Palo Alto Airport – City to Take-Over Asset in 2012

The city and county first met to discuss a hand-off on March 29, and the county Board of Supervisors is slated to hear an update on the deal’s progress Tuesday. “The most important thing is that we met with the county and we’re moving forward together,” said Joe Saccio, the city’s deputy director of administrative services. “There’s probably a whole bunch of issues to thrash out, but we are moving forward and they seem, right now anyway, open to the transfer.”

Michael Murdter, director of the Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department, said that city staff “seemed excited and eminently capable, and I think they’re going to do a fabulous job.”

The county decided in 2006 not to ask the city to renew its airport lease, which is set to expire in 2017. Last year, a consultant’s report indicated the city could run the airport at a profit and the city council voted to try to end the lease early.

There is “no compelling reason” for the county to continue operating the airport, Murdter said in a report. The county “shoulders all of the business risk,” he said, but has no control over development at the facility. Under the lease, profits from the Palo Alto Airport must be reinvested there, not at the county’s other airports.

“Fundamentally, it’s awkward operating somebody else’s asset,” Murdter told The Daily News.

The city is looking for experts to help guide it through the transfer process, Saccio said, and in July staff expect to give the council an update on how the deal is progressing.

Murdter said the city’s goal to assume control of the airport by July 2012 may be “optimistic.” But a timeframe of 12 to 18 months is “certainly doable,” he said.

“Most of the action so far has been at the city’s end as they internally determined the feasibility of taking back the airport,” Murdter said. “Now we’re kind of getting into the actual nitty-gritty of the turnover.”