What About Camp Pendleton?
A collection of reports and comments
airport "feasible". San Diego Regional Airport consultants
report summarized - Voice of San Diego, May 17, 2006
Press-Telegram editorializes for Pendleton airport - February 20,
Airport would shut down
Marines say - North
September 27, 2003
City of Newport Beach vision for 2025 - "an
international airport at Camp Pendleton."
"Forget El Toro. A
better Marine base airport awaits." - LA Times, Newport Beach Metro,
July 7, 2001
Pendleton option back on the table? - OC Register, January 7, 2001
reports have recommended Camp Pendleton as a viable site for an
airfield. - LA Times, December 31, 2000
of Orange asks SCAG to analyze Pendleton airport to serve O.C. and San
- October 23, 2000 (County letter
Two San Diego mayoral
candidates like Pendleton Airport with Orange County - San Diego Union
Tribune, October 8, 2000
Airport Site Consensus Study for Orange County lists South Camp
Pendleton as one of four finalists - March is best choice.
Munn Field, Camp Pendleton, which has a 6000 by 400 foot runway.
Vandenburgh Air Force Base, which has 98,400 acres and over 20 miles of
that previously was used for training.
Voice of San Diego, May 17, 2006 (excerpt)
The Camp Pendleton concept is also dubbed "feasible,"
[by the San Diego Regional Airport Authority consultants] though at 40
miles from downtown San Diego, it would be the nation's farthest
airport from its related city center. A marketing study says moving the
airport there would entice more people to drive to Los Angeles
International Airport rather than fly from San Diego.
A dual-runway airport built along the southwestern edge of the
sprawling 125,000-acre base would require $120 million in improvements
to nearby Interstate 5 and Highways 78 and 76. An elevated roadway
connecting the airport to the interstate would cost approximately $1.1
The airport would not be a joint-use airport in the same sense as
Miramar. Commercial airlines would primarily use it, though the
military could use the runways if they wanted, said Angela
Shafer-Payne, the airport authority's vice president of strategic
As with Miramar, the analysis projects that little growth would be
spurred by the airport's location. Airport-related businesses would
occur primarily through redevelopment of existing commercial and
industrial areas, the study says.
Noise would be less of an issue than at Miramar or North
Island/Lindbergh. About 4,000 people in 1,400 homes would be affected,
the analysis concludes.
The price tag at Camp Pendleton: $7.1 billion to $8 billion. That
includes potential environmental mitigation costs between $800 million
and $1.7 billion.
would shut down
Pendleton, Marines say
North County Times, September 27, 2003
By: DAVE DOWNEY - Staff Writer
CAMP PENDLETON ---- Placing San Diego County's new airport on Camp
Pendleton Marine Corps Base could halt the myriad coordinated training
operations at one of the West Coast's most strategic military
installations, military officials said last week.
"It would close us down," said Larry Rannals, Camp Pendleton community
plans and liaison officer in an interview last week on the eve of a
crucial milestone in the county's site search.
The region can have an international airport at that location if it
wants, or it can have a major military base where beach landings are
practiced and explosive artillery is launched thousands of feet into
the air, Rannals said.
"But you can't have both," he said.
Rugged terrain, sweeping environmental restrictions, a huge impact on
base communities and direct conflict with military operations would
prevent any airport plan from taking off, Rannals said.
Thursday is key
The comments came in advance of a Thursday meeting at which the
nine-member San Diego County Regional Airport Authority board will
consider which of 16
potential sites to carry forward for detailed analysis in a second
study, after spending $1.9 million to get the ball rolling.
Regional planners are operating under the assumption that a local base
might become available through 2005 "BRAC" ---- the federal base
realignment and closure process ---- which could see the Pentagon
decide to shutter dozens of military installations across the nation.
Relying in part on the working group's criteria for narrowing the field
of candidate sites, the agency staff recommended Friday that the board
carry forward seven sites ---- including the 3,000 acres on the coastal
southwest corner of 125,000-acre Pendleton, just north of Oceanside.
Other recommended finalists are: Miramar Marine Corps Air Station (two
sites), Naval Air Station North Island, western Imperial County along
March Air Reserve Base near Riverside and Tijuana Rodriguez
Airport officials anticipate spending about $1 million on each site to
be studied, and are hoping to cover most of the cost with a Federal
Aviation Administration grant.
A waste of money?
Rannals said it is foolish to continue looking at Pendleton.
"Why waste a million dollars of the FAA's grant money to study a site
not realistic?" Rannals asked.
Airport authority officials counter that if it becomes clear soon after
the study starts that any particular site won't work, the full $1
won't be spent on that site.
However, Camp Pendleton is attractive to regional planners because a
North County airport would be convenient to residents in Orange County
and southwestern Riverside County.
