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TUSTIN, CA-By a unanimous 5-0 vote last week, the Planning Commission approved a proposed change to the city’s General Plan to allow redevelopment of the former Tustin Marine Corps Air Station. The City Council will now consider ratifying the amendment to the General Plan on Dec. 18, along with giving final approval to the project’s Environmental Impact Report.

“Right now the base is identified in the general plan as military,” says Dana Ogdon, the city’s senior project manager.” This amendment would change the base’s zoning designation.”

As a practical matter, this amendment is mostly an innocuous document–merely the first step towards converting the base to civilian uses, Ogdon says. Still, there have been a number of reuse plans proposed over the past few years for the 1,600-acre MCAS-Tustin Project Area, including a no project alternative that encompasses the base plus an additional 52 acres adjacent to it. At present the city is considering one particular reuse plan, which has been submitted to the Department of Defense, the Navy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Because of its former use, the Navy has taken charge of a massive environmental cleanup effort. Ogdon says the Navy has already completed 85% of the cleanup, with four or five small water contamination plumes remaining from oil and gasoline storage tanks, and a system to remove the rest of the contamination has been put in place.

“Not all property is effected by the plumes. The surface can be used and anything above 26 feet down is fine,” he says. “We have a specific plan that has already been prepared that effectively puts in the zoning and the required building heights and all that. We’re trying to get the Navy to transfer the clean parcels so we can start using them.”Negotiations with the Navy are currently under way, with results not expected for at least four or five months. At the request of Orange County officials, the reuse plan currently under consideration includes the construction of an 85-acre regional park, which would surround one of the two existing blimp hangers. The goal, however, is to try and keep both hangers, which Ogdon estimates will cost somewhere between $13 million and $26 million per hanger to bring up to code for earthquake, fire safety and environmental purposes due to the presence of asbestos in each structure. The plan also calls for both residential and commercial development.

Already the southern portion of the base acreage has been readied for commercial development and advertisements for Requests for Qualifications have gone out. From the responses received, the city identified four commercial developers and has asked them to submit Requests for Proposals. Keeping in line with surrounding professional office district, the commercial development allowed on the base will most likely be research and development and commercial and professional office buildings.

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