Anaheim Greenlights Veterans Cemetery Site

Anaheim Greenlights Veterans Cemetery Site
Flags are displayed next to headstones in Dixon, Calif., on May 24, 2020. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Jack Bradley

The Orange County Board of Supervisors will consider allocating $20 million toward a veterans cemetery at Gypsum Canyon after the Anaheim, California, City Council approved the location during a July 20 meeting.

The council’s support for the site came less than a month after Irvine decided not to move forward with building a Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery at the Orange County Great Park.

“On [Anaheim’s] end, we’re not going to be the speed bump; we’re not going to be the hold-up, as it turned out in Irvine,” Councilman Jose Moreno said during the July 20 council meeting.

“Even though they looked like there was a lot of momentum, for whatever reason, the politics of the place didn’t allow it to come to fruition.”

The newly proposed Anaheim site, called Gypsum Canyon, sits on 280 acres of land between the 91 freeway and 241 toll road in Anaheim Hills.

Officials are still identifying sources of funding for the project, as it’s unclear what the total cost of the veterans cemetery will be.

The Irvine City Council was previously considering two sites for development, both located at the El Toro Marine Base.

The first site was part of an Amended and Restated Development Agreement (ARDA), and the other was a land parcel zoned for a golf course.

The ARDA site, which sits on 125 acres, would cost more than $110 million, while the 100-acre golf course site would cost nearly $75 million.

The Irvine City Council previously committed to building the Great Park Veterans Cemetery Initiative in May 2020, and designating the ARDA site for the purpose after the state approved over $25 million for the site.

The Anaheim City Council previously passed a resolution to affirm the veterans cemetery within the city, however, that was under a different council.

The project came to a standstill on June 22 when the Irvine City Council took no action to construct a Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery at the Orange County Great Park, following long debates paired with mixed opinions from the public.

Now Anaheim is looking to take on the project itself.

“Let’s face it, Irvine’s had its chance and couldn’t make it happen, and we have a generational opportunity here to establish a veterans cemetery in Anaheim and provide a final resting place for those brave men and women who fought and served to protect our freedoms,” Councilman Trevor O’Neil said during the July 20 council meeting.

The Anaheim Council received a letter from Assemblyman Steven Choi (R-Irvine), saying he would allocate $5 million from the state budget and redirect the $25 million from CalVet that was previously dedicated to one of the Irvine sites, O’Neil told the council.

It’s unclear where the remainder of the funding will come from and how much it will cost to develop the site.

Assistant City Manager Greg Garcia said Gypsum Canyon is “a challenging site out there, and so it’s going to take some work.”

Harvey Liss, volunteer executive director of Build the Great Park Veterans Cemetery, said the Gypsum Canyon site is problematic because the construction process will be lengthy and expensive.

The Gypsum Canyon site “is a landslide area,” Liss told The Epoch Times. “The slopes have to be stabilized. That’s extremely expensive to do.”

Liss also said the site is in a “high fire hazard area,” making it “unsafe for the community that’s just on the other side of the hill.”

For South Orange County residents, Liss said, Anaheim’s site is “very inconvenient.” The nearest currently open veterans cemetery to Orange County is the National Cemetery in Riverside, California.

“For people in South Orange County, traveling to Gypsum Canyon is about three-quarters of the way to Riverside National Cemetery, so it’s hardly convenient,” Liss said.

The Gypsum Canyon site will need to undergo a similar process of getting state and federal approval, a process that took Irvine’s ARDA site around two years to complete.

“I find it impossible that they will ever build a cemetery there; it’s just the wrong place,” Liss said.