* I appreciate The Times giving me credit for having originated the idea of a land swap between the Irvine Co. and the federal government to expedite conversion of the Marine Base at El Toro from military to civilian uses. But I want to correct the Times story. What I proposed some months ago was more than "slightly different" from the Irvine Co./Department of the Interior plan that surfaced last week.
The land swap I've been advocating includes thousands of acres of Irvine Co. agricultural lands surrounding the Marine Base and an essential additional requirement: In exchange for broad development rights at the base, my proposal would obligate the Irvine Co. to build a modern "railport" centered in Irvine and El Toro, not a commercial airport. In fact, commercial air use of El Toro would be expressly and forever prohibited.
Unfortunately, the potential land swap deal so widely reported last week lacks this essential guarantee. Accordingly, it's left to the citizens of Orange County to effectively rule out a commercial airport at El Toro by voting "no" on the El Toro Airport Initiative, which appears on the Nov. 8 ballot. By saying no, voters will also be saying no to tumbling residential property values and to billions of dollars in new bonded indebtedness.
* James L. Doti paints a wonderful picture (Why an Airport at El Toro Is So Critical," Aug. 11), but it neglects so many issues. Nearly every other airport in this country was developed away from prime residential property; the one exception that comes to mind is John Wayne.
Politics is the only way airport proponents have a chance to override South Countians. How did El Toro get on the closure list to begin with? It met none of the critical closure criteria. Now there is a proposed, but highly irregular, "land- swap deal" between the Department of the Interior, the Department of Defense and the private Irvine Co. Are the proponents going to belly up to the proverbial bar and make compensation to South Countians for multibillion-dollar loss in their residential values and quality of life?
DEREK R. QUINN
* What Orange County needs is a railport and a busport, but definitely not another airport!
What the Irvine Co. must pledge if a land swap is to be supported by the people of Orange County is: definitely not another airport!
* It doesn't surprise me one bit that Jim Doti (president and professor of economics at Chapman University) believes an airport at El Toro critical. How can he possibly say that as a professor he's reticent about supporting something as controversial as El Toro airport when he cannot deny that the mighty developer himself, George Argyros, contributes a good amount of money to the university?
Jim Doti is no expert in aviation. It is going to cost far more money than we think just to try to convert this military base into an airport for commercial/civilian use. You can just bet that we as taxpayers will end up footing the bill! Do these financial experts think that these jobs if El Toro is converted into an airport are just going to pop up in a few short years? Untrue!
El Toro is only critical to self-serving developers who have huge financial gains to make on this deal. Why do we have to assume that an airport is the only thing that can make Orange County's future strong? There are many other money-generating things to do with the base (too numerous for me to name) that will be good for everyone. In 1988/89 the Airport Site Consensus group did a report covering potential airport sites: Out of 21, El Toro finished 14th! I hardly call finishing 14th a top contender for an airport!
* The land trade of environmentally sensitive land near the Cleveland National Forest owned by the Irvine Co. for land at the El Toro Marine base is exciting news. However, the idea of trading excess federal lands for sensitive habitat is not new. The Bolsa Chica Land Trust, with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been working on the same idea as a way to save Bolsa Chica from the development of 4,884 homes while still allowing the landowners a return on their investments.
By trading excess federal land from military base closures or other sources, the Fish and Wildlife Service could acquire Bolsa Chica, and the current landowners could receive a fair return on their investment. We at the Land Trust are confident that the landowners at Bolsa Chica will soon follow the lead of the Irvine Co. and realize a land swap is a win-win solution for all parties involved.
President, Bolsa Chica Land Trust
* I wonder if the Irvine Co., which has worked hard to portray itself as a "good neighbor" to the city of Irvine, will, if successful in its land swap endeavor, turn around and sell a portion of the El Toro base to the county of Orange, which will in turn proceed with building an airport?
This would enable the Irvine Co. to maintain the good-neighbor facade by not endorsing the airport project directly, but benefiting immensely by its proximity to their vast Irvine Spectrum complex.
It certainly gives one pause for thought.
* The trade proposed is definitely laudable, but what is really needed is a land swap that would save the agricultural land surrounding the El Toro Marine base.
Doesn't South Orange County now have a need to propose its own land swap? Why not recommend a land trade involving swapping land at the El Toro base for land in Laguna Canyon presently owned by the Irvine Co.?
Why not take this opportunity to rescue from development all agricultural lands in Laguna Canyon not yet preserved? The goal behind this canyon land swap would be to save intact the most beautiful, pristine and accessible coastal canyon--very few remain in Southern California.
* After reading of the latest player's entry into the El Toro Marine base reuse controversy, the big question now becomes, can the federal government be hoodwinked as easily as the city of Irvine? Unfortunately this scenario may come to pass if the Irvine Co. gets its way.
Several years ago the Irvine Co. spent close to a million dollars in an election campaign to convince the voters of Irvine to support a ballot measure dedicating Irvine Co. land as "open space" to the city. The stipulation was that in return they be allowed to proceed building a massive, high-density residential development in the center of Irvine in an area now known as Westpark. The voters, naturally eager to preserve land as open space forever, gave their nod of approval, thinking they had made a great deal.
Regrettably, what voters were unaware of at the time was that in return for allowing significantly higher building density within the city's boundaries, the Irvine Co. magnanimously exchanged unbuildable land outside the city limits that can only be reached by those willing to make arrangements in advance, have a guide and undertake a strenuous hike of about 10 miles.
Will history repeat itself now that the Irvine Co. has initiated discussions regarding a land swap? For Donald Bren, president of the Irvine Co., the exchange of extremely valuable property sitting smack-dab in the middle of Orange County for land which because of its sensitive nature will probably never be developed is a very shrewd maneuver indeed--and obviously not the first time he's used this ploy.
* County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder's comments ("Is End to O.C. Base Issue Near or Is This Just Another Twist?" Aug 7) that the land exchange issue should be taken as a "vote of no confidence to the El Toro Reuse Planning Authority" may be correct. I don't know.
What's interesting to me is that Wieder sings a different tune with regard to the Bolsa Chica ecosystem. In Huntington Beach a majority of the people, as well as the City Council, have expressed a "vote of no confidence" in Wieder's "coalition for the Bolsa Chica."
Many citizen groups have expressed a desire to have part of the El Toro base used for a land swap to save the precious Bolsa Chica, but she insists it's not practical. She and Supervisor Roger R. Stanton are willing to have a small city be created (5,000 homes) on unincorporated land, against the wishes of Huntington Beach.
Funny how human nature lets us see two similar situations so differently, isn't it?