Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Orange County Great Waste(of)Land

Several years ago, there was a Marine Corps air base in the middle of Orange County, MCAS El Toro. When the Navy decided to close the base and give the land away, well, you had to be here.

Let's talk about competing governments: every city in the area, the county, the state, several federal agencies and a number of private concerns were all jockeying for position to GET THAT LAND!! Several people were killed in the fracas, not to mention the severely maimed county supervisor and over a dozen assorted bureaucrats rendered wheelchair-bound. Just kidding.

The Navy decided to give the base to the county.

That was only the beginning. Before the actual closure of the base in 1999, came the battles over what was to be done with the 4700 acres of once-prime agricultural land. The orange groves and strawberry fields surrounding the base in the 1970's had mostly given way to residential development. Housing prices were on the increase, as they still are.

One fairly large special interest group centering in Newport Beach, a group with a fair amount of pull with much of county officialdom, argued for turning the base into a commercial airport. Of course, those who lived in the new developments near the base were not terrible enthusiastic about having airliners taking off and landing all day every day. They (at least those who could get their hands on a microphone) wanted a huge multipurpose park.

It ended up an arm-wrestling match between these two factions. There were campaigns. There were referenda. There were arguments on local news and talk shows. There were radio and tv ads.

The only thing that was never brought up was the very thing they ought to have done with the land: they should've sold the land to developers to build more houses, apartments, condos, light industrial areas and commercial.

We don't need another park. We don't need another airport. More usable, private land would have eased the upward pressure on house prices and rents.

Parks and airports ought to be private concerns, decided by entrepreneurs and placed according to the perceived markets. Real estate--same thing. The need for new houses, condos and rentals in southern Orange County is here and now, and a no brainer.

That's probably why the county has finally decided that it's going to be a park. A huge, 4700 acre multi-purpose park in the shape of a great white elephant.

It'll be beautiful for a few years, until maintenance gets sloppy (as it has in most other public parks) and taggers start marking it up and stealing and breaking things. Thugs and deviants will take it over and it won't be safe at night.

I don't think I'm the only one who can see this.


Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

No comments: