Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

El Toro Plan With Promise

July 26, 2002

It's a long road from a good plan to a Great Park, but the Navy and the city of Irvine have made a bold, if question-provoking, start toward transforming the former El Toro Marine base.

Not for nothing has Irvine developed a reputation for master planning. The city/Navy land-use plan outlined this week for the south Orange County base calls for 20% private development and 80% public park. No one so far, though, is releasing figures for the cost of cleaning up toxic wastes and developing a 4,000-acre municipal park, which would be one of the nation's largest.

The Great Park project started as a not-in-my-backyard bid by south county residents to stop county officials' push for a major international airport at El Toro. After years of seesaw battles and county voters' rejection of a proposed airport at the site in March, the federal government stepped in: Instead of handing the land over for an airport, the Navy would sell it off for development. It looked as if airport opponents' Great Park initiative had fallen into the same rubble as the airport plan.

Out of the ruins came an unlikely partnership of city and Navy and a detailed plan for the former base. Under the plan, the site would be auctioned off to the highest bidders; 3,400 homes and 2.9 million square feet of retail space would be allowed on 738 developable acres. As part of the deal, developers would purchase 4,000 acres allotted for public use, which they would deed over for a park whose development and upkeep they would fund. That's more than builders are usually asked to do, but the land would sell for less than market value. Since the purchase would come with development rights, builders would save millions of dollars on the planning process.

Had county supervisors been this willing to balance private interests with the public's concerns by planning for a smaller, more palatable airport--an option this editorial page supported--they might have pulled it off.

The Navy has said it will take on the stringent environmental cleanup needed for housing and a park. But at this point, no one is being specific about the costs and whether money from the Navy and development concessions will pay for them. If not, in the end will there be only a So-So Park?

The public needs specific answers to big questions. But thanks to the Navy for effectively ending much of the wearisome debate over El Toro. The county, which has not yet decided to let Irvine take over the land, and the airport proponents, who still have their lawsuits in place, should join as partners in this new effort or give up and go home.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|