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El Toro Will Pack the House

Board of Supervisors braces for a deluge of speakers today as it ponders seven options for using the former base.

May 16, 2000|DAVID REYES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hundreds of people are expected to attend a Board of Supervisors hearing today that may decide the fate of a commercial airport at El Toro.

County supervisors have seven options before them: four call for aviation use at the former Marine base, two suggest non-aviation alternatives and one is to have the board relinquish airport planning to another government entity.

"We're expecting a very large crowd at a meeting that may well last beyond 9 p.m. but we'll try to close it at that time," said board Chairman Chuck Smith.

If more speakers show up than anticipated, Smith said it's likely that no decision will be made by the end of the meeting. Instead, supervisors will meet Thursday as the planning panel for the base and could make the final decision then.

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A demonstration by groups urging the board to jettison the airport plan has been scheduled for 3 p.m. outside the Hall of Administration.

At 4 p.m. elected officials are expected to speak, followed by more than an hour of testimony by representatives from organizations and groups that oppose or support an airport. The public will be allowed to speak after 6 p.m.

County supervisors are poised to listen to dozens of speakers and their organizations that have a stake in the outcome of how the base may be used.

The hearing was originally called after voters on March 7 overwhelmingly passed Measure F, an initiative that calls for a two-thirds vote of the electorate for approval of airports, large jails near homes, or hazardous waste landfills. As a result of the initiative, the board froze El Toro planning work last month on County Executive Officer Jan Mittermeier's recommendation.

Three of the five supervisors who favor an airport--Smith, Cynthia P. Coad and Jim Silva--said they wanted a court ruling before reversing that action, citing a threat by airport foes that they could be held personally liable for funds improperly spent on the project.

On May 4, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge allowed spending on airport planning to resume, ruling that a portion of the ballot initiative that stopped expenditures was too vague.

A court hearing on the constitutionality of Measure F is set for June 23.

Among the options to be discussed today by supervisors:

* Plan an airport at El Toro but follow the restrictions of Measure F, which requires a two-thirds public vote before airports, large jails near homes and hazardous waste landfills can be built.

* Plan an airport but wait for a final decision until the court decides the fate of Measure F. A Los Angeles County judge has been asked by two pro-airport groups and Newport Beach to invalidate the measure or change the vote requirement from two-thirds to a majority.

* Plan an airport but delay further action until a countywide advisory vote on the plan can be held in November. Supervisors have until early August to place a nonbinding measure on the ballot.

* Continue planning an airport but expand the base-reuse panel deciding El Toro's fate, which now consists only of supervisors. The county could invite representatives of cities nearest the base to join.

* Plan something other than an airport but restrict decisions to just the Board of Supervisors.

* Ask the Navy to replace the Board of Supervisors as the body deciding the base's future.

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