The following letter was written to Larry Agran and his followers about their petition regarding the veterans cemetery by former Irvine Company Executive Mike Padian. Padian worked for the Irvine Company between 1985 and 1996 and has first-hand knowledge of the politics and personalities involved in the current dispute.
His views are well worth reading for anyone interested in the facts about the veterans cemetery.
Here is the letter in full:
Harvey, Ed, Frank, Larry,
Oh dear, where to begin.
I have read your numerous diatribes; I hope you will give me some courtesy by reading the below.
I am primarily responding to Harvey’s email of 11-2, and an accompanying ‘fact sheet’. I will attempt to not repeat myself.
1) Yes, the entire ARDA site would be cleaned up with the land-clearing process. However, the ARDA site is significantly more polluted than the Freeway site, and the use of the ARDA site for commercial/industrial purposes would be less costly to develop and have less impact than a residential or a cemetery use.
To determine the potential risk of exposure from a hazardous site requires an analysis of the location, type, and concentration of the hazardous materials, the potential sensitive receptors (people), and the potential pathways between them. The ARDA site contains a ‘witches’ brew’ of above ground, surface, and below ground known and probably unknown chemicals, in known and probably unknown concentrations, quantities and locations. At the time of the Base’s closure, it was one of the larger federal Superfund sites. As noted in CalVets June 2016 report, FOST 7, a source of regional groundwater contamination, is located on the ARDA site. FOST 8 (IRP 3), a former landfill dump site, is also located on the ARDA property. The June 2016 report also states that many of the 77 buildings on the site contain hazardous material such as asbestos and lead-based paint, numerous documented impacts on the site have been discovered, and very probably other impacts will be discovered during development. Regardless of the ultimate land use, the buildings will have to be appropriately abated and abolished, but the extent of surface and subsurface mitigation is dependent on the ultimate use.
The 2016 report estimated $3.5 million for hazardous wastes, $2.5 million for the site demolition of the first 12.5 acres ($200,000 per acre), $6.2 million for the remaining 112.5 acres ($55,000 per acre, no reason is given for why the 112.5 acres costs less per acre than the initial 12.5 acres), and $18 million for building demolition, for a total of $30 million. Note that the 2016 report repeatedly recommends additional soils surveys to identify any impacted soil, and to define its appropriate mitigation. Also note the 2016 estimates do not include any costs for the remediation of contaminated soils, and assumes the State of California will pay for those costs.
Residents are one of the higher potential risk receptors on the site due to their potential rate of exposure, 14-24 hours every day, with an expectation that they could enjoy their outside yards, patios, and parks; their pathways could be reduced with the removal of substantial amounts of soil, and the capping of large areas with hard surfaces. Cemetery workers would also be a higher risk group, as they would be directly exposed to the contaminated soils during excavation for interments; thus, the reason for the 2016 report’s recommendation to overex the entire site 8′ to 10′. Commercial/Industrial development will require the least amount of soil remediation, and their employees and clients are the least potentially impacted receptors, because most will be inside an enclosed building for 8 hours a workday, on a site with significant hardscape and parking.
I am currently paying about $40/cy to export non-hazardous material to a local landfill or another construction site a maximum of 30 miles away utilizing a large 7cy bucket excavator and associated dozers, blades, and water trucks, and I am paying about $20/cy to import clean material, both via 14cy double-belly dumps. If the materials are heavily contaminated the export rates would be significantly higher because they would have to be taken to a licensed hazardous material landfill in north LA County or Banning, using smaller capacity end-dumps.
Worst case, 10′ over 125 acres equals 2,000,000 cy of material. To accomplish the complete export of all 2,000,000cy would require 575 one-way truck trips per day for a year (250 work days). Total export truck trips would result in 1,150 truck trips per day. To match the export rate, the import rate would have to be equal to the 1,150 truck trips per day, for a total of 2,300 truck trips per day, or 280 truck trips per hour, or almost 5 trucks per minute for 250 days. The cost to export and import 2,000,000 cy would cost $120 million, and again definitely higher if it had to be exported to a licensed hi-hazard landfill. This is somewhat of a linear equation, that is, if only 1,000,000 cy of material had to be exported and imported, the total cost and total truck trips would be cut in half. However, it is not a question of if the ARDA site has soil contamination, it is a question of how much. Regardless, I am sure the existing residents would not be agreeable to any large quantity of hazardous material hauling trucks rumbling along Sand Canyon and Portola.
(As an aside, I worked for The Irvine Company between 1985 and 1996. One of my primary responsibilities was the development of the Irvine Spectrum. I was the Company’s representative on the El Toro Base’s Cleanup and Reuse Committees. I also managed the design and construction of infrastructure improvements, including local and regional flood control facilities, around, upstream, downstream and on the Base while it was still in operation.)
The Freeway site, on the other hand, has no buildings, is not the site of any groundwater or landfill contamination sources, and does not contain the ARDA site’s ‘witches’ brew’. Instead, the Freeway site has been exposed to only known, controlled amounts of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, which do not require extensive mitigation.