"Camp Pendleton would provide a solution not only for San Diego, but
for Orange County and to some extent for Los Angeles as well," said
Byron Wear of San Diego, a former interim airport board member who
believes the base is one of the region's top two or three choices.
Where it can't go
Planned expansion of Ontario International Airport is expected to
capture most Riverside County air travel business. But Orange County's
John Wayne Airport is near capacity and cannot accept more traffic, and
residents there rejected building a bigger airport at the former El
Toro Marine base.
Los Angeles International also is near capacity and is not expected to
expand significantly, regional aviation planners say. Ontario is
expanding, but it
is a long, grueling ride from the fast-growing southern tip of Orange
For most San Diego County residents, Wear said, a Pendleton airport
would be convenient for long cross-country flights. "It certainly would
beat LAX," he said. But he suggested that under that scenario,
Lindbergh Field in San Diego would remain open to provide short-haul
service to places such as Phoenix, San Francisco and Las Vegas.
Miramar is a more central location for San Diego County, and for that
reason is considered the odds-on favorite to become the No. 1 choice.
North County advantage
But Wear said the North County base offers a potential political
advantage: Miramar is ringed by single-family neighborhoods, some of
them very influential, such as La Jolla, while the Pendleton site is
bordered only on the south by
neighborhoods, in Oceanside and Vista. And noisy takeoffs would be to
northwest over the ocean, rather than to the southeast, he said.
The airport authority is analyzing Pendleton and other bases only under
the premise that one might become available, said Angela Shafer-Payne,
president of strategic planning for the airport authority.
"We're clear on that," she said. "We aren't going into this with some
of feeling that we own those lands."
The Pendleton site may be attractive, but that does not mean a marriage
with the military would work. The Marines, who are not used to
to anyone save for the commander in chief, would have to bow to the
demands of a major passenger airport. As a result, virtually every
operation would have to be scaled back, if not eliminated, Rannals
Operations would be so restricted as to severely compromise the base's
Home to the 35,000 Marines and sailors of the 1st Marine Expeditionary
Force, he said, Camp Pendleton is one of the busiest bases in the
country. More than
45,000 individual training events are conducted there every year.
Pendleton's enormous size and its location on the coast offers a unique
opportunity to train in realistic "three-dimensional" combat scenarios
coordinate activities on land, in the air and in the sea, Rannals said.
Pendleton has the West Coast's only amphibious landing craft unit
(Assault Craft Unit 5), and it happens to be where the international
airport would go, he said.
Besides having to relocate that unit, an airport would shut down
amphibious exercises at Red Beach a mile and a half up the coast, near
the Las Pulgas exit. With two parallel 12,000-foot runways oriented
northwest to southeast along Interstate 5, jets would take off into
prevailing winds right over the
"That's the heart and soul of our amphibious training operations here
on Camp Pendleton," Rannals said. "If we can't do amphibious training
operations we might as well close up and go home. That's our bread and
A rich depository
And it's not as if the Marines can just march a few miles up the beach
and practice there, Rannals said. Several miles of sand are state
parkland, and the few that aren't are saddled with environmental
The one remaining open space buffer between San Diego County and
metropolitan Los Angeles, Camp Pendleton is one of the richest
depositories of nature in
Southern California. Driven out elsewhere by the relentless urban
arroyo toads, California gnatcatchers and least Bell's vireo birds
on the base. Their homes are protected by federal law.
An airport also could shut down the base's air field in the flood-prone
Santa Margarita River Valley, where 180 helicopters are stationed and
fighters drop in for coordinated air-land-sea exercises.
And it would force the relocation of the Edson Range weapons training
area, where 17,000 recruits from the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit
Depot learn how to shoot.
One of the working group's criteria for eliminating sites was family
relocation: sites requiring the moving of 5,000 homes were scrapped.
The airport consultant's analysis says only 740 base residents would
need to be moved if an airport was built at Pendleton.
But Rannals challenges those numbers, arguing that the entire community
of Stuart Mesa, population 5,000, would have to be relocated, not to
mention a new community center, child-care center and elementary school.
Then there are barracks that house 2,500 Marines at Edson Range and
1,200 at Camp Las Flores. That's close to 9,000 people in all who would
have to be moved, Rannals said.
"Realistically, we should have been eliminated on that criterion
alone," he said. "We believe we were vastly underestimated, as far as
the residents who would be impacted."
Shafer-Payne said the consultant's numbers, which came from the San
Diego Association of Governments a couple of years ago, may be
outdated. But she stressed they did not ignore the base residents.
"There is no distinction between people living on and off base,"
Shafer-Payne said. "Military families are being treated exactly the
same way as civilian residents."
