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Renewed Angst Over Veterans Cemetery is a Failure of Leadership

Vets 2015-06-08 18.06.11

Just when everyone thought it was a done deal, the wabblers who make up the Republican majority on the Irvine City Council have torn open a scab on what should be a bi-partisan no-brainer in regards to the Veterans Cemetery and Memorial at the Great Park.

Former Assembly member Sharon Quirk-Silva said it best: “Is there a way in our great country and county that we can respect one anothers culture, and still find a final resting place for our veterans in the Great Park?”

I’m afraid the answer is going to be “no.”  And for that, blame the weak leaders on the Irvine City Council.

Homeowners, many from China, have paid between $700,000 to more than $1 million for homes sold by FivePoint.  Council member Christina Shea, who originally objected to the Cemetery and Memorial at the Great Park while covering for the city’s development partner, said in her may 6 letter to “Irvine Friends” she is still seeking a “win-win” situation for the neighbors and the Veterans.  The OC Register reported on the issue in Saturday’s edition.

Shea letter_150506

Mayor Steven Choi courted the Chinese vote and contributions from them in the last election.  And his Chinese planning commissioner, Anthony Kuo, in Chinese media, suggested that the Cemetery might never make it out of the planning process.  No one on the council wants to be perceived as anti-Veteran. FivePoint doesn’t want to be perceived as anti-Veteran.  But there’s a lot of homes to sell and the Chinese immigrant market wants to buy and pays cash. I’m afraid the council majority and the developer are clearly anti-Veteran.

But there’s really no middle ground.

The out of town buyers don’t want a cemetery.  Their opposition website cites the Cemetery as a threat to property values, a lack of respect for Asian culture, and an insistence they had no time to react to the news of the approval of new legislation.  Mayor Choi asked these residents “where were you when I needed you” when he tried to stop this idea that’s much bigger than him. And the question should be asked, did FivePoint disclose the cemetery to potential buyers?  Does anyone have a copy of the disclosure documents they’d like to share?  Who should these new home buyers really be upset with?

I found this CNBC story from 2013 that’s very illuminating.  From the story:

At a brand new housing development in Irvine, Calif., some of America’s largest home builders are back at work after a crippling housing crash. Lennar, Pulte, K Hovnanian, Ryland to name a few. It’s a rebirth for U.S. construction, but the customers are largely Chinese.

“They see the market here still has room for appreciation,” said Irvine-area real estate agent Kinney Yong, of RE/MAX Premier Realty. “What’s driving them over here is that they have this cash, and they want to park it somewhere or invest somewhere.”

Yong’s phone has been ringing off the hook, with more than 5,000 new homes slated for the nearby Great Park Neighborhood. Most of the calls are from overseas, but prospective buyers are not looking solely for financial returns on the real estate.

“We are seeing a lot of Asians who are buying as an investment, but their kids are going to school here, so kids live in the home. They are looking at it more as an investment in education,” said Emile Haddad, CEO of Fivepoint Communities, developer of the Great Park Neighborhood.

That is Brian Yang’s plan. Speaking from his home in China, Yang said he purchased a home in Irvine this year, but he will wait five years, until his daughter turns 10, before moving his family to the U.S. He has several reasons for taking the leap.

“Education in America is very good and world class, so the first one is for education, and I think the second one is for the property appreciation,” explained Yang.

While American secondary schools and universities are a big draw for the majority of Chinese buyers in California, Yang, and many of his colleagues, are also concerned about China’s political instability, inflation, even pollution. They are paying all-cash for real estate in California, using it as a safe-haven for their wealth. Yang was reluctant to talk about the money, but he admitted, “I feel the same way to some extent.”

While Yang purchased an older home, the new model homes at Great Park are drawing thousands of potential buyers. In fact, more than 20,000 attended the opening weekend, according to developers. The vast majority of lookers were Asian, and that fact is not lost on the builders. Hoping to cash in on this new wave of investors, they are tailoring the homes to the demand. Some are incorporating multigenerational floor plans and even Feng Shui designs.

