Great Park Leverage Sought

Times Staff Writer

The Orange County Board of Supervisors, which once was split on whether the former El Toro Marine base should be developed as a commercial airport, now wants a hand in governing redevelopment of the base as the Great Park.

The board on Tuesday asked that its chairman, Bill Campbell, be appointed to the board of the Orange County Great Park Corp., a quasi-governmental agency overseen by a panel that consists of the five Irvine City Council members and four public members.

More than a dozen people have applied to replace retired developer Richard Sim on the board. He resigned in May after accusing Irvine leaders of wasting money and having skewed priorities. Applications are being accepted through Aug. 31.


The Board of Supervisors spent eight years bitterly divided over the fate of the former Marine base. In 2002, voters killed the county’s plans for an international airport at El Toro, and supervisors handed development authority to Irvine.

“The Great Park Corp. should be encouraged by the fact that five supervisors representing the entire county have stepped up behind this nomination,” said Supervisor Tom Wilson, who wrote the resolution urging Campbell’s appointment.

Sim said he wasn’t aware of all of the applicants but said Campbell would provide the regional perspective the board now lacks.

“Having someone like Bill Campbell, an Orange County supervisor who has Irvine in his district, would be a logical choice,” Sim said. “And it would break up the politics a little bit.”

Campbell has been an occasional critic of the city’s leadership, fearing that the $1-billion Great Park project was being planned without adequate public scrutiny -- a complaint echoed by Sim.

As the supervisors’ nominee, Campbell said he would ask for support from each member of the Great Park board -- including Santa Ana Mayor Miguel A. Pulido, developer Walkie Ray and environmentalist Michael Pinto -- but acknowledged that the decision was up to them.


“I would never want to feel that we tried to force anyone to make a decision,” he said.

The Navy sold 3,700 acres of the base earlier this year to national home builder Lennar Corp. after a public auction. About 1,300 acres will be deeded to the city for parkland, open space, roads and rights of way. The rest will be developed into about 3,400 homes, commercial and retail space, and a university campus.