After years of contention, the airport redevelopment planned for the site of the former George Air Force Base in the High Desert of San Bernardino County may finally be getting off the ground.
The former base was annexed by Victorville in 1994 and is now occupied by an airport. The Victorville City Council, which also serves as the Southern California International Airport Authority, received a redevelopment plan from Stirling Enterprises of Laguna Hills at their October 20 meeting.
After calling for conceptual plans earlier this year, SCIAA received several and has chosen to enter into talks with the Stirling. The talks have been ongoing for three months and are expected to last another 30 days, according to Victorville Councilwoman JoAnne Almond. Stirling is the only developer whose conceptual plans were given a public presentation.
The conceptual master plan presented to SCIAA by Stirling partner Dougall Agan calls for a large $418 million development which looks to turn the airport into the business hub of Victor Valley and includes an estimate of 15,000 potential jobs for the area.
The plan is calling for the runway to be extended from 10,000 to 15,000 feet to accommodate larger airplanes with higher weight loads. New hangers will also be required to handle the increased freight. The goal of the runway expansion is to create an airport capable of handling 2 million tons of air freight.
"Stirling recognized the redevelopment of George Air Force Base as a golden opportunity to provide a much-needed second global distribution hub for Southern California," said Agan. "As the second-largest megalopolis in the United States, Southern California is limited to only one international airport, while the New York area alone is served by more than four international capacity airports. This shows an immediate need for a second worldwide gateway into this region and Victorville is the place to do it."
George is located in a Foreign Trade Zone and includes 35 businesses such as Pemco, an aircraft maintenance company; Airmotive, and aircraft brokerage and maintenance company; and World Maintenance Co., which provides airport management and maintenance.
George, however, is competing with several other locations in the region to increase air cargo service, including the expanded Ontario International Airport, a likely expansion of Los Angeles International Airport, the former Norton air base in San Bernardino, and possible new airports at El Toro Marine Air Base in Orange County and Palmdale in northern Los Angeles County. According to the Southern California Association of Governments, air cargo in the region is expected to grow from 2.65 million tons this year to 8.9 million tons in 2020.
However, SCIAA is apparently interested in expanding far beyond air freight. The agency is looking to create a retail and business center which will include an industrial park, hotel, multi-media complex and an 18-hole golf course. The plan would develop 585 acres of the 2,500 acre site and create more than 1.4 million square feet of commercial space.
Most of the project would center around the airport and the business possibilities it offers, according to Almond. SCIAA and Stirling would be equal partners in the project and SCIAA would provide funding for infrastructure improvements in the area.
The Stirling Group has previously developed the Foothill Ranch in Tustin, a 2,700 acre residential and retail development.
The airport currently houses 40 businesses and a 9-hole golf course which have provided 550 jobs. The area lost 4,000 jobs after the base closed.
"The council has been very impressed by the company (Stirling) and their plans," said Almond, who added that this would be the first positive step forward in the redevelopment of the site
The redevelopment of the former George Air Force Base, which was closed in the early 1990's, was held up for more than five years by a dispute between the Victor Valley Economic Development Corporation and the City of Adelanto. Adelanto disputed the Air Force's choice to designate VVEDA as the reuse authority governing the site (CP&DR, May 1995) The dispute included more than 30 lawsuits before the parties settled in 1995. Victorville annexed the former base in 1994.
Indeed, the fast-growing Victor Valley has been the subject of a series of contentious disputes about land and resources required to permit development to continue. Several years ago, the Victor Valley cities battled in front of the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission over control of key parcels with freeway frontage. And the cities are also engaged in intense litigation over water rights with local farmers; a major lawsuit on that issue is now pending before the California Supreme Court.
The plan presented to SCIAA has neither been accepted nor rejected and no decisions are expected to take place until well after the November elections. SCIAA is currently in transition due to the recent decision to retire made by SCIAA chairman and Victorville Mayor James Busby Jr. No action will be taken on the proposal until a new mayor is selected.
Victorville City Council, (760) 955-5026
Dougal Agan, Stirling Enterprises, (949) 586-4400
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