The heavily supported proposed veterans cemetery project in Gypsum Canyon gained more legislative momentum this week, as a new bill (AB 1595) looks to remove two previously selected sites in Irvine.
Assembly members Sharon Quirk-Silva and Steven Choi introduced a bill that seeks to remove two previously selected Irvine-based sites that had been studied by the California Department of Veterans Affairs.
On Monday, Jan. 3, Quirk-Silva, who represents Anaheim, Buena Park, Fullerton, Garden Grove, La Palma and Stanton, introduced AB 1595, which targets site selection requirements for the ARDA and the golf course sites.
The site selection requirements state that the veterans cemetery project could be built on one of two selected sites. The city of Irvine is specifically named within AB 1595, as the bill seeks to “delete” site selection requirements.
Specifically, the requirements stated that CalVet would consult with the Department of General Services to determine which Irvine site to pursue based on, “the economic feasibility, benefits to veterans and city of Irvine residents, and availability of each location,” according to the bill.
Per AB 1595:
“This bill would delete those site selection requirements and would instead require the department to acquire, study, design, develop, construct, and equip a state-owned and state-operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery in the County of Orange. This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.”
Nick Berardino, Orange County veteran and president of VALOR, said this was an important milestone in the process of finding a final resting place for Orange County veterans who were walking “deep into the evening of their lives.”
He added that this could be a big step in opening the door for more sites for a veterans cemetery in Orange County – including Gypsum Canyon.
“Quirk-Silva has been with us since day one – has now put forth a vehicle that will expedite that process, refine the direction and it’s fantastic,” Berardino said. “What’s incredible is how fast the county legislative team moved.”
In terms of reaction within the community, Berardino admits he is experiencing a sense of bipartisan unity that has not been present in Orange County for decades.
“Since I began my term in the state Assembly in 2013, it has been a priority of mine to establish a veteran’s cemetery in Orange County,” Quirk-Silva said in a statement. “Today, with the introduction of AB 1595, I continue my commitment to creating a final resting place for the many men and women who have honorably served our country.”
Choi, a former mayor of Irvine, who now represents the cities of Irvine, Anaheim, Lake Forest, Orange, Tustin, and Villa Park in the 68th District, said that he has made it his priority to build a veterans cemetery in the county he represents, adding that it is of utmost importance to honor those who have served their country.
“Building a veterans cemetery in Orange County has been a priority of mine for many years,” said Choi. “I am proud to join as a Joint Author with my colleague Assembly member Sharon Quirk-Silva for this priority legislation, which will provide a necessary final resting place for our brave veterans in Orange County.”
In June, the Irvine City Council failed to reach a decision on a future site for the veterans cemetery, despite having the results of the dual site feasibility study performed by CalVet.
Then, Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan presented a motion that incorporated aspects of both the ARDA and golf course site, but the motion was not supported by any council members.
In October, the Irvine City Council voted 4-1 in favor of supporting the Gypsum Canyon site. With the vote, Irvine became the last city in Orange County to support the project.
Irvine council member Larry Agran remains the only elected official in Orange County to vote against supporting the Gypsum Canyon site.