“The imbalance of supply and demand here is really driving a lot of competition for these homes,” said Haddad.

The homes range from the mid-$700,000s to well over $1 million. Cash is king, and there is a seemingly limitless amount.

“The price doesn’t matter, 800,000, 1 million, 1.5. If they like it they will purchase it,” said Helen Zhang of Tarbell Realtors.

The quiet and persistent ongoing lobbying of these new neighbors on our city council members has been met with a measure of finding a compromise.  Veterans insist El Toro was the last American soil some of these Veterans touched before leaving to fight in faraway wars.  Being buried there on the site of the El Toro base is a right they fought for, died for, and worked the legislative process for.  They played by the rules and won.  The new neighbors will use their significant wealth to change this.  And by not being firm, by not showing leadership, this city council majority has demonstrated just how for sale they really are.  We’re back to running out the clock; waiting for enough new homes to be sold to families who object to a cemetery to give this council majority an out.

Todd Spitzer doesn’t get off easy here either.  His office refuses to answer the simple “yes” or “no” question if Mr. Spitzer continued to seek a new location after AB 1453 was signed by Governor Brown.  Mr. Spitzer says he supports the Memorial at the Great Park, but in making that statement is clearly speaking from both sides of his mouth.  The Veterans we spoke with last night know this and feel betrayed by Mr. Spitzer as well.

This Council majority and Mr. Spitzer aren’t leading here; they are following the wishes of the developer with expensive homes to sell who’s a known ATM for political Independent Expenditures.  Perhaps it’s best for Irvine voters to get them out of the way.



  1. Pinky Pinky June 9, 2015

    Todd is a media whore. He wants media to report whatever he says.

    • Vern Vern June 12, 2015

      Brilliant, pinky, a politician wants the media to report what he says. What an incisive observer of humanity you are.

      • Pinky Pinky June 12, 2015

        Sorry Todd won’t hire you to play piano anymore Vern. All those DUIs add up don’t they

  2. Pinky Pinky June 9, 2015

    Was Greg Diamond there last night? Or did he totally rip off this blog post?

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 9, 2015

      Greg was not there. He’s been absent from this story and per some of the vets I spoke with last night, takes more credit for the cemetery work they did than he should. He makes a mistake — the LiberalOC is a county blog and not an Irvine blog but I guess its easy to get confused when someone doesn’t have a home office with separating walls….but better late than never.

    • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 10, 2015

      Hadn’t even read this, Punky. I don’t usually read LibOC since Prevatt had to leave, except when someone tells me I should check out a story.

      I got most of my information from posts by Bill Cook — I presume that our host was informed by them as well — followed by some private exchanges. (You can figure out what they were by seeing what’s in my story that isn’t in ones here.)

      I haven’t been posting much in the last couple of weeks due to work obligations, so — unlike the original cemetery stories and the Gang Chen material, I haven’t been on top of these latest developments. I have read the stories here and I think that our host has been doing a pretty good job — though the jabs at Spitzer seem weaker than those at Shea and Choi.

      I am, of course, as broken up by the (wrong) belief of someone who won’t write under his own name when attacking someone regarding my pilfering from stories here that I hadn’t read ad you can imagine.

      As for my contributions to OCVMP in (primarily) the first half of 2013, when its members went from not believing that they could succeed to a massive underdog win, ask Bill Cook or Sharon Quirk-Silva, among others. They know. But what I did pales next to what those two and Agran and the state legislative staff did; they deserve the glory.

      • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 10, 2015

        You lifted a comment from one post and linked back to a story you hadn’t read? Sure. And 3:26am. Still last night for you Greg, or super early morning?

        • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 15, 2015

          Yes, I hadn’t read this when I wrote that article. As I recall, and it’s been a while now, I “lifted the quote,” from a mass email sent by Bill Cook. You apparently did the same. Or maybe you didn’t get that email and found it printed somewhere else.

          I probably wrote that in an early morning. What of it?

          The comments that you get are fair game in certain circumstances, as you presumably know. But, if I used one, it was after the initial story was published, because [see above[.

