Caltrans? Division of Aeronautics on Oxnard Decision

I would like to set the record straight about the Caltrans? Division of Aeronautics role in the approval of the contentious school site near the Oxnard Airport. A lot of misunderstanding, misstatement, and misinformation have been bandied about. Aeronautics (Aero) did not give a ?positive review? of the school site, as reported in the local news media. We made a ?recommendation?, to which state law confines us, to AVOID the site unless no feasible alternative exists. To recommend avoiding is hardly a ?positive review?. We have to stay consistent with our Land Use Planning Handbook (Handbook), which only allows us to recommend ?avoid? for proposed school sites within the specifically defined ?traffic pattern zone?. The local news media and school board allege that Aeronautics ?approved? the contentious site. We do not ?approve? nor ?disapprove?. That is not our authority under state law (Ed. Code 17215). We are confined to a ?recommendation?, which the Education Department, for whom we work on school site evaluations, can do whatever they wish. They are the ultimate decision-makers, not Aeronautics.

The Ventura County ALUC (and their CLUP), airport management, and concerned pilots all have to understand that Aeronautics cannot and will not endorse a CLUP more stringent than our Handbook. We will, and do, however, give visibility to the local CLUP in our evaluation and recommendation letter IF their local CLUP is more stringent than our Handbook, but we do not adopt their more stringent criteria as our own evaluation criteria.

Local ALUCs should better understand the limit of their grasp, often well short of their perceived reach. The ALUC is not an approval or disapproval body. They are only advisory in that they pronounce consistency or inconsistency. A lot of ALUCs think they have ultimate and absolute approval authority and become very upset when they see that?s not to be the case.

Further, many ALUCs put words in their CLUPs that portray a reach that exceeds grasp. Using words like ?prohibit? in the CLUP, implying that the ALUC can in fact prohibit, exceeds their grasp. They then become upset when confronted with the reality that they are only writing policy and guidance, not ordinances and law. They should have use the policy and guidance phrase ?should not be allowed?, rather than the ordinance and law word ?prohibit?.

R. Austin Wiswell
Chief, Caltrans? Division of Aeronautics