The county has acknowledged that all four runways at El Toro will have to be dug up and new ones put in their place. I'm not sure exactly why.. Maybe they're just not made to high-traffic commercial airport standards.
Anyone notice the mountains right at the end of the runways? Seems to me the likelihood of stalling and crashing into one of them is just as high as a plane crashing into Newport Harbor.
Yes there is a lot of money in Laguna Beach and Mission Viejo, but there's also a lot of money in Newport Beach.. people that are vehemently opposed to SNA even being there (until they use it to fly out of town, it seems). I encountered quite a few of these people as I got up and spoke my mind about the airports at a Commission meeting some months back.. some were verbally aggressive WHILE I was speaking.
The county just spent millions of dollars on the Riley Terminal in just this past decade. I don't believe that commercial operations can be sustained at both locations, and apparently some of the airlines don't either.
Noise abatement is going to be an issue at any El Toro airport.. just as it is at John Wayne. Airport promoters are finally starting to realize that the plan sounds a lot more palatable when they suggest shutting down the airport at night.
Expansion at SNA is possible.. 19R/1L could easily be expanded to the 405, if not directly over it. The worst part would be creating the underpass, but it would add at least another 1,000 ft or so. Honestly I don't know why much more would be necessary.. with the proximity to LAX, there would be few international flights.. maybe a couple a day to YYZ or perhaps even some destinations in Mexico eventually, but if airlines have to choose between LAX and SFO because they can only afford one, how does Orange County fit into the picture? Flights to Canada and Mexico are possible even today. Air Canada stated they wanted to fly to SNA, but I'm sure they ran into problems getting one of the slots. Better airport planning fixes that.. take a couple away from HP or AA and their gazillion daily flights to LAS, PHX, and SJC. About all we'd see from El Toro in today's hub-and-spoke world is bigger equipment and maybe a few more frequencies to places like DEN, ORD, and ATL.
In the next 20-30 years, Orange County is going to grow south and east.. out past Rancho Santa Margarita (they're already grading for more 'beautiful' stucco tract homes to overrun the wilderness) and San Clemente. One road that would make sense is between South County and the Temecula area. It's only 13 miles as the crow flies between San Clemente and Temecula. Why not build a major airport out that direction, where no one lives (yet) and end all this squabbling?
The short of it is this.. a minimal expansion of John Wayne (lengthening the main runway, maybe building another terminal between T2 and the old AMR Combs building) is all that's really needed for the residents of Orange County as we know it today. A new airport out in the boonies wouldn't actually be so far away from tomorrow's growth, and it might actually live up to hopes and expectations that El Toro can never fulfill.