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Lake Forest Joins El Toro Coalition : Proposal: The city joins six other South County cities that have approved a plan for an air base redevelopment agency.


LAKE FOREST — With a late-night council vote, Lake Forest became the last city to join a seven-member coalition which proposes to guide the future of the El Toro Marine Corps air base.

The proposal for the El Toro Reuse Agency now goes to county officials and all other cities in Orange County, which all are offered membership.

Other members of the South County coalition that approved the El Toro Reuse Agency "in concept" this week include Mission Viejo, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Irvine and Laguna Beach.

Generally, the cities have presented a united front in dealing with the county and other Orange County cities that favor turning the base into a regional airport.

However, while giving the concept enthusiastic support, several Irvine City Council members this week were the first to suggest modifying portions of the agency's concept to boost Irvine's voice in crafting a redevelopment plan for El Toro.

Councilman Barry J. Hammond said that Irvine and the county should have a slightly elevated role in the final decision-making because both have land-use authority over the base.

Under the South County proposal, all 31 cities and the county would recommend a base redevelopment plan. But the final decision would be made by a nine-member executive committee.

But Hammond said he would like to see the county and Irvine each have votes equal to that of the five South County cities on the executive committee (Newport Beach and Anaheim, the other cities on that committee, would have lesser votes). In Garden Grove, meanwhile, Councilman Mark Leyes pulled the item off his council's agenda Tuesday because he hopes to persuade South County cities to loosen their reins on the decision-making process so that other cities have an incentive to join.

"I'm trying to figure out a reason for a Garden Grove, or a Stanton, or a La Habra to join, because the way it is right now, no matter how much we pay into it, our votes won't mean much, so what's the point of joining?" said Leyes, who chairs the three-city Orange County Regional Airport Authority.

However, South County representatives argue that the proposed agency allows for countywide representation while giving greater influence to the cities that will be most affected by the base conversion plan.

"The South County plan acknowledges that the ultimate reuse of the El Toro Air Station will provide significant economic benefits for the entire Orange County region," said Laguna Niguel Councilman Mark Goodman.

"However, it also rightfully recognizes that potential uses bring with them local negative impacts of noise pollution, traffic, degradation of air quality, urban intensification, crash potential, increase in crime and potential blight," he said, "impacts that we in South County see as real threats to the environment we are striving to preserve for ourselves and our families."

Times staff writer Gebe Martinez and correspondents Shelby Grad and Richard Core contributed to this story.

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