Base Property and Historical Use
The history of the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro begins with a series of Spanish land grants in the first half of the 19th century. In 1860, San Francisco merchant and Irvine patriarch James Irvine Sr. acquired the 107,000-acre property from its Spanish owners. Irvine began farming the land (previously used only for grazing), experimenting with Lima and black beans, eventually becoming so successful, 20,000 acres were dedicated to these “experimental” crops. The bean field that eventually became MCAS El Toro sat in a quiet valley at the base of the Saddleback Mountains. Only a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, it was without fog most of the year, and the main Santa Fe Railroad line ran along the site's west border. Camp Pendleton, which served as the Marines’ Infantry Training Base and bombing range, was located just south. In early 1942, the Marines paid James Irvine $100,000 for 4,000 acres, including 1,600 acres designated for a base for lighter-than-air vehicles (blimps). The MCAS El Toro was commissioned on March 17, 1943. In 1950, the MCAS was selected as a permanent Master Jet Station and center of support for the operation and combat readiness of Fleet Forces, Pacific. Throughout its 56-year military life span, the MCAS quickly became a key economic and community hub of this part of Orange County, eventually becoming home to thousands military personnel, their families and local residents providing economic support to the base community. The world-famous El Toro Air show drew two million visitors at the time of the final show in 1997.
Closure date, planned reuses, parcels transferred
In 1993, under the authority of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990, it was announced that MCAS El Toro would be closed. Operational closure of the MCAS occurred in July 1999. Of the approximate 4700 acres, approximately 1000 acres were or will be transferred to other federal and state agencies. The remaining 3700 +/- acres (only 260 +/- acres remain to be transferred as of March 2017) are transferring to a private developer for the development of the City of Irvine's "The Great Park" which is a combination of residential, industrial R&D, commercial, educational, and public recreational and open-space uses.
(Updated March 2017)