2) The proposed Freeway site was part of the Federally-owned El Toro Base, as an extension of the approach and take-off runways. The Base, as you know, was used for training aircraft carrier pilots, among others. One of their procedures was the Field Mirror Landing Practice, where they performed ‘touch and go’ landing/takeoff maneuvers. Before the area was developed, the jets flew almost wherever they wanted. Once the Irvine Company started developing the areas around the Base, the Company and the Marines agreed to land and air restrictions and easements. The Freeway site was part of the runway extension. It was not fenced off because it was not considered a security risk. It was however, considered a ‘crash’ zone.
The reason the tall buildings in Irvine Spectrum, the Irvine Hospital, the low-profile buildings in Irvine Spectrums 3 & 5, and the old diagonal limit to the residential Northwood area to the west of Jeffrey are where they are, are due to these easements. In essence, the Company agreed to not allow any residential in the FLMP flight path outside of the runway extension ‘crash’ zones owned by the government, and to limit commercial/industrial within the FLMP flight path outside of the ‘crash’ zones, in an effort to limit the Marines potential risk based on an assumption that a fueled aircraft crash would wipe out basically an acre.
3) Many people use the term “Great Park” to refer to the entire Base area, while others use it more restrictively to just the formal public recreational park. In any event, the Great Park, both as a larger area, and as a public facility, has morphed significantly over the decades. When it was originally acquired by Lennar, the master-plan included a potential location for a cemetery, but not specifically a Veterans Cemetery, and it was never part of the public recreational “Great Park.”
The ARDA is adjacent to, but was never part of a formal public “Great Park”. No one has ever claimed that the Freeway site is part of the public recreational “Great Park”. The Freeway site is as much of the overall Great Park development as the adjoining Broadcom property (which was part of the aforementioned FLMP zone).
4) The $30 million was never officially approved. It was part of a proposed budget, but was withdrawn once the potential total costs, especially the extra costs for the pollution mitigation, of the ARDA were determined. In addition, the federal government, in their review of the pre-grant application, would contribute only $10 million out of $30 million requested, leaving a significant funding shortfall.
On the other hand, the State has approved $500,000 for design, and $5 million for construction of the Freeway site. Five Point has pledged an additional $10 million. CalVet is proceeding with the Freeway site design, and is currently reviewing the qualifications of three design firms.
5) Admittedly, I do not know the President of the Chinese Cultural Association. However, I know that he does not represent all of the residents in the City, nor all in the Great Park neighborhoods in particular. One only has to look at the contentious public hearings (some theoretically only for Asian residents) and the statements of various City Council and Mayoral candidates to ascertain the depth of the residents’ concerns.
6) Yes, the ARDA site will have to be decontaminated. However, because it is such a polluted site, the impact to the taxpaying public – national, state, and local – would be significantly less if that substantial cost was incurred by a developer. The general public will be better served by developing the less-polluted, less costly, Freeway site instead.
7) All of the major veteran cemeteries in Southern California – Los Angeles, Riverside, and Miramar – are adjacent to a freeway. The Freeway site clearly presents visible exposure to more people than a cemetery hidden in the middle of a residential area.
8) Location, location, location. Adjacency to a freeway significantly increases the value of a piece of property. as compared to parcels that are remote from a freeway. Another major developer has purposely retained ownership of large swaths of freeway adjacent property because of its long-term value.
9) The City’s own traffic report, as approved by the Transportation Commission, concluded that the land swap has no impact to the City’s traffic. I could go into why this is, but will summarize by saying the ‘cat was out of the bag’ decades ago when the entitlement for the entire City was approved.
For instance, the primary reason that the Airport area is seeing such an increase in traffic is due to a previous Mayor’s vision (Larry Agran) of converting the area from industrial to a more urban, high density commercial/residential community. The buildout of the Airport area is not complete. Unfortunately his dream of creating places for people to live walkably closer to their work for the most part has not materialized. The area is not highly urbanized like Chicago or New York City, there will not be a mass-transit system that will work for a long time, and the only solution, unfortunately, is wider roads to accommodate the continued demand for personal vehicular transportation, and more congested traffic.
10) Construction of a veterans cemetery has not been delayed. The previous submittals and approvals are being revised for the Freeway site. And as noted above, CalVet is proceeding with the design. The Freeway site can be developed much quicker because it does not have to endure the lengthy hazardous material mitigation period.
11) Admittedly, the Freeway site would be a great commercial/industrial site. However, after weighing all of the factors, the Freeway site would also be a great location for a Veteran’s Cemetery.
12) 21-gun salutes at the Freeway site may have some impact to the existing wildlife, who are used to living in a deteriorating agricultural ditch surrounded by roads and industrial development, but less than 21-gun salutes in a neighborhood full of residents and schools. Also, the term ‘wildlife corridor” is not limited to birds and mammals; the intent is to provide habitat and connectivity for all types of living organisms, including plants, insects, amphibians, and reptiles.
In addition to the above, you have never mentioned the following facts.
1) The ARDA site has the support of only two local elected officials. The Freeway site on the other hand has wide bi-partisan support of elected national, state, county, and local officials, including members of Congress, the Governor, members of the State legislature, County officials, the Mayor, and other Council members.