          • Pinky Pinky June 15, 2015

            Not getting any sleep GordoGreg? Being a professional, personal and political failure would do that.

      • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 10, 2015

        No, your “host” (and that would be me), was actually on site covering the meeting in person. I did the headcount myself. And I took the photo you display on your OJ post. I’m a much better photographer than you are.

        • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 15, 2015

          I got those photos from Bill Cook’s email, with no indication that they were not to be used.

          Apparently, Bill must have sent around material from your story without identifying its source, so I thought (as has been the case before) that it was from OCVMP members and intended for my use on the blog.

          I’ll be happy to credit you for the photos. Or, if you really want to “help the cause,” I will take them down.

          Thanks for your coverage of the event. It has been a redeeming feature.

          • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski June 15, 2015

            do your homework first before shooting your mouth off counselor.

  3. John Jaeger John Jaeger June 9, 2015

    Dan, this is a first. I agree with you. (The pigs are flying!)

    This is not China. It is the United States. If superstitious Asians don’t want to be near a cemetery, don’t buy a home there. America has no responsibility to be all things to all people. It’s not a political issue, it’s an oogie boogie issue. Pure nonsense. We pledge allegiance to “one nation, under God,” not under feng shui.

    American veterans’ rights trump those of superstitious Asians, period.

    • David Vasquez David Vasquez June 9, 2015

      Do American veterans “rights” trump superstitious Latino’s or Voodoo praying Jamacan’s

      What if there were a NAZI hall next to a synagogue? who’s “rights” would be trumped John? How about a mousqe near GROUND ZERO?

      This is a sensitive issue. Race baiting and blowhard commentary from people who weren’t even there does not help (thanks Greg Diamond).

      We OWE our veterans a lot, but, I am not sure those translate into “rights”. Immigrant children have rights, Vet’s not so much as far as I can tell.

      Who is the leader who is going to solve this?

      • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 10, 2015

        Thank you for being one of the few ignorant blowhards in the local blogosphere who does put out your feeble observations under your own name, David, to the extent that that is your actual name. It’s always interesting to hear the know-nothing Republican view, and by “always” I mean something more like “rarely, but I’m trying to be polite.”

        People who want to check out my piece can decide for themselves whether I’m “race-baiting.” The truth is that I think that this “feng shui affects civic policy” issue is both fascinating and both way ahead of the national curve and likely to have to have significant repercussions beyond OC. To the likes of David, that may sound line race-baiting, but he had a tin ear.

        • David Vasquez David Vasquez June 10, 2015

          Your “snarky” vindictive response is received.
          You must be insane or “ignorant” (in the literal sense, not the intelligence sense) yourself to label me a Republican.
          I prefer to avoid you and your out of touch writings, but when you write inflammatory words, portend to being the KNOW, when you were not even there, I feel like in addition to your diminished effectiveness, you are just an attention seeking blogger, who is DESPERATE to be heard.
          Like you (presumably) I vote and support Democratic causes. I am just not a dick about it like you.
          Take a look at Diamond Bar or the new developments in North Orange County (dubbed “Chinatown) to see how BEHIND the curve you are.

          • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 10, 2015

            I hear Greg is branding himself as a political scientist and a political psychologist. What the hell?

            • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 15, 2015

              Oh that. It’s due to my Ph.D. in Social Psychology, the research I did in political psychology, and the tenure-track job that I had at a Big 10 university teaching Political Science for four years.

              Thanks for asking.

              • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski June 15, 2015

                Political blowhard is a more apt description

          • David Vasquez David Vasquez June 10, 2015

            I am OK with just about anything written or posted. This is the INTERNET afterall, With that said, what’s with the funky picture ascribed to my recent comment? Is that a hint? Or maybe just the WRONG David Vasquez, running around Greg Diamonds imagination. Could you imagine if someone by the name of Clay Jones posted? He would too be a fake.

          • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 15, 2015

            I used to label Joe Baca as a Republican too. Et voila!

