Signaling a willingness to compromise in the fight for control over the future of El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, county supervisors have tentatively offered to share the final decision-making power with South County cities.
Should their offer stand, it would mean a significant policy change by the county, which has steadfastly refused until now to give up the right to make the final decision on how the land is used, since all but 300 acres of the 4,700-acre site are in an unincorporated area of the county.
South County leaders, who have been pushing for more control of the base-conversion planning, see the shift in the county’s position as a major step toward reaching a compromise.
“It certainly looks like (the county) is making an effort to move toward some of our concerns and desires,” Irvine Councilwoman Christina L. Shea said. “At least on the issue of shared voting rights and power, that seems to be of real interest to me.”
However, several South County officials said the proposal is still not quite the plan they had in mind, and that they can only be guardedly optimistic until they see it in writing.
The compromise plan was forwarded by Supervisors Thomas F. Riley and Gaddi H. Vasquez during a recent private meeting with city officials. Riley said Wednesday that the county wants to work quietly with the South County leaders to reach an agreement on the major points before offering a written proposal.
South County leaders have scheduled a closed-door meeting this evening to consider the plan.
“Hopefully, what they come up with is something we can live with and get going to solve this problem,” Riley said.
Vasquez said in a later interview that the proposal is “still fluid and still under general discussion. . . . I am always optimistic.”
Neither side will publicly discuss the contents of the county’s offer, but officials close to the negotiations said a major sticking point continues to be the county’s refusal to create a joint powers authority--a separate planning agency for El Toro.
Instead, the county has proposed a “memorandum of understanding,” a contract that would give legal strength to the decisions made by the El Toro planning group. But the plan would leave open the option of forming a joint-powers authority that would implement whatever redevelopment option is approved by the group.
Also, sources said, other groups such as chambers of commerce and Leisure World of Laguna Hills would be able to participate as “board members” under the county’s plan, but could not do so under the joint powers authority proposed by South County, since state law limits membership to government agencies.
The South County cities’ proposal includes all Orange County cities and the county. The final decision would be made by a nine-member executive committee that would give a majority of votes to South County cities but would also include the county, Anaheim and Newport Beach.
Although the county now appears to be agreeable to sharing the redevelopment decision with the cities, its offer also proposes that the county get an extra vote on the top-level committee.
Meanwhile, the city of Irvine--which has 300 acres of the base inside its city limits--has suggested that Irvine, the county and the remaining South County cities equally split 82% of the final voting authority, with north and western county cities getting the balance of the votes.
The county’s initial proposal called for a 21-member advisory group made up of city and business group representatives to develop base-conversion plans. Their recommendations would then be screened by a smaller executive committee controlled by South County interests. The Board of Supervisors would have the final decision-making authority.
The county’s first plan also offered to consider forming a joint powers authority only after the redevelopment plan had been completed.