Thursday, August 5, 2021

Irvine Great Park

This is a great piece. Of course, I live in Irvine so it's of natural interest to me.

That said, I had no idea about the raw politics surrounding this issue. It's pretty fascinating, actually. 

At LAT, "Irvine’s ultimate NIMBY fight: A cemetery for veterans deemed an undesirable blight":

In Irvine, every detail is intentional.

From the lush parks to the sparkling pools of its master-planned villages, the city offers a perfect balance of nature and suburban life.

Even the street names in its Great Park neighborhoods, which have popped up over the last decade around the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, were developed in consultation with a feng shui master.

But there’s one amenity that Great Park neighbors say will never fit: a veterans cemetery.

A nearly decade-long battle over a military cemetery in the city has pitted veterans, residents and politicians against one another, with every side asserting support for their preferred location and myriad reasons why the plan hasn’t advanced.

The hostile reaction to the cemetery has stunned veterans, who point out the military’s historical role in the area — both with the El Toro base and the nearby Tustin base, both of which closed in the 1990s. To them, the cemetery is a fitting tribute to those who served, and Irvine’s central location would benefit loved ones who want to visit.

“The opinion on Irvine from veterans ranges from negative to hostile, with profanity thrown in,” Vietnam veteran Bill Cook said. “You’d think Irvine started with an F when I talked to these people.”

But the push to honor veterans proved no match for powerful forces in Irvine: a developer who had other plans, residents who worried about traffic and property values, and a sense that a cemetery simply didn’t fit into the community’s ideas for a place where homes now regularly sell for more than $1 million.

“When you buy a million-dollar home, you don’t want to open up your door and have a cemetery right there,” former Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said. “It just kind of gives a sense of sadness and a continual reminder of death and your own mortality. I wouldn’t buy a home next to a cemetery. I want a golf course, a lake, a park or something like that.”

In a county often criticized for its “not in my backyard” mentality, Irvine has long railed against anything that doesn’t fit with its idea of a master-planned community. When the El Toro base was decommissioned in 1999, residents successfully beat back a proposal to turn the land into an airport, instead opting to transform it into a park with athletic fields, a water park and plenty of open space. In 2018, a plan for a homeless shelter at the Great Park was nixed after vehement opposition.

The controversy over a cemetery has been brewing since at least 2014, yet veterans — thousands of whom settle every year in Orange County after retiring from the military — say they’ve largely been sidelined from discussions. Instead, they’ve been met with consternation from the Great Park’s closest neighbors and hand-wringing from the city’s politicians, they say.

Some are so frustrated by years of delays and fighting over a location that they’ve scouted a site on county land in Anaheim Hills instead. The Orange County Board of Supervisors gave the project a major boost on Tuesday by allocating $20 million from the county’s general fund for site development. The Anaheim City Council this month showed unanimous support for the cemetery.

In the years following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military sought out the land that would eventually become the El Toro base as a place for Marines to train for battle in the Pacific Rim. Tens of thousands of service members and civilians moved through its gates annually, turning the base into a mini-city complete with homes, a church and a school.

For more than 50 years, El Toro played a critical role in conflicts across the world, including Vietnam and Desert Storm. It’s where men and women leaving for deployment said goodbye to their families — sometimes for the last time...

When I was just ten years old, when my family used to drive south from the City of Orange to San Juan Capistrano to visit my uncle and his family, we could see the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro from the 5 freeway, and the Tustin Marine Corps airbase is right next to Irvine where I live. When I was a kid you could see the "Huey" helicopters from the base flying all around Orange County, especially near the beaches.

Enough about that. Obviously this piece brings back a lot of memories.

Still more.