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Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, California

Program: Base Realignment and Closure

Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, California


The former Marine Corps Station Tustin lost 384 jobs at closure. It is now Tustin Legacy, a new master-planned community, with 3,000 workers and more than 8,000 residents.

Marine Corps Air Station Tustin Today

Located at the heart of Orange County, California, Tustin Legacy (the former Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Tustin) is a large and long-term project with many different neighborhoods, amenities, and institutions. Redevelopment highlights include:


The District at Tustin Legacy, a one-million-square-foot commercial center, features a Target, Costco, Lowe’s, Whole Foods, and many other retail businesses. The District generates significant sales tax revenue and thousands of jobs. The Village at Tustin Legacy, a 22-acre neighborhood retail and medical-office center, opened in October 2017. It includes: Stater Brothers, CVS Pharmacy, and other shops and restaurants. The medical section will include Hoag and HealthSouth facilities.


FLIGHT at Tustin Legacy will feature approximately 870,000 square feet of collaborative office space. Phase 1 (approximately 400,000 square feet) is under construction and is expected to be complete in early 2019. Phase 1 is expected to house approximately 1,700 employees. 


Public facilities on the former base include an elementary school, a temporary community college campus, a law enforcement training center, a fire station, and a new Army Reserve Center. A new community college campus is under construction, and a magnet middle/high school is planned.


Over 3,200 new for-sale, rental and affordable residential units have generated millions in annual property tax dollars while adding approximately 8,100 residents to the city. There are also facilities to house homeless and abused families. Approximately 3,400 more units are planned. 


Legacy Park (26 acres) and Victory Park (4 acres) and various small neighborhood parks have been developed for residents to enjoy. At least 170 acres of parks are planned.


MCAS Tustin, located in Tustin and Irvine, CA, consisted of approximately 1,600 acres. At its high point, the base employed some 5,000 military and civilian personnel, about 4,500 of whom lived on the base.

The base was commissioned in 1942 to be a Lighter-Than-Air facility to patrol the coastline with manned blimps following the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1951, in response to the Korean conflict, the base was re-activated as a Marine Corps aviation facility for helicopter operations and became the country’s first military airfield dedicated solely to helicopter operations – Marine Corps Air Facility Santa Ana. By the end of 1952, two Marine Air groups and 13 helicopter squadrons called the base home. The now-obsolete blimp hangars proved to be ideal for large-scale helicopter operations, providing indoor storage and maintenance areas for huge numbers of helicopters, along with acres of ramp space for parking additional aircraft. The base continued to serve as a major facility for Marine helicopter training and operations during the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Shield, and Desert Storm. 

The 1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended the closure of most of MCAS Tustin. The 1993 Commission recommended closure of the remaining property, and Tustin officially closed in July 1999, resulting in the loss of 384 civilian positions with an economic impact estimated between $121 and $173 million. The City of Tustin was designated as the local redevelopment authority charged with planning and carrying out the reuse of the former base property.

The City of Tustin completed the initial reuse plan for the former base in October 1996. It was amended in September 1998 and designated the MCAS Tustin Specific Plan/Reuse Plan. California law required Tustin to complete a Specific Plan with an attached Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to determine reuse potential. The City completed a reuse plan, an EIR, and a Specific Plan simultaneously. The Reuse Plan supports commercial and business uses, an educational center including research and development uses, educational institutions, national historic areas, recreational and park areas, and residential housing. The Specific Plan has been subsequently amended several times.

The City of Tustin signed a no-cost economic development conveyance with the Navy in May 2002 for 1,163 acres. The Navy sold housing sites (235 acres) at public bid sale in September 2002. The remaining acreage was transferred via public benefit conveyances for parks, schools, public safety, and providing shelter and services to the homeless. The Navy transferred 17 acres to an Army Reserve Center in December 2001. Two blimp hangars (Tustin Hangars) and some of the surrounding property are still owned by the Navy with their future use undetermined. Approximately 900 acres remain available for redevelopment, with the Navy still owning approximately 245 acres.

Contaminated groundwater remains from prior Navy activities. The soil has been given a “No Further Action” designation. The Navy continues cleanup activities on the former base with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other California regulatory agency oversight. 

The City of Tustin acts as Master Developer for Tustin Legacy, an unusual and challenging situation for a public entity. Previously, the City engaged a private Master Developer that completed some major site clearing and grading work but ultimately left the project due to poor planning and market conditions. The City stepped in and now oversees all planning, management and disposition of the property. Because of its role as Master Developer, the City must fund infrastructure improvements through land sale proceeds and fees. As property is sold, more funds are available to make infrastructure improvements, making more property able to be sold.

The City has made $250 million in capital improvements to roads, utilities, parks, and waterways--approximately half of what will be necessary to complete the backbone infrastructure.

Updated October, 2017

Point of Contact

Mr. Matthew West

Deputy City Manager

City of Tustin


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