2) The SOVC [Larry Agran’s phoney “Save the Veterans Cemetery” group] is not a grass-roots organization. There is no great out-pouring of concern from the residents. Rather it is a trumped up, blatant attempt to thwart the efforts of the developer, by playing up a minority nimby ‘development is out-of-control’ sentiment. One of the primary SOVC proponents is the Irvine World News and Views, a political mailer, run by an owner who is not local. The issues being raised by the SOVC have nothing to do with a veterans cemetery, and they are using the veterans for political reasons.The primary reason there is substantial public Great Park elements at all – including the soccer stadium, concert venue, and streets – is due in large part to the developer’s funding and construction involvement. The SOVC has resorted to using paid predatory out-of-state non-veterans, who you admit have no stake in or knowledge of the issues, to collect signatures based on misleading and false representations. Calling your signature gatherers ‘mercenaries’ is at least truthful.
3) The SOVC continues to violate state and federal laws by utilizing the logos of and implying it has the support of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. As far as I know, the SOVC has not responded to the American Legion’s ‘cease and desist’ request.
4) You also insinuate that Council member Fox and veteran Bill Cook will receive some massive return for their participation. Such an insinuation is shameful and unfounded.
5) Last, labeling the groundbreaking as a sham is also shameful, and disrespectful of the hundreds of veterans, concerned citizens, and elected officials who attended the event. No one has ever claimed the Freeway site is part of the public recreational Great Park, as opposed to the SOVC who claims the ARDA site is within the recreational public ‘Great Park’.
Bottom line, which is a more fitting site to honor those who sacrificed their time and lives to maintain your privilege to live in a free country – an unfunded, polluted, more expensive, hidden, and unapproved property, or one that is funded, not-polluted, less expensive, visible, and approved. You are doing such a disservice to the nation, the state, and the local community. Please stop wasting taxpayer time and money by stopping your petition efforts.
I would be glad to review the real facts, not your alternate ones, at any time.
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Do not be deceived by a petition that pretends to “Save the Veterans Cemetery.”
The truth is that our veterans cemetery does not need saving — except from these out-of-town mercenaries who want you to sign their fraudulent petition!
They pretend that they support our veterans when the truth is that if their petition succeeds, the veterans cemetery will be (at best) delayed and likely destroyed.
They pretend to have grassroots support, but the truth is that they are paid out-of-town mercenaries, while the current “Strawberry Fields” location of the veterans cemetery is supported by every veterans’ organization and a formidable bipartisan array of local officials from across the political spectrum.
They will lie and tell you that they want the veterans cemetery to be in the Great Park, when the truth is that the original (and highly contaminated) was never in the Great Park.
They will not tell you that the current “Strawberry Fields” location was once part of the former El Toro Marine Base, which was the last American soil that many Marines stood on before they left for World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam, never to return.
They will not tell you that creating the veterans cemetery in their preferred location would cost the taxpayers $80 million in decontamination and demolition before the cemetery could even start to be built.
The truth is that the land exchange that the petition seeks to stop will ensure that the Veterans Cemetery is build faster and with approximately $80 million in savings for state and local taxpayers.
They use stolen valor when they claim to be supported by veterans organizations. The truth is that the American Legion has ordered them to stop using their organization’s symbol, but they’ve refused:
Now they’ve brought in hundreds of out-of-town paid signature gatherers from Los Angles, San Bernardino and Oakland and put them up in hotels.
And they are violent.
This weekend, other anti-petition volunteers and I were threatened and menaced multiple times by these out-of-town paid signature gatherers.
One of these paid mercenaries threatened me and then grabbed my sign, hit me with it and tore it up. He ran away when I called the police, but was caught when pointed out by several witnesses. He later told the police he was a “political consultant” who lived in Colorado.
Another volunteer reports that she was “spat at, called some of most horrible names you could call a woman, physically intimidated and shouted at by paid signature gatherers who came from out-of-town to get $3 per signature to lie about ‘saving the cemetery’. They are angry that we are so effective and let the public know they are lying. Please don’t sign their petitions!”
Here is a rogues gallery of these paid out-of-town signature gatherers:
After I was assaulted, I went back home, shaken. A Vietnam War Marine veteran who was also volunteering said to me “at least they were not shooting at you.”
I got a cup of coffee, took a shower, and went back out.
I will not be silenced. I will continue to fight for those who fight and have fought for America.
It is an honor to do so.
I hope you will join me.
If you can help us defeat these mercenaries who have invaded Irvine and their malicious petition, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’ve signed one of these petitions because you mistakenly believed it would “save the veterans cemetery,” you can easily revoke your signature by filling out a simple form. Please contact me at email@example.com and I will get this form to you.
As the daughter of an Orange County Korean War combat veteran, and the cousin of a Marine who was killed in action, I strongly support this land exchange that will greatly facilitate making an Orange County veterans cemetery a reality. I am tremendously proud to have participated in making sure that Orange County’s veterans – who have sacrificed so much for us – will at last have a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.
Please contact me to help.
Let’s do this together.