Choosing another site on Pendleton would be nearly impossible, military
officials and airport consultants agree. Eighty percent of the 125,000
is mountainous and the flat coastal strip is rather narrow.
And even if planners could shoehorn an airport somewhere else,
commercial-jet flying patterns would clash directly with military air
space. Civilian planes are restricted below 15,000 feet over much of
the base, and for good reason: The Marines practice for wars by
launching live bombs in paths that arc several miles across the sky and
reach several thousand feet above sea level.
"We have no air space left to support a commercial airport," Rannals
There is no doubt military operations would be affected in a big way,
but Wear of San Diego contends that does not mean Pendleton and an
airport could not coexist. He suggested that, if Pendleton were
pursued, military and aviation experts would figure out a way to plan
an airport in a way that does not compromise
the base's mission.
"With 125,000 acres you would think they could accommodate those
on the base in some other form," Wear said.
As for the Stuart Mesa housing, Edson Range and other facilities
potentially in the path of the bulldozer, "all of that would have to be
relocated and paid for," he said.
An airport that served greater Southern California would be
particularly strong economically because of its large market, Wear
said, and it would generate
plenty of money to cover the costs.
Send in the Marines to End
Argument Over an O.C. Airport
Three reports have recommended Camp Pendleton as a viable site for
By JOHN GRAHAM - LA Times, December 31, 2000
International trade brings Southern Californians unparalleled
prosperity and peace. But the gateway to our trade, Los Angeles
International Airport, is now beginning to resemble a bad Three Stooges
routine: Moe, Larry and Curly
all trying to walk through a door at the same time. This bottleneck to
is not just a problem for Orange County commerce. San Diego/Tijuana is
the same fix. Neither Brown Field nor Miramar have proved to be viable
there; and here, neither has El Toro.
The El Toro airport distraction has amazing legs. I thought it was
dead with the passage of Measure F. Of course, the law involved was and
is debatable. However, you'd think the Orange County supervisors would
read something from
the huge majority expressing its disdain for an El Toro airport.
I've learned that apparently Orange County supervisors (at least
three of them) have a long history of not reading things. Take for
example the reports
presented them written by the Southern California Assn. of Governments.
reports in 1972, 1982 and 1990
the southern part of Camp Pendleton as a viable site for an
What killed the discussion of the Camp Pendleton option? After
consulting directly with the mayor of Newport Beach, Orange County
supervisors nixed it in June 1990. They can't actually have read the
SCAG reports. And now El
Toro is back on the table, again and again and again. I think it's time
reconsider Camp Pendleton.
Let's say you've been called to a meeting in New York, Paris, or
Tokyo. If you live in Irvine, that means an hour (if you're lucky) car
ride up to
that mess of LAX. If you live in Del Mar, that means a 30-minute (if
lucky) ride down to the San Diego airport of steep thrills, a 30-minute
up to LAX and whatever time it takes to make your connection there.
done the Irvine trip many times; it's not fun.
Now imagine the same flights leaving from southern Camp
Pendleton--let's call it Pendleton International. You drive over to the
Irvine (or Solana Beach)
train station, check your bag, and start your novel on the fast train
down (or up) to Pendleton International. I suggest a seaside seat for
35-minute, 89-mph trip to/from the Irvine depot. This is how things are
in civilized places like Amsterdam/Schiphol, Osaka/Kansai and
Fast trains run from those cities to their respective airports.
The rail line is already there. And let's not forget that one rail
line can carry the same traffic as 15 lanes of freeway. Recall the
at LAX during the holidays. In fact, if done right, all the employment
for the service providers would include train passes. The clerks,
controllers, mechanics, and pilots also would have easy commutes, even
north Orange County.
You say the Marines won't give up the space? That's what they said
about El Toro. I've worked with Marines before. In the 1970s, my Navy
unit supported practice amphibious landings along that 15 miles of
coastline. However, beach
landings (the best argument against a joint-use airport there) haven't
used since the Korean War. The Marines don't need big beaches anymore.
Indeed, perhaps more relevant in the years to come will be securing
assaulting airports in foreign lands. Pendleton International might
a unique training venue on occasion. Did you know that on Sundays the
at St. Andrews in Scotland are opened to the public for recreational
other than golf--walks and picnics and such? Perhaps Pendleton
International might be closed to civilian use on the last day of each
month and made available
for military training exercises. There are all kinds of joint-use
if we think and negotiate creatively.
