San Diego Regional Airport Authority

Saturday, November 13, 2004
Authority members search for guidelines at desert workshop
By Jennifer Vigil
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune

BORREGO SPRINGS – The group charged with selecting a site for a new airport began to establish crucial criteria yesterday. Eight members of the San Diego Regional Airport Authority board participated in what was termed a “visioning discussion” during the first day of a two-day workshop at a Borrego Springs resort.

The discussion was meant to help board members come up with what some termed their “utopia airport,” one that would fit all the region’s needs while being convenient for travelers, and good for jobs and businesses, including tourism and technology.

San Diego County residents are scheduled to vote on the board’s proposal in two years, and one member, Paul Peterson, warned that utopia probably will have to be set aside for compromise.

“We’re torn between what would be really nice to have and what we can put on the ballot in 2006,” he said.

The board also heard how airplane design, Federal Aviation Administration standards, required runway approaches and environmental needs regarding noise and land use could affect 10 sites being considered.

The board previously pared a list of 32 candidates to seven. Those finalists are an expansion of Lindbergh Field; Miramar Marine Corps Air Station; an area to the east of Miramar; Camp Pendleton; North Island Naval Air Station; a site in the Imperial County; and March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County.

Two additional sites were added later to the list, one near Campo and one near Borrego Springs. A third site, a portion of which is located in the Cleveland National Forest, was narrowly approved for consideration this month, but is not an official finalist.

The board didn’t plan to eliminate any contenders during the weekend workshop. Yesterday’s discussions offered no insight into which sites might be eliminated.

Some board members said if a largely undeveloped site would be substantially altered by construction of a new airport, it should be removed from consideration. Others sided with member William Lynch, who said that policy would severely limit the board’s options.

“If we’re saying we’d like to look at putting an airport somewhere else besides Lindbergh, but we don’t want to affect the environment, we’re really painting ourselves into a corner,” Lynch said.

The retreat continues today at the Casa del Zorro resort. Discussions will focus on market and financial requirements of a new airport.

Airport authority staffers will review the criteria discussed by the board and present a report at the panel’s December meeting, where members are likely to take a final vote establishing the final guidelines.