Irvine Councilman Larry Agran continues pushing for a veterans memorial park on land within its Great Park, though he said he is facing opposition from other councilmembers who are refusing to discuss the matter.
Irvine voters approved in 2018 a state-owned and operated veterans memorial park and cemetery for a 125-acre site inside the Great Park.
After the council failed to take action, petitioners successfully gathered nearly 20,000 signatures to designate the site as the only available site in the city for the park, which the council approved in May 2020. The council reversed course later on, when in Oct. they voted 4–1 to support building the cemetery component of the project at Anaheim’s Gypsum Canyon, which left the memorial park element of the project hanging.
Though it can take years for the location of the cemetery to be decided between the two locations, Agran argued in a Dec. 8 press briefing that the city should move forward with developing the park, dedicated to veterans—with or without the cemetery.
“The language that is now part of the City of Irvine Great Park zoning law specifically calls for a memorial park,” Argran said.
The location of the proposed project is the former site of the now decommissioned El Toro Marine Base. The site has decayed in recent years with rusted empty buildings overshadowing nearby neighborhoods.
“We’ve got the biggest eyesore in the city out there now. This blighted area, it’s really kind of a travesty in a beautiful planning community like ours,” Agran said, “with beautiful, visionary notions of what that land could be.”
Agran challenged the city to step up.
“Everybody says they want to honor the service and sacrifice of veterans, that they are so grateful. Well, come on and do it then,” he said.
Recent designs of the project could also showcase restored historic structures leftover from the Marine base, such as an aircraft control tower and airplane hangars.
The park would have trees, trails, a 35-acre forest, and gardens and commemorate the history of WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War while featuring the “world’s largest American flag” painted on the base’s former runway.
“I don’t know anybody in the City of Irvine who doesn’t like a park,” he added.
Unable to get a second from one of his fellow council colleagues—a relatively new council rule—Agran has been unable to agendize the issue for city council discussion.
“This rule of two is undemocratic,” Agran said. “It’s contrary to all of our notions of representative government, where we’re allowed to put something on the agenda, which has been the history of the city for 48 years. It’s only [in] the last two years that we have this ridiculous, undemocratic rule in place.”
Agran said he is not giving up.
“I’m hoping with continuing pressure the mayor and council will see the light and put [the issue of the cemetery in Irvine] on the agenda,” he said. “If we fail to, we will simply stop doing press briefings, start doing community briefings, and people will feel the groundswell I hold on the council. The will of the people—as described in the voter-approved initiative—must be honored.”