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Coalition in O.C. Backs L.A. on El Toro

City officials and two county supervisors ask U.S. agencies to consider transportation needs of the region when weighing airport bid.

June 13, 2003|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

A bid by Los Angeles to lease the former El Toro Marine base for a commercial airport prompted another flurry of letters Thursday to federal transportation officials, including expressions of support from a coalition of 14 north Orange County cities and two county supervisors.

The Los Angeles City Council, meanwhile, has asked for the proposal to be presented to the city's commerce committee to discuss its scope, financing and how running an airport at El Toro would affect the city's airport agency, which operates four airports in the region, including Los Angeles International and Ontario International Airport.

The resolution by the Orange County Regional Airport Authority calls on the Department of Transportation and the Department of the Navy to give Los Angeles a fair hearing "by taking into consideration the transportation needs of the region, the economic benefits of an airport at El Toro to the local, state and national economy, and the benefits ... to homeland security."

It was mailed to Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and acting Navy Secretary H.T. Johnson, who last year authorized a public auction of the land. The decision to sell came a month after Orange County voters rezoned the land, rescinding voter-approved airport plans.

"The election results in 2002 are an example of how a group of highly energized NIMBYs can hold the Southern California region hostage to suit its own interests," said an airport authority statement announcing the 7-1 vote to support Los Angeles' effort. Six of the 14 city representatives were absent, including pro-El Toro airport cities Newport Beach and Anaheim. The letter by Supervisors Chuck Smith and Jim Silva, who have long supported an airport at the base but now make up a pro-airport board minority, refuted the Navy's argument that its disposal plans were mandated by the public vote. The Navy disregarded voters, they said, by making its auction contingent on annexation of the property to Irvine. The city's takeover removes the land from restrictive county zoning passed by voters.

"Some of our colleagues will continue to actively argue that Los Angeles should mind its own business and stop attempting to dictate an Orange County local land-use decision," the supervisors' letter said. "We would argue that by allowing this existing aviation facility to be destroyed, they are passively placing an undue burden on the citizens of Los Angeles and the region."

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Times staff writer Jennifer Oldham contributed to this report.

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