Thursday, February 9, 2012
Fort Ord has been a critical part of our region’s economy, politics and environment since 1917, and we all know the challenges and opportunities that the base’s 1994 closure posed to our communities. That year, the California Legislature established the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) as an outgrowth of then Congressman Leon Panetta’s regional planning effort for the base. Under this authority, FORA developed the 1997 Base Reuse Plan, garnered federal transportation funds to build Imjin Parkway and other infrastructure, and engaged in numerous other reuse projects. That authority, however, is set to expire June 30, 2014. FORA will go away.
We have always understood the importance of sustainably rebuilding Fort Ord’s economic value and protecting its unique natural environment. Over the years we have both had our disagreements with FORA over particular decisions. But we have always understood that FORA has been the indispensable regional governance structure to plan and guide Fort Ord’s reuse. Indeed, FORA’s creation turned back the chaotic free-for-all that was unfolding in 1992 and 1993. FORA’s governance system includes broad regional representation. It is required to measure any local project as “consistent” with both the Reuse Plan, as well as a settlement agreement with the Sierra Club that mandates the protection of endangered species, habitat, and open space in the area.
Back in 1994, 2014 seemed a long way away. Surely Fort Ord could be redeveloped by then. Not so. Litigation over the scale of redevelopment, Army munitions cleanup, and various individual projects all slowed the redevelopment process. And in the last few years, the financial collapse and the ensuing recession have brought most construction to a standstill. We are at the point where the region must face the decision of whether or not to extend FORA’s authority.
We think the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
First, there is still redevelopment work to complete and other long-term obligations for which FORA acts as a critical partner. For example, last year the State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 629 by Assemblymember Monning to cut the cost of the Veterans Cemetery’s planning and construction by authorizing FORA to act as the agent for the cemetery in lieu of the state’s far more expensive Department of General Services. In another instance, Rep. Farr secured $100 million from the Army’s ordinance cleanup fund to allow FORA to take over from the Army and speed up the cleanup of lands slated for future reuse, such as the Veterans Cemetery.
Second, community concerns have been voiced about proposed development projects on the former Fort Ord site. County and city land use planning largely govern these projects. By extending FORA’s authority, local residents will maintain a regional authority bound by the FORA Base Reuse Plan and a 1998 Sierra Club settlement agreement in the evaluation of any proposed project. Loss of FORA’s oversight would greatly erode broad public engagement on development projects.
We strongly support an extension of the FORA authority for an additional 10 years through legislation introduced by Assemblymember Monning. To the extent that you are happy with Fort Ord redevelopment to date, FORA extension is critical to continuing progress. To the extent that you are unhappy with development decisions taken by various local jurisdictions, FORA’s expiration will only make the situation worse. Either way, FORA reauthorization is critical, and given the legislative timeline, an extension must happen this year.
REP. SAM FARR, D-Carmel, has been a member of the U.S. Congress since 1993 and serves on the House Appropriations Committee. Assemblymember BILL MONNING, D-Carmel, was elected to represent the 27th Assembly District in 2008 and re-elected in 2010.