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Orange County Focus

El Toro Base to Be Transit Study Subject

March 30, 1993|JEFFREY A. PERLMAN

Former Orange County Supervisor Bruce Nestande has been hired by county transportation officials to assess transit opportunities that could result from the planned closure of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

A former chairman of the California Transportation Commission and a co-founder of the board overseeing three tollway projects in the county, Nestande will receive $10,000 or less during a three-to-four-month study period, said Stan Oftelie, OCTA's chief executive officer.

The OCTA board voted last week to study the impacts on transportation of the base closure but emphasized that it is not advocating that the military leave El Toro or recommending any specific replacement for the military.

But Westminster Mayor Charles V. Smith, who asked for the study, said he was personally convinced that the base will either become a commercial airport or a multipurpose transit facility.

Oftelie said Nestande has the "right mix of transportation expertise and sensitivity to the problems of the residents around El Toro. It's a natural fit."

As a county supervisor, Nestande represented the district that includes the base, and proposals for airline and air cargo use of El Toro are hardly new to him. Indeed, Nestande and Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, both ex-Marines, wrote two board resolutions in the early 1980s that declared that there was no county site suitable for an airport, including El Toro.

Nestande argued then that although Los Angeles County may have to shoulder more than its fair share of commercial airport traffic, Orange County has done the same for Southern California with respect to military bases over the last 50 years.

Asked if Nestande's publicly stated views might compromise his objectivity now, Oftelie said: "I'm sure he views this with some skepticism. We have to look at it with some skepticism. But times change. . . ."

Oftelie also said Nestande's work as a consultant to the Irvine Co. doesn't pose a problem because, although the company owns much of the land around the base, Nestande has only advised the firm on air-quality issues. For example, he helped secure a finding by regional smog regulators that the San Joaquin Hills tollway will be in compliance with Southern California's clean-air plans.

Neither Nestande nor Irvine Co. executives could be reached for comment Monday.

Nestande, a Republican and former state legislator, left the Board of Supervisors in 1987 after an unsuccessful run for secretary of state against the Democratic incumbent, March Fong Eu, in November, 1986.

During his tenure as supervisor, Nestande was investigated as part of a political corruption probe of fireworks magnate W. Patrick Moriarty, but nothing came of it. He refunded campaign contributions that had been funneled by Moriarty through business associates and employees.

Nestande quit the state Transportation Commission two years ago, citing the press of personal business and potential for conflicts of interest involving developer-clients. At the time, he was a vice president at Costa Mesa-based Arnel Development Co. and a consultant to the Irvine Co., Santa Margarita Co. and public agencies such as the Southern California Assn. of Governments.

Most recently, Nestande helped manage the successful congressional campaign of Rep. Michael Huffington (R-Santa Barbara) and oversaw a task force examining the possible electrification of diesel-operated rail service. He also serves on a statewide committee examining Caltrans' performance, and recently advised Westinghouse on an unsuccessful bid for the county tollway agency's $600-million electronic vehicle identification system.

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