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Planning Tustin Base's Legacy

In planning the transformation of the Marine base, Tustin was charged with ensuring long-term economic and social benefits.

September 15, 2002|TRACY WILLS WORLEY

After more than a decade of planning, negotiating and work by dozens of groups throughout Orange County and the federal government, the reuse plan for the former Tustin Marine Corps Air Facility is moving forward.

Navy officials turned over title to much of the base to Tustin this summer. Ground has been broken for much-needed transitional homeless facilities.

The Tustin City Council recently selected a developer for the first phase of housing development.

This project will demonstrate the city's commitment to affordable housing and help with the jobs-housing balance in Orange County. Furthermore, plans for an abused-children's facility and a county regional park are moving ahead.

The city soon will solicit proposals from four developers for a commercial center. Tustin also has announced the start of a process to select a master developer for more than 700 acres of the base that will include homes and a business park.

All the land slated for private development, including the housing and commercial center sites, will be sold as quickly as possible by the city.

The Navy, through the General Services Administration, is accepting bids for 235 acres of base land that won't be conveyed to the city. Based on the bids received to date, there is tremendous interest in the Navy property that, under the city's reuse plan, will be limited to residential uses.

Our sense of community and our vision set us on a path that will become our legacy for 75 years. That is why the name Tustin Legacy has been chosen.

As it has been for much of the 75 years since Tustin was incorporated, the Marine Corps air station will be an essential element of our future.

Established in 1942, the base was commissioned to support critical blimp anti-submarine operations protecting the West Coast at the onset of World War II.

When federal officials decided to close the base in 1991, many were saddened that the Marines and their families would be moved and no longer be a part of the Orange County community.

But our community leaders resolved to ensure a legacy that would bring Orange County together. They envisioned the 1,600-acre base used for a variety of purposes: housing, jobs, schools, day care, parks and homeless accommodations.

In planning the transformation of the base, Tustin was charged with ensuring long-term economic and social benefits. And, through a long process, the reuse plan was born. There is much more planned than the projects that have been launched at this early juncture.

In coming years, land at the base will also be developed for day-care facilities and schools for Tustin Unified, Irvine Unified and Santa Ana Unified school districts. South Orange County and Rancho Santiago community college districts also will have space for facilities.

Ultimately, a third of the base will be dedicated to public uses, including an 84-acre county regional park. Development will create more than 24,000 permanent jobs.

It is true that both the Tustin and El Toro base closures were not without controversy. We chose to resolve our disputes through negotiations and compromise. For many years, we worked toward a settlement of a land dispute with Santa Ana Unified School District. At times, it was a difficult and contentious dispute.

But it is in the spirit of compromise and public service that everyone came together to settle the dispute in a manner that will both help alleviate the crowded conditions of Santa Ana Unified schools and ensure that the base reuse plan that benefits all Orange County citizens can move forward.

The resolution to this issue was possible only because everyone came together to work in the best interests of those who desperately need the programs that will move forward with the base reuse plan.

As redevelopment at the 1,600-acre base begins, we look forward to the families that will live in the new homes and the children who will attend the new schools and benefit from the various community programs. Thousands of jobs will be generated, and every person in Orange County will benefit from the legacy of the reuse plan for the former Tustin Marine Corps Air Facility.


Tracy Wills Worley is mayor pro-tem of Tustin.

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