Attention! Tustin Hangar ResourceClick Here

California's 40th District

Jan 10, 2024 | In The News

The Orange County Register

Two months ago, you might remember, one of Tustin’s historic World War II-era hangars caught fire. The loss of a historic hangar was bad enough, but since then, the city of Tustin has been on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in cleanup and air monitoring costs as state and federal leaders drag their feet on helping the city out.

Exasperated city leaders talked to our editorial board last month about the considerable efforts they’ve taken to address the problem, which has included the time-consuming task of cleaning up every bit of potentially asbestos-containing material which has been blown around the city.

As this editorial board noted back in November, the Navy has really mismanaged things for some time: “The Navy has largely let the north hangar languish in disrepair after a wind storm in 2013. It needs to finally do something about the other 60 buildings on the property that have languished. The south hangar, leased and controlled by the city, is better maintained and secured and used as a filming location and for community events.”

Since the destruction of the hangar, the Navy has remained a poor partner. Beyond generic statements, the Navy has so far committed to pay for just a fraction of the total cost now on the tab of the city of Tustin to clean up the mess of the hangar fire.

Mayor Austin Lumbard has told us that while $11 million has been received to cover the costs related to the fire, tens of millions of dollars more are owed to the city.

While the city has enlisted the help of local federal and state officials to try to get help, they’ve all hit a wall.

The governor’s office isn’t interested in issuing an emergency declaration, which could help free up resources to help Tustin, on the grounds that the feds are the ones who should be handling this. But the feds have been busy dragging their feet.

“The Navy has informed the city that there is no readily-available funding source or timeline for additional reimbursement of the $43 million (and rising) expenses incurred to date by the city,” Mayor Lumbard told this editorial board last week. Since then, the estimated costs have indeed risen, which is a problem considering the city’s annual budget is just $95 million.

Efforts by this newspaper to get more information from the Navy have been as unsuccessful as the city’s efforts to do the same.

“Representative Kim, her staff, and the entire Orange County House of Representatives delegation have been engaged, responsive, and helpful,” said the mayor. “Congresswoman Kim led the delegation to sign a letter sent to the Navy on November 9 pressing for answers to the then-expected, and now realized, Navy issues.  She also initiated a December 15 letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed by the entire Orange County Congressional delegation regarding and requesting public health guidance.”

But even that hasn’t been enough.

It’s ridiculous. The federal government needs to move much quicker. And we all know that the federal government has no problem conjuring money from thin air. There’s no excuse for the Navy not to have the funds available to reimburse Tustin immediately.

But in the meantime, the governor should issue a local state of emergency declaration to get things moving. He can even come down to Orange County and get some photos of himself doing something useful, while he’s at it. You know, like he did with the I-10 fire in Los Angeles, which isn’t too far from Tustin.

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