Photo by Myles RobinsonContrary to the Los Angeles Times, ecstatic Newport Beach residents and a bunch of South County politicians weary of defending the massive-developer giveaway known as the Great Park, the City of Los Angeles has no secret plan to seize control of the old El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. No end-run operation, no Hail Mary pass, no last-ditch effort to resurrect the county's very, very dead international airport proposal.
The June 6 Times article that put everyone's knickers in a twist was based on an April 9 memorandum written by two Los Angeles city officials—Deputy Mayor Troy Edwards and LA Board of Airport Commissioners president Ted Stein. The 37-page memo, addressed simply to "U.S. Department of Transportation," reads like one of those letters that concerned citizens unleash during the public-comment period before any big development goes through and which public officials say they take all very seriously but then shelve forever the instant the public-comment time ends.
A spokesperson for LA mayor Jim Hahn said the city did get a response from Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, but refused to provide it. Officials at the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could not locate either the Edwards/Stein memo or a response, but said there were no plans to take El Toro away from the U.S. Navy. This fall, the Navy will auction off the base to private developers.
Despite its length, the memo is a laughable, rambling, simplistic whine begging the DOT to start an interdepartmental war in the federal government over the El Toro base, now entering its fifth year as a fallow field. It is not in any sense a "plan"—just a quasi-legal case for throwing out last year's Measure W election, grabbing the base from the Navy and ramming a massive international airport into a place even FAA officials have said suffers from numerous operational and airspace problems.
The letter is often contradictory—saying at one point that El Toro must be used for the benefit of the "local" Southern California area, and at another that El Toro "should be dedicated to benefit the citizens of the entire Nation." The memo mentions air passenger demand often, but never mentions that other SoCal airports—including Palmdale and the old George, Norton and March Air Force bases—are open for business and starving for flights.
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Edwards and Stein then make the hilarious case that they could get El Toro International running in just six years. In fact, they say they could actually begin moving passengers in and out in just 36 months. They never mention El Toro's problematic runways—that all the runways and airport infrastructure have to be rebuilt—or the myriad problems associated with trying to put a massive 24-hour airport smack in the middle of one of the most densely packed airspaces in the world.
It's clear Edwards and Stein simply have no idea what they're talking about. They don't even know what El Toro and its surrounding land look like. They insist that the old base is surrounded by farmland, ignoring the massive Irvine Co. development that is pressing against the base from all sides—development that convinced the Navy that it was no longer safe to keep El Toro operational.
This is what people are going nuts over? This is why Orange County Board of Supervisors chairman Tom Wilson had to make an emergency motion to dump Supervisor Chuck Smith from the Southern California Association of Governments board?
The proposed El Toro International Airport was dead the instant county officials first released all their pretty maps and charts back in the summer of 1996. Nothing will bring it back—not hysterical Times articles nor crazed residents nor even LA city officials desperate to take the heat off potential LAX expansion. Perhaps when contractors finally begin jackhammering the runways next year people will finally get the word: El Toro? He dead.