Construction of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro began in 1942 on a parcel of land acquired from the Irvine Ranch Corporation, a precursor to the Irvine Company. The base was originally built as a wartime air station for the purpose of aircraft squadron formation and unit training prior to overseas combat.
MCAS El Toro was commissioned on March 17, 1943, and in 1950, was selected as a permanent Master Jet Station and center of support for the operation and combat readiness of Fleet Marine Forces, Pacific.
Throughout its history, MCAS El Toro has served the country as a training facility in peacetime and a staging area for support of overseas military missions in times of conflict. The base formally closed on July 2, 1999. The County of Orange was designated the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) for development of a Community Reuse Plan to guide future development of the former base.
In 1994, Orange County voters narrowly approved Measure A which zoned the property for use as an international airport. This touched off a multi-year legal and political battle that ended when 58% of Orange County voters approving Measure W (the Orange County Central Park and Nature Preserve Initiative) on March 5, 2002. This initiative overturned Measure A and amended the County General Plan to create a park at the former MCAS El Toro site. The day after Measure W was approved, the Department of the Navy issued a press release stating that disposal of the former Base would be accomplished by means of a public auction.
The City of Irvine immediately responded to this challenge by developing the Orange County Great Park Plan for MCAS El Toro.
On February 16th, 2005, the long-awaited auction of the former Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro closed. Miami-based Lennar Corporation, one of the nation’s leading residential and commercial developers, purchased all four parcels that were up for auction.
The purchase of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station marked the end of sixty years of military history and the beginning of a unique partnership between the City of Irvine, the federal government, and a private landowner that will result in the creation of America’s greatest metropolitan park.
This partnership between the Department of the Navy, local government and Lennar has paved the way for the construction of the first major metropolitan park of the 21st Century and has been adopted by the Department of the Navy as a model for future military base redevelopment.
Under the terms of a development agreement between Lennar and the City of Irvine, Lennar was granted limited development rights in return for the land and capital that will allow the construction of the Orange County Great Park. The agreement required Lennar to transfer more than 1,347 acres to public ownership and contribute 200 million dollars towards the development of the Great Park. Future land purchasers will contribute an additional $200 million.
The Great Park Plan will allow development on the property that is consistent with the uses allowed by the voter-approved Measure W. Under the Great Park Plan, the 4,639-acre El Toro property will become a master planned community.