SAN CLEMENTE : Panel to Discuss Canyon Airport Site

A recommendation to build an airport in a wilderness area just outside the eastern city limit is scheduled for a panel discussion on Wednesday which is expected to draw heated opposition from the community, the military and some government officials, authorities said.

Cristianitos Canyon, an undeveloped, hilly area owned by Rancho Mission Viejo landholders, is one of two final candidate sites selected in 1990 by a county committee seeking a home for an international airport that could accommodate as many as 18 million passengers a year.

Also chosen was the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station near Irvine.

This sites selection group, a Board of Supervisors’ advisory committee known as the Orange County Cities Airport Authority, so far has ignored two years of angry protest over the airport by San Clemente residents and their congressman, Rep. Ron Packard (R-Carlsbad).


Cristianitos Canyon, roughly located near the eastern terminus of Avenida Pico, was first selected by the Airport Site Coalition, a private group of citizens and government officials charged with prioritizing 17 potential airport sites in and around Orange County.

“The airport issue in South Orange County is rearing its head once again (as) the Orange County Cities Airport Authority continues to press its demand that there be a new airport in our area,” wrote former Councilman Bill Mecham, in a recent letter asking other South County cities to testify at Wednesday’s meeting.

Mecham was appointed in 1989 as the council liaison on airport issues.

Scheduled panel members include Packard, San Clemente Mayor Scott Diehl, and officials from Camp Pendleton, the Board of Supervisors, Federal Aviation Administration, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, state parks system, and Santa Margarita Co. representatives, according to Assistant City Manager Michael L. Sorg.


The following topics are outlined for discussion at the 7 p.m. meeting in the San Clemente Community Center, 100 Avenida Seville:

* Effects on operations at San Clemente State Beach, San Onofre State Beach and San Onofre State Park.

* Ecological concerns about noise, grading, water quality and wildlife, including a proposed 1,300-acre oak tree conservancy in the planned community of Talega Valley next to Cristianitos Canyon.

* Opposition by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has expressed concerns about proposed flight paths over the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, located 2 miles south of San Clemente. The airport site is also within the nuclear plant’s 10-mile emergency evacuation area.

* Effects on a TRW weapons-testing facility in Cristianitos Canyon, which has been a test site for the “Star Wars” laser program launched under former President Ronald Reagan.

* Whether flight paths would encroach on military air space over 196-square-mile Camp Pendleton, as well as two U.S. Marine Corps training camps next to Cristianitos Canyon.

* Impacts on city traffic and the Foothill Transportation Corridor route, which is tentatively planned to pass through San Clemente or Camp Pendleton before it joins Interstate 5.