Airport Land Use Commissions (ALUC)

We are continuously posting articles about airport sponsors, city or county, ignoring the state’s Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) function. This commission was created to mitigate issues between inappropriate land development around our state airports. The following, while a bit long, is a primer on ALUC’s. The entire Division or Aeronautics manual on is also attached as a PDF file. While you may not wish to read the entire manual, it is an excellent reference for protecting your airport. Please download it for reference.

Airport land use compatibility is the reconciliation of how land development and airports function together. The concept of compatibility has been defined as: “Airport compatible land uses are defined as those uses that can coexist with a nearby airport without either constraining the safe and efficient operation of the airport or exposing people living or working nearby to unacceptable levels of noise or (safety) hazards. Compatibility concerns include any airport impact that adversely affects the livability of surrounding communities, as well as any community characteristic that can adversely affect the viability of an airport (PAS 2010, p. 39)”.
Incompatible development near an airport can lead to a politically contentious relationship between an airport and the communities around it, resulting in complaints and demands for restrictions on airport operations, ultimately threatening the airport’s ability to operate efficiently and serve its function in the local economy.

1.3.1 Background
The ALUC is a statutorily created, quasi-legislative, public administrative agency that is responsible for conducting airport land use compatibility planning and preventing the creation of new noise and safety problems in the vicinity of public use airports. Pursuant to PUC Sections 21670 (a) and (b), an airport land use commission shall be established for the purposes of ensuring the orderly expansion of airports and the adoption of appropriate land use measures. California’s airport land use compatibility planning is unique because the legislature has created ALUCs, which are separate from both the airport operators and the local agencies (cities and counties) in which those airports are located.
ALUCs have been granted the statutory authority to prepare an ALUCP and to review local government general and specific plans for consistency against the ALUCP. ALUCs oversee the consistency between local plans and the ALUCP. In some cases, they also review the compatibility of individual land use projects with the ALUCP. When an airport layout plan (ALP) or airport master plan (AMP) is amended, the ALUC must review their ALUCP for any changes that may be needed as a result of the airport updating its plan(s). An ALUC’s consistency determination should be given substantial consideration by their local agency, as their determinations stand on their own. As discussed below, when review by the ALUC is required under the PUC, the determination of the ALUC is binding unless overruled by the local agency.

1.3.2 Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans
One of the primary responsibilities of an ALUC is the preparation and adoption of an ALUCP (PUC Sections 21674(c) and 21675). As further described in Chapter 2, the ALUCP is the basis for compatible planning within the vicinity of a public airport. The ALUCP may include land use measures specifying land use, height restrictions, and building standards (PUC Section 21675(a)). The planning boundary of the ALUCP is the “airport influence area,” and is established by the ALUC after a hearing and consultation with the involved agencies (PUC Section 21675 (c)). Involved agencies are primarily the cities and the county, but also include special districts, school districts, and community college districts (PUC Section 21670(f)). An ALUCP must also address any military airport within the jurisdiction of the ALUC (PUC Section 21675(b)).

1.3.3 Plan Consistency
Government Code (Gov. Code) Section 65302.3 (a) states that a county’s or city’s general plan, as well as any applicable specific plans, “shall be consistent” with an ALUCP and that every affected county or city must amend its general and specific plans as necessary to keep them consistent with the ALUCP. The ALUC reviews the general plan (and applicable specific plans) and makes a consistency determination (PUC Section 21676(a)). If the ALUC determines the local plan to be inconsistent with the ALUCP, the local agency shall reconsider its plan, or overrule the ALUC’s decision. The overrule is accomplished by a two-thirds vote of the local agency’s governing body, accompanied by specific findings that its action meets the intent of
1 FORMATION AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF AIRPORT LAND USE COMMISSIONS Article 3.5 of the SAA (PUC Section 21676(a)) and other published case law. Any local agency seeking to amend its general plan, a specific plan, or adopt zoning ordinance or building regulation within the airport influence area must first refer its proposed amendments to the ALUC for a determination if the proposed action is consistent with the airport land use compatibility plan. If the ALUC determines that the amendment is not consistent, the local agency may not enact the plan or regulation unless a two-thirds of the local agency’s governing body votes to overrule the ALUC’s inconsistency determination and the local government makes specific findings that its proposed action is consistent with the purposes of the Article 3.5 of the SAA (PUC Section 21676 (b)) and other published case law. The significance of this is that even if a local agency invokes the overrule provision, the local agency’s actions must be in compliance with SAA.

