Sometime in May, South County officials will deliver a "legislative instrument" to the county Board of Supervisors. Three of the supervisors will look at it dismissively and then reject it in a 3-2 vote. Later that day, anti-airport activists will begin gathering 200,000 or so signatures to put the "instrument" on the March 2002 ballot.
The measure is known as the Orange County Great Park, and the Irvine city officials who wrote it hope it will be the fourth and—please, God—final ballot initiative concerning El Toro.
"It's a daunting technical challenge," said Irvine Mayor Larry Agran. "I believe it will be bulletproof. We simply have to win."
According to Irvine city officials, the new measure, which should be completed sometime this month, will be a mammoth document. Most of the "writing" will actually be Xeroxing: the measure will be full of pages reprinted from the county General Plan with the word "airport" stricken and replaced with "Great Park."
"It absolutely stops the airport because it changes the zoning," said Irvine anti-airport activist Ed Dornan.
The measure will also outline the proposal to replace the airport with the Great Park of Orange County. Gone are the commercial and residential uses that made up most of the South County's so-called Millennium plans. In their place is a massive 1,000-plus-acre park containing the existing stables, three golf courses, meadows, a museum mall, fairgrounds, sports fields, botanical gardens, athletic facilities, sculpture gardens and a concert bowl. There will also be a 100-acre lake (comparable to Lake Mission Viejo), a research and development center, warehouses next to the train tracks that run along the base's southern edge, and a college campus situated near the corner of Trabuco Boulevard and the Eastern toll road. Officials say the park would take 20 to 30 years to finish.
More interesting is the Great Park's role in what could become the largest interconnected-park system in the U.S. If Irvine dedicates an open-space corridor from nearby Laguna Wilderness Park to the Great Park, then it would be possible to walk from Crystal Cove State Park to the Cleveland National Forest, which eventually reaches the Mexican border.
Officials say they selected park uses from more than 180,000 countywide responses to city-funded mailers. City-sponsored poll numbers also show that only 30 percent to 35 percent of the county—mostly Republican white males in their 50s who will be dead long before the park is finished—still support the airport.