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    LA Airport Agency Seeks To Operate El Toro As Airport; LB-HB Cong. Rohrabacher Supports Plan Subject To OC Voter Approval

    We post L.A.'s 37-page legal brief style memo to U.S. Dept. of Transportation

    (June 6, 2003) -- Two top officials of the City of Los Angeles have sent a 37 page memorandum to the U.S. Department of Transportation, seeking that agency's assistance in turning the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station into a commercial airfield to be operated by the L.A. city agency that operates LAX.

    The memorandum, first reported on June 6 by the Los Angeles Times, was subsequently obtained by using state freedom of information law (CA Public Records Act). It makes its points and cites authorities in the format of a legal brief. posts the L.A. memorandum verbatim on a link below. [Caveat: faxed text, readable but less than optimal quality.]

    In the memorandum, the Chairman of L.A.'s Board of Airport Commissioners Ted Stein, Jr. and L.A. Deputy Mayor Troy Edwards say it would "simply be a modern tragedy if El Toro -- an invaluable aviation asset in Southern California -- is converted to parkland, rather than to a commercial airport that could eventually carry nearly 30 million passengers annually." They add, "This exceptional federal property should be dedicated to benefit the citizens of the entire nation."

    The April 9 memorandum proposes that the U.S. Dept. of Transportation acquire the former El Toro military air base (closed in 1999) and lease it to Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) for which would operate an El Toro commercial airport.

    In comments to the L.A. Times (independently confirmed by HB-LB-PV Congressman Dana Rohrabacher indicated he supports L.A.'s proposal but said any final Airport plan should be presented to OC voters. Rohrabacher said he believes an asset as important as El Toro to the future of OC, the region and U.S. taxpayers should not be thrown away.

    In March 2002, Orange County voters countywide (propelled by heavy Irvine area and south County support) enacted a petition-initiated ballot measure (Measure W) that effectively precluded the Orange County Board of Supervisors from further pursuing El Toro as an airport.

    Noting that the Navy and FAA had both identified a commercial airport as a preferred alternative for El Toro, the L.A. memorandum disagreed with an April 2002 decision by the Navy which concluded that Measure W prohibited the FAA and Navy from considering the federally preferred alternative.

    "While a local referendum initiative may in some way affect the local government's [emphasis in original] authority to use the El Toro property once conveyed from the Navy, the local initiative has no effect on how the federal government may choose to use the federal property [citation omitted]. In addition, Measure W may be invalid on its face under the California Military Base Reuse Authority Act...At the very least, Measure W cannot prevent the Navy from withdrawing the surplus determination and transferring the property to another federal department, DOT, for it to use as a commercial airport. We propose that DOT ask the Navy to do exactly that."

    In supporting an El Toro airport, Cong. Rohrabacher has frequently stressed the large investment in federal sums over the years in El Toro's airfield. Rohrabacher has consistently supported an El Toro Airport...even before his district was redrawn (by CA Democrat legislators) to add ELB/Los Altos to his previously HB focused district. ELB/Los Altos and HB are now both bearing the brunt of increased flights at LB Airport.

    In recent months, a succession of HB residents have come to LB City Council meetings to urge City Hall support for an El Toro Airport, arguing it could relieve pressure on other area airports...including LB. As previously reported by, HB and Costa Mesa residents have also addressed their own City Councils, objecting to increased LB Airport flights which approach over Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach. Angry letters have also continued to appear in the Huntington Beach Independent newspaper...and the HB Beach City Council recently had LB Airport Manager Chris Kunze brief them on LB Airport operations.

    A number of officials and residents in the LAX-Southbay area have also voiced support for building an El Toro Airport.

    The L.A. memo says El Toro Airport could serve 28.8 million passengers and handle 2 million tons of cargo...making it Southern California's second largest Airport (behind LAX).

    Reaction is pending as we post.

    To access the memo from L.A. officials to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, click L.A. memo to U.S. Dept. of Transportation re El Toro Airport, April 9, 2003. Note: Page 9 is blank in the original. Caveat: 37 pages, large file, 2.4 MB.

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