Feds Deny Los Angeles' Pleas for Commercial Airport at El Toro

Wednesday, January 5, 2005
Feds Deny Los Angeles’ Pleas for Commercial Airport at El Toro
The Associated Press

Federal officials denied an 11th-hour appeal from the city of Los Angeles on Tuesday to lease Orange County’s former El Toro Marine base and convert it to a commercial airport, deciding to go ahead with plans to sell the property at auction. The Navy and U.S. Department of Transportation both turned down pleas by Mayor James Hahn and Councilman Tony Cardenas, announcing instead that the property would go on the block at a public online auction beginning Wednesday.

“The Navy … has no plan to defer the public sale for the purpose of entering into any negotiations with any party aimed at establishing a civilian airport at El Toro,” the Navy said in its statement.

Hahn aide Elizabeth Kaltman said the mayor was disappointed.

“He feels strongly that this is a decision that is going to be regretted decades from now when the region is struggling to accommodate demand for passenger and cargo air services,” she said.

Hahn and Los Angeles officials had hoped the 4,700-acre base – as well as existing commercial airports in the region – could absorb some traffic from the Los Angeles International Airport, the world’s fifth-busiest such facility.

Orange County officials criticized the proposal, noting that a measure approved by voters two years ago restricts any type of airport to be developed at El Toro, which was the West Coast’s largest Marine Corps air base when it closed in 1999.

“I’m glad L.A. has got their business so fully in order that they feel that they can focus on our county and take care of our business here also,” said Orange County Supervisor Tom Wilson. “Maybe they’re feeling even more confident and powerful today because of the temporary renaming of the Angels baseball team.”

Wilson was referring to the team’s decision Monday to change its name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.