Skip to comments.Marines Willing To Leave Depot
Posted on 03/22/2002 3:53:17 AM PST by g'nad
San Diego Union-Tribune
March 22, 2002
Marines Willing To Leave Depot
El Toro would be new site; city, airport covet land
By James W. Crawley, Ronald Powell and Jeff McDonald, Staff Writers
The Marine Corps has proposed relocating its historic Recruit Depot in San Diego to the former El Toro Marine air station in Orange County, a move that could make available valuable land near cramped Lindbergh Field, a congressman said Thursday.
Some local officials were surprised by the deal Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham said was broached by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones. They calculated the additional acreage wouldn't be more than a short-term solution for Lindbergh but were intrigued by the lure of land that could have a variety of uses.
"It would be nice to have an office park and industrial park and technology park" near the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, said Jack McGrory, San Diego's former city manager and now manager of Price House, a real estate and securities firm.
Cunningham said the military's plan would give Marines more training space at El Toro while Lindbergh could use the depot's 388 acres to realign its single runway -- reducing noise in Point Loma neighborhoods -- and provide land for more hotels or airport terminals.
A supporter of the proposal, Cunningham acknowledged, "We have a long way to go with this plan."
Jones couldn't be reached for comment.
The Recruit Depot has been the Marine Corps' West Coast basic training facility since 1923, handling about 21,000 men during its 13-week regimen. Drill instructors also are trained there.
The depot is north of the airport, sandwiched between the field, Pacific Highway and Barnett Avenue.
The depot's size forces the Marines to conduct weapons and tactics training, which lasts four weeks, at Camp Pendleton 40 miles to the north. There also have been rumors the boot camp could be on a base closing list.
Even so, the Marines have insisted the depot is vital.
The depot is the larger of two Marine recruit facilities in the nation, and the Corps has been opposed to closing it or moving it to Camp Pendleton, as has been suggested.
Local depot base commander Maj. Gen. Jan Huly said recently that the other camp, Parris Island, S.C., is in a swamp and, because of hot weather and the threat of hurricanes, has fewer training days than San Diego. A benefit of two recruit centers, Huly said, is the ability to boost training in an emergency.
Suddenly, it appears El Toro is an option for the Marines.
At 4,700 acres, El Toro and the adjacent Tustin helicopter base were deemed surplus and closed in 1998. The Marines' F/A-18 Hornet jets and CH-53 and CH-46 helicopters were moved to the renamed Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.
News of Jones' proposal got swift reaction Thursday, both in San Diego and in Orange County, where voters recently rejected plans to build a commercial airport at El Toro in favor of a regional park.
San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy, who learned of the proposal in a call from Cunningham Thursday, said afterward, "There are many questions that need to be answered before the city could take a position."
But City Councilman Byron Wear, whose district includes the airport, dismissed the depot's value to Lindbergh Field. The airport, built in the 1920s, is crowded, limits downtown high-rise development, and has been the subject of relocation studies for decades.
The commandant's proposal "in effect would be just a big Band-Aid to Lindbergh Field and would only add another five or six years of shelf life before we're back to having the same problems," Wear said.
Lindbergh covers about 550 acres and its single runway handled 207,000 takeoffs and landings last year. Airport planners say the runway will reach its maximum capacity of 282,000 takeoffs and landings between year 2012 and 2015.
Building a second 9,400-foot runway through depot land has been discussed by the San Diego Unified Port District's planners.
"Even under a second runway scenario, Lindbergh would still not meet the region's air service demand," said Ted Anasis, a planner for the port.
Last year, 15.2 million passengers used Lindbergh. By 2020, San Diego will have 28.6 million passengers.
A second runway should not be built, said Julia Craig Kelety, president of the Airport Coalition, a group that monitors airport noise and development issues.
"All it would do is involve a tremendous expenditure of money for only a few more years of (air passenger) capacity," she said. "I know it has a certain allure, but it's a dangerous trap to fall into."
Cost is another major issue.
Cunningham estimated $500 million would be needed to build state-of-the-art training facilities, classrooms and barracks at El Toro.
"We don't have enough money in the (federal) budget to move" the depot, he said. "We're fighting a war."
He believes the depot's land is valuable to the city and airport, which could help finance the move.
"I know it wouldn't be the whole $500 million, but it's very valuable property," Cunningham said.
Port District Executive Director Bruce Hollingsworth said the port and the new airport authority would have to study how the costs of relocating the depot and building the runway could be met.
"It's probably a fairly complex series of financial moves," Hollingsworth said.
But Lindbergh could benefit from the additional land, even if it is not used for a runway, he said, adding that it could be used for construction of terminals or for parking.
The El Toro proposal surfaced two weeks after Orange County voters approved a ballot measure to zone the former Marine base air station for parks and educational and cultural facilities.
Irvine City Councilman Chris Mears had heard nothing about the new proposal until Thursday. But he didn't like it.
"What we are interested in is establishing comprehensive planning and development at the base," said Mears, who has been a strident supporter of a public park. "The moving of that facility would generate a piecemeal development."
He also questioned whether the plan would pass muster with Navy brass, who repeatedly told Orange County they would abide by the will of the people.
While military officials knowledgeable about the proposal were unavailable late Thursday, congressional sources said the Marines probably could use at least 1,500 acres at El Toro, with the rest of the land for housing, other government facilities or park land.
Another plus for the Marines is the existing housing for military families at the base. The homes, built for the fighter base, could be used for boot camp training personnel and for Camp Pendleton personnel.
Staff writer Ray Huard contributed to this report.
To this day, whenever I simultaneously smell newly-mown grass and hear an airliner, it takes me back there.
What a shame. I hope that they don't move out.
this is just suggestion 436.3333 on what to do about El Toro.
I can't see it happening.
Of course, I was trained where REAL Marines are made...in the swamp....
so I don't really have an opinion on MCRD San Diego.
(For the uninitiated, Hangars One and Two at MCAS Tustin are BLIMP hangars. They are 1/4 mile across, and about 15-20 stories high at the doortops. I rappelled off the end of Hangar One to celebrate the USMC Birthday in 1984. That is one LONG drop!)
Twenty years ago exactly, I was either up at Edson or RFTD going up Mt. M*****F***** in the rain.
Second Phase, at any rate.
I'm not afraid of heights; I'm not even afraid of falling. I merely have an appropriate degree of respect for the consequences of a high-velocity ground impact. Those hangars are about ready to fall down of their own accord...
RTC/NTC closed in the early 90's, though---what has become of it?
Two years ago I had the pleasure of going to a friend's change of command ceremony in San Diego. The sailors of his ship were using one of the barracks at RTC/NTC as berthing. The entire place looked like he**. My loathing of bill clinton grew exponentially that day.
You have the swamp ... we had Mount Mother,the Beast and island hopping campains.
(remember, sand fleas have to eat too)
The last time I was at the Depot was at the funeral of one of my best friends and mentors, General Day. How sad, that Marine Corps Depot is part of San Diego history. They should leave it alone.
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