million square feet of office space, 2,100 homes, 200,000 square feet of retail space, and a 242-room hotel.

Councilman Jeff Lalloway said the County is violating an agreement created in 2003 when it transferred the Great Park land to Irvine, but kept the 108 acres south of the park. He said any housing, office or retail development was never in the agreement.

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Photo Credit: Voice of OC staff

Irvine to sue Orange County over its Great Park condo, retail development plan

By Jordan Graham and Tomoya Shimura

The Irvine City Council voted unanimously Tuesday, Nov. 14, to sue Orange County over its plan to develop 108 acres south of the Great Park into a large residential and commercial complex.

The city’s decision came only a few hours after the county voted to finalize its plan to build 1,998 housing units, 1 million square feet of office space, 200,000 square feet of commercial space and a 242-room hotel on land it kept when it annexed the Great Park to Irvine in 2003.

Plans for the development – which the county projects could earn it upwards of $4 billion over 75 years – have caused friction between the county and city over the past year and a half.

Irvine Mayor Don Wagner, Councilwoman Christina Shea and Councilman Jeff Lalloway all have said the project would hog road capacities and prevent the city from completing the final major piece of the Great Park, which could include an amphitheater, museums, a library, a lake and a water park.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

Photo Credit: Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

Orange County to finalize plan for Great Park condo, retail development as Irvine threatens lawsuit

By Jordan Graham

Orange County is set to finalize its plan to develop 108 acres just south of the Great Park into a massive commercial and residential complex – a move that could initiate a legal showdown with Irvine, where officials claim it could prevent the development of a public amphitheater, museum and other facilities.

The county has refuted the city’s assertion and is moving ahead with the project.

On Friday, the county released its final Environmental Impact Report detailing its plan to build 1,998 housing units, 1 million square feet of office space, 200,000 square feet of commercial space and a 242-room hotel on land it kept when it annexed the Great Park to Irvine in 2003. Once completed, the project could earn the county upwards of $4 billion over 75 years, giving it a new revenue stream for countywide infrastructure improvements and to help the homeless.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

Photo Credit: Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG

Stop the politics and build the veterans cemetery now

By The Editorial Board

Politicians will exploit anything to gain political power. That’s exactly what is happening over the veterans cemetery in Irvine. It’s despicable to use veterans as pawns and our entire community should be outraged and informed.

A misleading petition drive has been launched in the city to “Save the Veterans Cemetery.” But the cemetery doesn’t need saving; it’s just a veiled effort to derail the current cemetery plans. There is already a great space approved, the veteran community supports it and the city had a dedication for the land last Friday.

But this is all about politics and trying to win next year’s city election. Sadly, this is par for the course in Irvine where creating a political wedge issue and riding it to the election seems torn right out of the pages of former Irvine Mayor and Councilman Larry Agran’s playbook. It should come as no surprise that the pro-Agran Irvine Community News and Views publication supports the referendum. Agran even wrote a column in its pages supporting it.

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Photo Credit: Michael Ares, Contributing Photographer

Veterans cemetery clash leads to arrest when Irvine Councilwoman Melissa Fox claims assault

By Tomoya Shimura

A 28-year-old Colorado man was placed under citizen’s arrest on suspicion of hitting Irvine Councilwoman Melissa Fox with a political sign she was carrying to oppose signature gathering intended to overturn the city’s decision on where to put a military veterans cemetery.

The incident happened around 1:50 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29, at the Alton Square shopping center at Alton Parkway and Jeffrey Road, Irvine police spokeswoman Kim Mohr said.

Fox told the Register Monday that she was at the center asking people not to sign a petition. Some residents have recently started to hold a referendum on Irvine’s decision to put a state-run veterans cemetery on 125 acres near the I-5/I-405 interchange. Supporters of the Save the Veterans Cemetery campaign want the city to stick to its original plan and build it on a piece of land north of the Orange County Great Park. (Click here to read the Register’s article about the Save the Veterans Cemetery campaign.)

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Photo Credit: Orange County Register/SCNG

Irvine dedicates, showcases site for Orange County’s first veterans cemetery

By Tomoya Shimura

Military veterans finally will have a resting place right here in Orange County, at the former El Toro Marine base.

That’s the message nearly 300 people, many of whom were veterans, received at the dedication ceremony on Friday, Oct. 27 of a 125-acre parcel near the I-5 and I-405 interchange that Irvine plans to donate to the state for a veterans cemetery.

“This is an acknowledgment of our service,” said Bill Cook, a Vietnam War veteran who heads the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation and has advocated for the cemetery since 1999.

He was among dozens donning yellow “Southern California Veterans Cemetery 2017” caps at the ceremony held in the middle of what is currently strawberry fields but at one time was the end of a runway of the El Toro base.

Continue reading at The Orange Country Register…
Photo Credit: Michael Ares, Contributing Photographer

Irvine ponders development of Cultural Terrace — the last big piece of Orange County Great Park

By Tomoya Shimura

The City Council is trying to figure out how to develop the 233-acre Cultural Terrace, the final major piece of the Orange County Great Park where the city’s considering an amphitheater, a lake, a library, museums and most recently a water park.

Many entities — such as children’s and fire museums and a rafting and kayaking white water park — are lobbying to get their share of space at the 1,300-acre park, which could match the size of Balboa Park in San Diego. The council is tasked with deciding which of those entities should get how much space and what types of land deals to offer, while figuring out how to pay for the development and maintenance of the park.

Continue reading at The Orange Country Register…

Photo Credit: Tomoya Shimura, Orange County Register, SCNG

OC REGISTER: Young the Giant successfully christens the new FivePoint Amphitheatre in its hometown

Thursday night was a big deal for Irvine-based indie rock band Young the Giant, as well as for concert promoter Live Nation, Orange County real estate developer FivePoint and the city as a whole.

Last year, after the demolition of the beloved Irvine Meadows, which hosted 36 seasons of live music, Live Nation and FivePoint made a promise to the community that they would fight to keep live music in Irvine. With some quick thinking, the support of thousands of music fans and the blessing of the Irvine City Council, they were able to keep that promise in the form of the temporary 12,000-capacity FivePoint Amphitheatre, erected just outside of the Orange County Great Park.

Irvine’s mayor Don Wagner excitedly took the stage early Thursday evening alongside Live Nation’s Southern California/Las Vegas president Bret Gallagher and FivePoint CEO Emile Haddad, clearly proud of all they had accomplished.

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OC REGISTER: Irvine veterans cemetery politicking should end now

Can the politicking over the Great Park veterans cemetery end now? The land swap with developer FivePoint that the Irvine City Council approved Sept. 26 offers the best chance for properly honoring our nation’s veterans.

It should be a cause for celebration, but so long as political hay can be made from where to inter our fallen men and women in uniform, you can count on politicians to make it an issue.

Much has been made of it already. The council split over dueling sites after the previous one garnered controversy due to its proximity to homes.

And, just prior to last week’s vote, news broke that “Irvine officials considered giving the cemetery site in phases so the city could use some of it for other purposes, such as hotels and housing,” the Register reported.

Luckily, the council vetoed that absurd idea, and it intends to immediately hand the land over to the state. But the vote remained split, with Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott and Councilman Jeff Lalloway opposing the swap.

But this site has the support of neighbors, veterans, the developer and a majority of the City Council. That is why the politics must end now. And it shouldn’t have been made a political issue or an election year issue in first place. It is about local veterans deserving an appropriate final resting place — and this is the place.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…