Other than it being an airfield where pilots don't want to fly and one most county residents don't want, El Toro airport took a grand step forward.
After years of wishing and waiting, supporters of a commercial airport at the old El Toro Marine base finally have what they wanted. On a 3-2 vote, the Orange County Board of Supervisors this week gave the definitive nod to an airport on the abandoned site, hailing it as an answer to the region's travel needs well into this century.
A huge moment in the annals of transportation, right? I'm thinking Golden Spike, the Wright Brothers, the opening of the Panama Canal.
Instead, what do we get at this historic juncture? A bunch of negative vibes.
So what if on the very day the board approved the airport, an airline pilots union said the takeoffs and departures should be realigned. "The way Orange County has written its plan dooms the airport to almost certain failure," the pilots' statement read, in part.
Instead of taking that in a negative way, let's celebrate the uniqueness of perhaps building the world's only airport with its own no-fly zone.
Also not appreciating the feel-good moment was the FAA, which despite saying an El Toro Airport certainly would work, noted that its proposed operating plan would have deleterious effects on the overall efficiency of the Southern California's air traffic system.
Talk about negative.
And, please, let's not even start with the coalition of South County cities that plans to sue, sue, sue until its own golden spike is driven through the heart of any airport at El Toro.
Wanting to feel festive, I put in a call to airport supporter and Supervisor Cynthia P. Coad. Surely there was an after-party following the board's big vote.
If there was, Coad says, she wasn't invited.
"I just look at this as part of a process," she says. "Part of the process is finished, and there's work left to be done. The thought of a celebration really didn't cross my mind."
Bummer. If there had been a party, Bruce Nestande would have been there. The long-ago county supervisor has been one of the airport's most positive voices, emphasizing that the El Toro site makes perfect sense.
How discombobulating, then, to discover that Nestande was once negative himself.
O.C. Has Been Arguing Over El Toro for Years
I stumbled upon a September 1982 article in The Times detailing a new position of the Southern California Assn. of Governments. The group was backing off support for a commercial airport on a man-made island off the Southern California coast in favor of sharing the El Toro site with the Marines.
That drew this Nestande retort: "We're talking about drastically altering a community," he said to his association mates about his opposition to an El Toro site. "Would you want to drastically change the character of your community? How can you in good conscience say, 'Put it over there and get it off our back.' "
South County residents of today couldn't say it any better.
Somewhere way, way back in the process--maybe 15, 20 years ago--people thought what happened this week would be a joyous occasion. It would be the day Orange County gave itself a brand-new international airport and announced to the world it had hit the big time.
Still, can't we all be positive for a while? Surely niggling details--like whether the airport will ever be built or whether pilots will boycott--can be worked out.
On the other hand, history could have taught us the site has always fostered bad karma.
Local legend has it that Orange County land baron James Irvine once dissuaded the Southern Pacific Railroad from laying tracks across his property by stationing rifle-toting ranch hands on the property.
Then, during World War II, Irvine offered the military $100,000 out of his own pocket if the government would build the Marine base elsewhere. He gave up after being convinced the Japanese threat in the Pacific dictated that his land was better suited to the military than bean production.
And, not to rain any more on the parade, there's this nugget from the archives:
Marine Col. Garit Fenenga, whose job it was to work with local residents on jet noise problems at El Toro, told them in 1977 the Marines wouldn't be leaving any time soon.
"That's just not going to happen," Fenenga said.
"Besides, if we did leave, the civilians would take the place over and it would become a 24-hour international airport. And that would be even worse."
And now, back to our celebration.
Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Readers may reach Parsons by calling (714) 966-7821 or by writing to him at The Times' Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or by e-mail to email@example.com.