Livermore Municipal Airport Expansion Plans Theatened

Critics try to ground airport plan
Groups say expansion
By Mike White
The Tri-Valley (CA) Herald

LIVERMORE — Residents of Livermore and Pleasanton are beginning to mobilize against plans to expand the Livermore Municipal Airport, saying it will dramatically increase jet traffic, noise and air pollution.

Officials say many of the claims by the newly organized critics are based on incorrect data. For instance, opponents say airplane traffic will increase by 90 percent, that these are low-end numbers and that there is “nothing the city can do to prevent a larger amount of large jets,” according to a flier distributed by the Livermore Airport Community Group.

The airport master plan does say flights may increase to 370,000 a year, but these are high-end numbers that probably will never be reached, said Leander Hauri, airport manager. Today, the airport usually has more than 200,000 flights a year. The plan will allow the airport to respond to existing demands from local customers, including the 180 people who are on a waiting list for a hangar, Hauri said.

“The airport plan is not about turning this airport into a huge commercial enterprise,” he said.

Nevertheless, that was the impression shared by many of the more than 150 people who attended an informal organizing meeting Tuesday night in Livermore. Those attending included members of the newly formed Livermore Airport Community Group and Westside Pride, which represents residents of west Livermore, where the airport is located.

The airport has been working with Shutt Moen Associates since August 1999 on the master plan update and business plan. At least four public workshops and two City Council briefings were held on the plans.

Final adoption has been held up by environmental reviews. The public review period for the plan ends April 8. The Planning Commission is scheduled to review the plan May 4, with possible final adoption by the City Council on June 7.

The plan would allow extending the shorter of two runways and leasing space on land surrounding the airport to businesses, especially those that cater to the flight industry. In the end, the second runway would still be shorter than the one main, so the airport would not be in a position to accommodate larger jets as some critics have claimed. The city has no plans to allow scheduled commercial airlines to fly into Livermore, Hauri said.

Greg Takemura of Livermore said the increased air traffic means people from throughout the region will hear the planes, not just those in west Livermore and east Pleasanton.

“Property values will go down, and we will have a lower quality of life,” he said.

Several years ago, Tom Hagen moved out of Livermore because of the heavy traffic on Interstate 580. But he said he traded one problem for another. Now living near downtown Pleasanton, Hagen said planes fly over his home to and from the airport.

“I say there is a noise problem right now. I think the noise problem will be worse if they double the amount of aircraft in the air. The noise will be worse and the safety issues will be worse.

“Basically what these people are doing is putting their enjoyment over the quality of life of the tens of thousands who are affected by that noise,” Hagen said.

Residents are concerned not just by what might happen in the future but what transpires today. Several opponents said pilots are flying too late and in a fashion to provoke residents. They also said airport workers have been slow or non-responsive to their complaints, even when they mentioned specific aircraft.

The airport has been vigilant in responding to complaints, and has instituted numerous changes, including a voluntary ban on flying late at night, Hauri said.