O.C. REGISTER: Cemetery Culture Clash in Irvine

Asian neighbors say graves would create bad feng shui, hurt property values

By Sarah de Crescenzo

IRVINE – In less than a decade, runways where fighter jets once lofted Marines into the air could become acres of green grass dotted with white headstones marking the Southern California Veterans Cemetery.

That image, for many veterans and their families, provides comfort.

But for a group of Asian residents that live near Irvine’s Great Park, the image is appalling – any cemetery would violate a strong cultural taboo of living near the dead.

Now, even as the state Department of Veterans Affairs prepares to request federal funds to build the cemetery, residents in the neighborhood – including people who aren’t worried about the bad feng shui – are pushing city officials and others to make sure it’s built somewhere else. Property values, many say, will be damaged.

And a wild card emerged this week. Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who supports the veterans cemetery at the Great Park, said a 288-acre parcel near Anaheim Hills might serve as a cemetery where veterans could be buried.

But for Bill Cook, chairman of the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation and the man who has led the fight to put a cemetery on the former El Toro air base, the issue is just as sacred.

“That site represents. .. where thousands of American teenagers last stood alive on American soil,” said Cook, 68, a Mission Viejo resident and Vietnam War-era veteran who served at El Toro.

Cook and others who back the cemetery at the Great Park point to a future need. About 130,000 veterans live in Orange County, and nearly 1.9 million live in California. Most served in wars of the 20th century, including World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…