Look at a map of Southern California: Square in the center between
LAX and San Diego is Camp Pendleton. A major international airport at
Pendleton would serve both San Diego and Orange counties and 6 million
citizens well. An airport there would relieve much of the coming
pressures on John Wayne Airport and LAX. Recently, we sat outside at
Sage, a trendy East Bluff (Newport
Beach) restaurant where I'm sure supervisors have supped before. The
noise was distracting. May I suggest that those same supervisors review
old reports (they're at the UCI library), take a drive down to the
end of Camp Pendleton and look around with their San Diego
- - -
John Graham Is a Professor of International Business at the Graduate
of Management at Uc Irvine. he Recently Was the Democratic Candidate
Congress in the 47th Congressional District
Is Pendleton option back on the
By JOHN GRAHAM - OC Register - January 7, 2001
Remarks by Coad and Silva suggest the time may be ripe to
reconsider southern airport option to El Toro
Something very interesting happened last Thursday at a special
session of the Orange County Board
of Supervisors. The meeting had been called to approve spending some
million of county funds
on Washington lobbyists to move along federal government approvals for
El Toro airport.
The vote was a predictable 3-2 split - Supervisors Chuck Smith,
Cynthia Coad and Jim Silva in favor,
Todd Spitzer and Tom Wilson opposed. The interesting part is that
Supervisors Coad and Silva made
comments regarding the long-dead option of building an international
at the south end of
An airport at Pendleton has been off the table for discussion since
back in June of 1990 when a
different set of supervisors opted for El Toro. This action was taken
the fact that the
Pendleton site had received positive reviews from three different
Southern California Associations of
Government in 1972, 1982 and 1990
The decision to nix Pendleton more than 10 years ago was made with
written consultation from the
mayor of Newport Beach, but no other Orange County cities. Details
this decision can be
found in file #3055 in room 469 at the County Hall of Records. It makes
Spitzer eloquently argued last week that county money shouldn't be
spent on Washington lobbyists
because the decision about El Toro is a local one in which the federal
Coad promoted a "regional" view of the problem, thus bringing the
federal government into the
That is, inadequate transportation services are a national problem
and a stalled El Toro airport option
will bring federal attention no matter what. She also added that the
might also reconsider
the Pendleton site as part of a broader regional approach to the
problem. Silva volunteered that he
had actually talked with the commandant of the Marine Corps about joint
of Camp Pendleton and
the commandant resolutely refused.
We should be pleased to hear that the topic was broached recently
with the military. However, what
Supervisor Silva needs to understand is that Marines are taught to
with resolve whether the
resolve is really there or not. Indeed, recall their resolve about not
up El Toro in the 1980s.
The Marines actually have a long history of giving up territory for
public good. They've already
relinquished training airspace at Camp Pendleton to commercial
they've recently lost
parts of both their San Diego and Twentynine Palms training centers.
Congressman Christopher Cox explains the Washington hierarchy best:
Navy [and Marines] is ...
So we get around that by passing a law" (as quoted in the Register
10, 2000, Local News,
page 1). The folks who study conflict resolution at UCI speak about the
of ripeness. That is,
oftentimes agreements finally come about because the two sides are
of the confrontation and
environmental events offer new paths for good compromises.
The time is ripe for a solution to our Southern California airport
problems. The 67 percent vote for
Measure F demonstrated the insurmountable political obstacles facing
El Toro airport. Similar
obstacles face other options in San Diego County such as NAS Miramar or
The inadequacy of Lindbergh Field in San Diego prompted Dick Murphy,
Diego's new mayor, to
say back in October, "The Camp Pendleton idea is to operate what I
call Southern California
International Airport on a piece of Camp Pendleton. Now, we're not
about shutting down
Camp Pendleton ... But the new airport could be a joint venture with
County. Orange County
has the same problems with John Wayne Airport that we have. I would
that airport being
primarily an international-transcontinental airport like Dulles. So,
anybody out of San Diego
County or Orange County or Riverside County who wanted to fly overseas
to Washington, D.C.
could fly out of that airport."
Dick Murphy is the kind of ally Orange County needs. An
at Camp Pendleton is a
sound idea because of its geographic centrality, its distance from
populated residential areas,
and its juxtaposition to an active rail line. To the extent that
international trade (made possible by our
ports and airports) promotes international peace and understanding,
lives will actually be
Yes, perhaps an airport at Camp Pendleton will take the proverbial
act of Congress. But, that's why
we have elected officials in Washington.
Beach Press-Telegram editorial, February 20, 2005
Sell off a modest portion of little-used land at the Camp Pendleton
Marine Base for development of an international airport to serve the
region's fastest-growing areas of south Orange County and north San
Then the residents of the Great Park area and others will have a major
airport just as convenient as John Wayne, Ontario, L.A. International
and, what's worse, Long Beach Airport. That would please voters in our
part of the region.
Newport Beach vision for 2025 - "The City must work with the
Federal Government to solve airport congestion problems. Ideas include:
Create an international airport at Camp Pendleton" (Newport Beach - A
Step to the Future, August 2002)
This page last updated on May 17, 2006