1.3.4 ALUC Review
The ALUC’s other main tool for compatibility planning, besides the preparation of the ALUCP, is the review of plans, regulations, and other actions of local agencies. Review of local agency actions occurs as follows:
• Prior to the adoption of an ALUCP, the ALUC shall review all local agency actions, regulations, or permits within the vicinity of a public airport. (PUC Section 21676(b)). “Vicinity” is the proposed planning boundary, or in the absence of a planning boundary, within two miles of the airport boundary.
• Upon the adoption of an ALUCP, the ALUC shall review the general plan and any applicable specific for consistency with the ALUCP (PUC Section 21676(a)).
• Prior to the amendment of a general plan or specific plan, or the adoption of a zoning ordinance or building regulation within the ALUCP planning boundary, the ALUC shall review the plan, ordinance, or regulation for consistency with the ALUCP (PUC Section 21676(b)).
• If a local agency has neither revised its general plan or applicable specific plans, nor overruled the ALUC by a two-thirds vote of its governing body (with required findings), the ALUC may require that all local agency actions, regulations, and permits be submitted for review to determine consistency with the ALUCP (PUC Section 21676.5(a)).
• Prior to the modification of an AMP1 (by a public agency owning the airport), the ALUC shall review the proposed action (PUC Section 21676(c)).
• The ALUC reviews plans for the construction of new airports (PUC Section 21661.5) and the expansion of existing airports within its jurisdiction (PUC Section 21664.5).
• The local agency and ALUC may mutually agree that certain individual projects shall be reviewed by the ALUC (PUC Section 21676.5(b)).
• 1 Note
A complete discussion of the recommended procedures and considerations for ALUC review is found in Chapter 6 of this Handbook.

1.3.5 The Overrule Process
ALUC consistency determinations for local agency plans and projects (described in Section 1.3.4, above), are subject to overrule by the local agency. The overrule process preserves local government’s constitutional land use authority and local government’s ability to implement its plans and projects. When a plan or project is found inconsistent by the ALUC, the local agency has a choice to stop or amend the plan or project, and thereby accept the ALUCs inconsistency determination, or to overrule the ALUC with a two-thirds “supermajority” vote of the local agency’s governing body.2
The overrule process, described in PUC Sections 21675.1(d), 21676, and 21676.5 requires the local agency’s governing body to make specific findings that show the project is consistent with the purpose of Article 3.5 of the SAA. When a public agency overrules an ALUC’s action or recommendation, pursuant to PUC Sections 21676, 21676.5 and 21677, a non-public operator of a publicly owned airport shall be immune from liability from damages resulting directly or indirectly from the override decision.
At least 45 days prior to the decision to overrule the ALUC, the local agency shall provide the ALUC and the Division a copy of the proposed overrule decision and accompanying findings. The ALUC and the Division may provide comments to the local agency’s governing body within 30 days of receiving the proposed decision and findings. While the ALUC and Division comments are advisory, they must be included in the public record of any decision to overrule the ALUC.

This section states the basic requirements of the ALUC under Article 3.5 and identifies where actions and procedures are mandatory, and where they are optional. The complete ALUC statute, in addition to other pertinent statutes, can be found in Appendix A.
1.4.1 ALUC Membership and Selection
Per PUC Section 21670(b), each ALUC shall consist of seven members to be selected as follows:
• Two representing the cities in the county, appointed by a selection committee comprised of the mayors of all the cities within that county. If there are any cities contiguous or adjacent to the qualifying airport, at least one city representative shall be appointed from there. If there are no cities within a county, the number of representatives selected by the county and the airport managers shall be increased by one each (as of this Handbook edition, only the counties of Alpine, Mariposa and Trinity have no incorporated cities).
• Two representing the county, appointed by the board of supervisors.
• Two having expertise in aviation, appointed by a selection committee comprised of the managers of all of the public airports within the county.
• 1 FORMATION AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF AIRPORT LAND USE COMMISSIONS One representing the general public, appointed by the other six members of the commission.
• A person “having expertise in aviation,” as used above, means a person who, by way of education, training, business, experience, vocation, or avocation has acquired and possesses particular knowledge of, and familiarity with the function, operation and role of airports, or is an elected official of a local agency which owns or operates an airport (PUC Section 21670(e)). While this person is often a pilot, that is not required by law.
• A person who already holds an elected or appointed public office, may be appointed and serve as a member of the commission during their term of public office (PUC Section 21670(c)).
• Each member of the ALUC shall appoint one proxy to represent him or her in commission affairs and to vote on all matters when the member is not in attendance. The proxy must be made in writing and kept on file with the ALUC. The proxy serves at the pleasure of the member who appointed him or her. A vacant proxy position shall be promptly filled (PUC Section 21670(d).