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Background and Project History - Proposed Southern California State Veterans Cemetery

2014

In 2014, Assembly Bill 1453 (AB 1453) was introduced in the California legislature to establish a Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County (by former California Assemblymember Quirk-Silva) in the California legislature proposing to establish a Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County. The legislation, co-sponsored by then Assemblymember Donald Wagner, was approved by the State legislature as of August 25, signed by Governor Brown on September 27, 2014 and is effective January 1, 2015.

On March 11, 2014 the Irvine City Council adopted Resolution No. 14-27, which, in part, supported the passage of AB 1453 and expressed the City Council’s strong interest in providing land to develop a State Veterans Cemetery. The City Council also established an Ad Hoc State Veterans Cemetery Committee to consider this matter. The Ad Hoc Committee was comprised of Irvine Mayor Steven Choi, Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lalloway, a representative of Five Point Communities Management, Inc., a representative from the California Department of Veterans Affairs, and two members representing veterans groups.

The Ad Hoc State Veterans Cemetery Committee met on June 13, 2014 and on July 11, 2014. The Committee considered and discussed information regarding potential sites and the process required to establish a State Veterans Cemetery, and received comments from members of the public. Note: On September 9, 2014, the Irvine City Council voted to repurpose and rename the Committee to the Ad Hoc Veterans Affordable Housing Committee to address issues associated with affordable housing for United States Veterans. Further information regarding the Ad Hoc Veterans Affordable Housing Committee is available here.

On July 22, 2014 the Irvine City Council adopted Resolution No. 14-92 expressing its intent to convey the Amended and Restated Development Agreement (ARDA) Transfer Site (at the former Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro) to the State for the purposes of creating the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery, subject to all necessary and appropriate studies, procedures and agreements with the State and Federal governments.

AB 1453 directs the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), in voluntary cooperation with local government entities in Orange County, to design, develop, construct and equip a state-owned and operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery. It also directs CalVet to apply for federal Veterans Cemetery Grant Program funds for a Veterans Cemetery.

2015-2016

AB 1453 directs the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) to submit a pre-application requesting Federal Veterans Cemetery Grant Funds (administered by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) to design, develop, construct and equip the cemetery. Using the $500,000 allocated in AB 1453, CalVet hired consultants to assist with the pre-application, determining burial rates, developing a concept plan and developing cost estimates. 

On April 12, 2016, the Irvine City Council voted to reaffirm its 2014 actions to support the establishment of a State Veterans Cemetery on a 125-acre parcel of City-owned land known as the ARDA, and to aggressively pursue support at the State and Federal levels.   This action was taken after considering a request for a land swap.  To read the Staff Report: April 12, 2016 Staff Report

On June 28, 2016, CalVet informed City staff that it submitted its pre-application to the Federal Veterans Administration requesting Federal grant funds for the Southern California Veterans Cemetery on the ARDA Transfer Site. For any questions, please contact CalVet.

CalVet informed City staff that it submitted its pre-application to the Federal Veterans Administration requesting Federal grant funds for the Southern California Veterans Cemetery on the ARDA Transfer Site. The next step is for the Federal VA to evaluate all proposals received. CalVet anticipates a response from the Federal VA this Fall 2016. For any questions, please contact CalVet.

  • CalVet’s 330 page submittal requesting Federal grant funds can be viewed HERE. The link provides CalVet’s Concept Plan Report, appendices and attachments. 
  • CalVet’s May 2016 update including Next Steps is available by clicking HERE.

On July 25, 2016 CalVet shared a LETTER from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs concerning the pre-application for the Southern California Veterans Cemetery. The USDVA has accepted CalVet’s application as meeting the initial requirements for funding consideration and will consider a maximum $10 million grant. The USDVA did state that a larger grant request was unsustainable for its cemetery grant program (typically $45 - $46 million annual program nationwide).  

The USDVA FY 2017 Grant Priority List was released in early October 2016 ranking the Southern California Veterans Cemetery at 74 out of 101 proposed state veteran cemetery projects.  The Priority List confirmed that the project is eligible for $10 million from the USDVA and listed it in Group 2, as there are no funds allocated for architecture/engineering and likely because further discussion is needed for a more sustainable grant request.

2017

  • April 4, 2017: the City Council voted to pursue a dual track option which includes authorizing the City Manager to take all necessary steps, in cooperation with CalVet, and the U.S. Veterans Administration to accelerate the processing and final approvals for expedited construction of the Southern California Veterans Cemetery, as designated at the 125-acre parcel, known as the ARDA Transfer Site. The goal of commencing cemetery operations was identified to begin on or before Veterans Day 2019.

    The City Manager was directed to deploy all appropriate resources authorized and specified in the Veterans Cemetery motion adopted by the City Council on April 12, 2016. Additionally, convey to the Governor’s office, CalVet, and appropriate members of the State Legislature, the City’s offer to guarantee local funding of up to $40 million.

    Staff was simultaneously directed to pursue the understanding of the offer from Five Point Communities; and to match State Funds, up to and including the $38 million in City funds, that would be appropriated in the upcoming budget cycle.
  • May 23, 2017: the City Council took action to receive and file the preliminary analysis of a land exchange, provided in this Staff Report.
  • June 6, 2017: the City Council adopted Resolution 17-39 (by a 3-2 vote) to: pursue a mutually satisfactory land exchange of the City-owned ARDA site for the Heritage Fields’ owned Strawberry Fields/Bake Parkway Site (formerly District 2); and convey up to 125 acres of the Bake Parkway site (after exchange) to the State to create the Southern California Veterans Cemetery. City staff immediately proceeded to implement this direction. Both parcels are on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, just outside the boundaries of the Orange County Great Park, about equal in size.

State Actions/Status

  • The FY 17-18 State budget:
    • Authorizes CalVet to acquire, study, design, develop, construct, and equip a state-owned and state-operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery at the Strawberry Fields/Bake Parkway site.
    • Allocates $5 million to the Southern California Veterans Cemetery Master Development Fund, including $500,000 for CalVet to complete site studies, a concept plan and Phase I cost estimates for the Strawberry Fields/Bake Parkway Site.
  • CalVet, with the assistance of the Department of General Services, continues its evaluation of the new site for a Federal pre-grant application.
  • CalVet will submit a pre-application requesting Federal Cemetery Grant funds for the Strawberry Fields/Bake Parkway Site. According to CalVet, it intends to submit the pre-grant application by the July 1, 2018 deadline.