Great Scott--A Great Park for Orange County! Or Not ...

ALPERN AT LARGE-A funny thing happened on the way to the awesome and beautiful Great Park envisioned for the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station that Orange County voters chose eleven years ago  to become a beautiful park instead of a commercial airport:  it never happened! 

Oh, I'm sure that the Orange County voters thought they would get a "Great Park" but after years of visioning and lots of money spent, the long, winding canyon and centralized parking that would get people out of their cars to hike and walk a beautiful wilderness is being potentially replaced by golf courses, parking lots all over and a museum/amphitheater complex proposed by a big time developer.  


Sound familiar?  So much of California's history is like this, with developers rushing in with ideas when the people don't buy out land to make public and remain undeveloped (and we call ourselves pro-environment here in our smug, "progressive" state!). 

The El Toro base should have either: 

1) Been a commercial airport to serve the Orange County airport needs not met by John Wayne Airport. 

2) Been razed, replanted and redeveloped either as a countyor a state park, or even a national park.Orange County said "no" to option #1 and did less to nothing for option #2. 

So enter the developers and lots  housing, and lots of future traffic, and yet another blow for anyone who desires open space to remain a part of our state.  

Fortunately, after meeting on the developer's proposals, the Irvine City Council heard the public and did not come up with a vote to move forward on the proposals. 

As a self-styled "Teddy Roosevelt conservative", I can't figure out why our so-called, enlightened voter electorate can't move forward with this.  If the Great Park effort has been more spending than results, the designers need to be changed ... but let's make it clear that any open space effort requires money--and if it's not public money, then the developers will jump in to meet that financial need. 

And developers won't come in to create open space and a preserved wilderness wihout making their profits--as evidenced by Playa Vista, the last open space on the Westside that's now being mega-developed. 

It's capitalism, it's legal (usually), and it's what developers do ... and without developers, virtually none of us would have any businesses, homes or apartments to call our own and use every day. 

Hence Teddy Roosevelt set up the National Park Service to slap away the developers and keep land preserved for future generations, and to restore and preserve major historic sites.  Ditto with our state park system.2 

So as we talk and talk and talk about a Great Park, or a LA River Park, or what have you, the lesson must again be learned by us all: 

2want open space, it will cost money.  It will cost dinero.  Moolah.  Bread. 

So why would we task the Irvine City Council, LA City Council or any other city council to plan and fund something that must be a national or state endeavor?2 

The best thing we could do for the Great Park would be for some visionary national or state representative to declare that land as public, as to have it owned by either the nation or the state--both of which have better fiscal and human resources to raze the airfields and weeds, create a beautiful new restored and preserved park, and keep the land open and available to the general public. 

It's that simple--if only we have the same will and foresight that President Teddy Roosevelt had 100 years ago to do the right thing ... and to allow our descendants to thank us 100 years from now because we had the equal will and foresight to do the right thing yet again.  

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ... He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at . The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern)





Vol 11 Issue 92

Pub: Nov 15, 2013