San Martin Airport Takes Off

Tuesday, September 14, 2004
San Martin Airport takes off
By Katie Niekerk
The Morgan Hill (CA) Times

A 5,000-foot runway is in South County Airport’s future, and some San Martin residents aren’t thrilled at all. Santa Clara County Airports Director Carl Honaker presented a report to the San Martin Planning Advisory Committee last week outlining the airport’s 20-year master plan, which designates several additions to the existing airport.

“We are ready to go, finally,” Honaker said. “It’s still progressing, and construction (on new hangars) has started.”

The most significant proposal of the plan extends the airport’s current 3,100-foot runway to accommodate small and medium corporate jets used by commercial businesses. Runway width also will expand from 75 feet to 100 feet. A two-story, 12,000-square-foot terminal building will be constructed, as well as a new maintenance building and two water storage tanks.

San Martin Neighborhood Alliance member Sylvia Hamilton said she worries the airport will significantly alter the quality of life and impose safety concerns not only for residents in San Martin but in Morgan Hill and Gilroy as well. While the proposal isn’t a shock to her, Hamilton said it’s not ideal.

“We knew it was coming, but it’s not what we wanted,” she said. “We’ve had quite a long spell of not knowing what’s going on, so I’m glad to have the report in our hands now so we can begin reviewing it.”

Although the expanded airport will create more noise for residents, District 1 Supervisor Don Gage said the tradeoff is worth it.

“If people in Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin want to attract new business, especially high-tech, an airport is a valuable thing,” Gage said. “A lot of businesses that have planes don’t always want to fly into commercial airports because it’s just not as convenient.

Gage said the plan incudes securing land surrounding the airport to house county buildings, so residential areas are preserved and not subject to safety threats. The master plan designates about 330 acres west of the airport that are deemed necessary for expansion and may be acquired through the eminent domain process.

In the report, runway expansion is justified by the substantial projected growth in Gilroy, Morgan Hill and Coyote Valley, which will require increased accommodation of aircraft that San Jose International Airport or the county-operated airports in Palo Alto and San Jose (Reid-Hillview) can’t handle. But Hamilton said that rationalization satisfies the wants of North County and does not truly reflect the needs of South Valley.

“This is not a local demand that’s creating this,” she said. “Sure, there are areas that are going to grow. But other areas in San Jose will also grow. This is a North County demand.”

Airport commissioners will hold a joint meeting with the alliance Sept. 21, the first of a series of workshop-style forums to address public comment.

Tentatively scheduled public meetings are as follows:

  • Sept. 21, 7pm at the SM Lions Club, 12415 Murphy Ave.
  • Oct. 2, 10am to 3pm at the SM Lions Club, 12415 Murphy Ave.
  • Oct. 5, 6pm at the Family Worship Center, 425 E. Middle Ave., San Martin.

    Call 683-2667 for details.

    Airplanes sit on the tarmac at South Valley Airport in San Martin. If building plans continue, the airport will be much busier.