Irvine Outlines Plan to Raise $353 Million for Great Park

Times Staff Writer

Irvine officials unveiled a plan Tuesday in which developers and landowners will pay $353 million to build and maintain a Great Park and its infrastructure on more than 4,000 acres of the closed El Toro Marine base.

Developers will pay $200 million to the city in fees and dedicate open space for the right to build 3,400 homes and 2.9 million square feet of commercial and industrial space on about 800 acres. The rest of the money will come from landowner tax assessments, bonds and levies.

The plan -- worked out in cooperation with the U.S. Navy, which owns the site -- will tap no other taxpayer money and will allow for parts of the Great Park to be opened within five years, said Irvine Mayor Larry Agran. The project could be completed within a decade, he said.

"At one time we talked of being able to build a park in 30, 40, 50 years," Agran said at a news conference on he plan. "Instead, this plan allows us to begin dismantling the runways within days of completing the sale of the property. Our children will be playing there ... within just a few years of closing the deal."

Orange County voters last March approved a ballot initiative that replaced zoning for a commercial airport with that for a Great Park and other development. Park proponents, however, were dealt a setback in November when voters statewide rejected a ballot initiative that would have provided $120 million to build the park.

"This plan is the final step in the battle to defeat an El Toro airport plan and replace it with something better," Agran said.

The federal General Services Administration will begin marketing the four parcels in February, about the same time that an environmental impact study is released for public comment.

The Navy has promised to continue to clean up toxic waste at the base, a federal Superfund site. "The department never walks away from our responsibility, no matter how many deed changes there are," Wayne Arny, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, said Tuesday.

The properties will be auctioned this year, and officials hope the sales can be completed and ground broken by early 2004.

Officials estimate that the prime land near the intersection of the San Diego and Santa Ana freeways will fetch at least $1 million an acre, based on the average price of land sold at the former Tustin Marine helicopter base last year. At that price, the Navy would reap $600 million from the sale of El Toro.

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