Irvine continues veterans cemetery talks

By Kimberly Pierceall

If Orange County gets a state veterans cemetery, expect a high number of burials – some 200,000 or so over 50 years – based on the number of veterans living in Orange and Los Angeles counties, said Stephen Jorgensen with the California Veterans Affairs office. Burial rates are a best guess, he added.

Jorgensen, a member of Irvine’s ad hoc veterans cemetery committee who has been overseeing the development of other recent California veterans cemeteries, laid out Friday at the committee’s second meeting what it takes to get a state cemetery built. The effort in Irvine will need community support and 80 to 120 acres of land largely free of environmental and legal concerns, among other things, he said.

Meanwhile, Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer has asked to meet this week with the mayors within his district – Irvine, Tustin, Orange, Villa Park, Yorba Linda and Anaheim – to ask if there might be at least 100 acres of land in their cities that can be donated for a veterans cemetery.

“The whole goal is to make this informal to get it done,” Spitzer said.

He’s hoping to get the advisory group of mayors together and get a comprehensive list of possible sites within 60 days.

“If somebody can come up with a piece of land that’s viable and makes sense, I’m all for it,” he said.

Spitzer also suggested that the county’s Saddleback Vineyard property, 100 acres in Modjeska Canyon, could possibly work as the cemetery site. It was originally supposed to be residential. “

He said in a news release announcing the discussion with his district’s mayors that the meeting would be “intense.” It would not be open to the public. The meeting would include Bobby McDonald, chair of the Orange County Veterans Advisory Council, to represent veterans’ interests, but no one from Irvine’s ad hoc committee except for Irvine Mayor Steven Choi. Spitzer had previously criticized Irvine’s ad hoc committee meeting for being too formal and too tied to Brown Act restrictions on meeting open to the public.

Spitzer said he had a “gut feeling” from the first meeting of Irvine’s ad hoc committee that a cemetery at the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro base, now the Great Park, “is such a long shot, honestly.

“Is it impossible? No. Do I think we need to have an alternative? Yes,” he said.

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