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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional

Plan for Park at El Toro Base May Split Coalition

May 26, 2000

IRVINE — A decision this week by the city to spend $4.5 million promoting a "great park" at the former El Toro Marine base could trigger an expensive rift in the South County coalition fighting the county's plans for an airport at the base.

The city's park plan is the third non-airport proposal to be floated from South County in two years--and the second in the last year by Irvine.

The plan envisions about half of the 4,700-acre base transformed into a vast central park, with the rest used for museums, cultural centers, a sports complex and farmland. Maintenance of the property would be paid from agricultural leases and a mix of private and public cultural funds.

The changing nature of non-airport alternatives for El Toro has frustrated some in the airport fight. Supervisor Todd Spitzer said South County should unite behind a single non-airport plan.

"I've told South County, you've got to make up your minds," Spitzer said.

Park supporters said the plan is superior to other proposals.

"It will give people from La Habra to San Clemente an escape from the noise, traffic and congestion that plague our daily lives," Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said in voting for the plan, which received unanimous council support. "The great park will enhance our quality of life; an airport will degrade it. That's the bottom line."

Several activists fighting the airport declined to comment publicly this week on Irvine's new plan, saying they didn't want to criticize their anti-airport colleagues. But privately, they doubted the park could be built without some public subsidy--which could make it a tough sell to voters.

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