Livermore Aiport Expansion

Thursday, December 2, 2004
Airport panel urges impact report
By Bonita Brewer

LIVERMORE – A divided valleywide panel recommended Wednesday night that proposed expansion of the Livermore Municipal Airport undergo a full-blown environmental impact report. The study, which could take 18 months at a cost of up to $100,000, will be recommended to the Livermore City Council.

The Pleasanton City Council has raised the specter of a legal challenge if further environmental study is not done.

Pleasanton Mayor-elect Jennifer Hosterman, who serves on the airport panel, said Wednesday night “a full EIR is absolutely necessary.”

Airport consultants had said that studies to date show that noise and other environmental impacts from airport expansion are either insignificant or can be mitigated.

The most controversial aspects of the proposal involve lighting and lengthening the shorter of two runways from 2,700 feet to 4,000 feet; adding more hangars; and leasing space to aviation-support businesses catering to a growing number of corporate jet users.

The plan envisions annual takeoffs and landings to increase from 257,000 in 2001 to 370,000 in 2020, although the majority of the panel Wednesday night said the forecasts may be unrealistically high and recommended a revised forecast be prepared.

Consultants said flight training and recreational use would continue to account for most aircraft operations, but that the share of use by jets — including chartered service — is expected to jump from less than 1 percent to about 5 percent.

Airport officials say the demand depends more on the economy than on anything they do (flight activity slumped last year to 191,000 takeoffs and landings). They also contend lengthening the parallel runway is needed mainly to reduce safety hazards, both on the ground and in the air, during takeoffs and landings by allowing more types of aircraft to use either runway.

Because the extended runway would still be shorter and structurally weaker than the airport’s main 5,255-foot runway, the plan would not allow for larger, heavier aircraft than now use the airport, and scheduled passenger service would continue to be prohibited.

But airport neighbors argue that more airport capacity will simply attract more planes and jets, and therefore generate more noise.

The commission, appointed by the Livermore City Council, comprises elected officials, residents, pilots and business representatives from Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin.

Wednesday night, the panel also was sharply divided over whether the airport should focus on recreational use or on becoming more of a base for corporate and charter jets.

Officials from Pleasanton and Dublin have said their eastside residential neighborhoods were approved based on current airport activity, not expanded activity. But airport officials have said increased demand is inevitable, whether or not airport upgrades are made.