Today’s OC Register interview with newly elected Great Park Chairman Jeff Lalloway was expectedly vague as he’s been at the job for only days, but we’re struck that he did mention the A-word. As we’ve been posting, there’s also no money left — only $20-30 million out of $220 million — it was squandered by past management with the approval of the old Irvine Council/Park Board majority. Of the remaining funds, a “forensic audit” must also be paid.
Kimberly Peirceall writes about Mr. Lalloway:
What he doesn’t want, he assures, is an airport. He says ripping up the former El Toro Marine base’s runways would go a long way toward alleviating any fears from county and Irvine residents that an airport is even an option anymore.
Demolishing the old El Toro MCAS runways was a failure going back to 2005. It was widely reported a contractor was on-site and ready to rip up 3.5 million tons of concrete, but they never got the go-ahead. Krom and Agran did, we recall, drag a union guy with a jack hammer out there to knock off a few symbolic chunks, but the effort was a purely cynical poke in the eye to the pro-airport crowd they’d defeated.
The original air base still has four intersecting runways built for military jets of all sizes. To put this into perspective, they are each 8-9,000 feet long — John Wayne’s only jet runway is 5,700 feet short and then limited to only narrow-body two-engine airliners. As we understand it, nothing larger than a Boeing 757 or Airbus 320 may now service JWA (OC old-timers will also remember the PSA 727s that flew out of JWA when baggage claim was open air). The inability of wide-body, high-capacity, long range aircraft to use JWA limits its capability to regional service. As well, contractual agreements with the city of Newport Beach constrains passenger volume and use between only 7am and 10pm. Still, the County has recently added a third terminal at considerable cost as JWA’s growth is allowed to marginally increase.
El Toro was mentioned again later in the Lalloway interview — hopefully because Mr. Lalloway has been reading our posts on revisiting its use as a commercial airport. Here’s the Q&A from the Register:
Q. Another part of the master plan was removing all of the runways. Is that even a consideration anymore?
A. I think the public needs to have confidence that this will never be an airport. As much as it’s still probably a contentious issue and there are a lot of people who say “I told you so,” this will never be an airport, ever. And I guess the only way we can make people feel absolutely confident in that is by taking up the runways.
Mr. Lalloway can thank the Agran/Krom team for strategically failing to demolish the runways. It’s unclear where the money ever was to do that, but there were balloons and carousels to fund, and a hugely extravagant plan to buy from a sashaying New York designer who’d never done a park.
That the runways remain gives us reason and opportunity to recommend that Measure W be revisited and El Toro be returned for the use of everyone in Orange County for a modern, money-making, job-creating international airport.