            I still doubt your real-life existence under this name, but I also don’t care that much about it.

        • John Jaeger John Jaeger June 13, 2015

          Greg Diamond: “Thank you for being one of the few ignorant blowhards in the local blogosphere who does put out your feeble observations…”

          “It’s always interesting to hear the know-nothing Republican view, and by ‘always’ I mean something more like ‘rarely’, but I’m trying to be polite.”

          “Ignorant blowhard”…. “know-nothing Republican”…

          And you’re “trying to be polite”? Your typical liberal Democrat remarks of condescension and hatred don’t look the least bit “polite” to me.

          If you liberal Democrats KNOW so much, then:
          1. Why did the doofus president promise to “cut the deficit in half” but instead, nearly double it? (Don’t blame Bush either. That tired old lie doesn’t cut it.)
          2. Why has the middle east worsened, from Iraq to Yemen to Syria, to
          Africa – at the hands of doofus Obama, your Democrat?
          3. Why is Baltimore in flames, while murder and violent crime soar once again, thanks to liberal Democrat race-baiting?
          4. Why were 58,000,000 unborn babies butchered, a disproportionate number of them black, all promoted and supported by liberal Democrats?
          (Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, lectured to fawning Ku Klux Klan members, on the benefits of killing off blacks. They loved her.)

          Stop patting yourself on the back, and declaring yourself so *intellectual* when you clearly are not. But IF YOU WERE SMART, smart doesn’t mean right. Smart doesn’t mean good. And you are neither right nor smart. You couldn’t be. You’re a liberal Democrat.

          Democrat socialism, welfare statism, and race-baiting are destroying America, and all you Democrats can do is fan your own flames, and continue, indeed hasten the destruction of this once great republic.

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski June 9, 2015

      One nation, indivisible. Under God was added by Ckngress in the 1950s over the objections of the Bellamy family. Francis Bellamy is the author. But this is America and a process was followed

  4. Pinky Pinky June 9, 2015

    Just read Duamond’s story in OJ. Completely ripped you off without attribution. What a dick

    • Vern Vern June 10, 2015

      Up yours stinky. See Greg’s comment above, he ripped off nothing from Dan. And I won’t insult Dan today because I’m glad both blogs are working on the same side on an important local issue for once.

      I’m glad I don’t have any commenters as stupid as Pinky on the Orange Juice … and I’ve got some doozies!

  5. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 10, 2015

    Greg & Vern —
    we just deleted two comments from Pinky calling both of you derogatory names. I expect both of you to extend the same courtesy back to Pinky. Enough with the name calling. Pinky is on moderation…it can happen to both of you too.

    But Greg did lift a comment from the blog and a detail I was aware of since I was there. To say he ripped off nothing is…inaccurate. And yes Vern, you have commenters on OJ far worse than Pinky.

    • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 15, 2015

      As explained above, I took the material for my article from a letter sent around from Bill Cook, who has been an excellent source for me on this topic for almost a year and a half. It wasn’t identified as having come from you; I didn’t check because I had no reason to think that it didn’t come directly from OCVMP sources, as has been the case in the past.

      Sorry about the misunderstanding; see my offer of a remedy above.

      As for “Pinky,” you really think that there’s some moral responsibility not to tweak the name of someone writing abusively under a pseudonym? That takes things rather far.

  6. David Vasquez David Vasquez June 16, 2015

    I am a tried and true Democrat. But that does NOT mean I have to agree with every liberal position. For example, some of the positions that the folks labeled “Business Democrats” are good, sound, attainable solutions.
    The folks on the FAR LEFT believe we should be providing support to everyone on the backs of others, not because of need but because of belief and principal. Sure it takes a village, but, even a village throws out FREELOADERS.
    There are great examples of this in OC, instead divisive talk and behavior threatens progress.
    There will always be the “Donald Trumps” of the left. Luckily we know how to deal with them.

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 16, 2015

      It’s not “freeloaders,” David. Just declare a financial hardship and you don’t have to pay

Comments are closed.