CALPILOTS Letter to California Supreme Court

Letter written to California Supreme Court regarding lower court decision on land use around airports.



October 12, 2009

Honorable Ronald George, Chief Justice and the Associate Justices Supreme Court of California
350 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102-4783


Dear Chief Justice George and Associate Justices:

Re: Citizens for Planning Responsibly v. County of San Luis Obispo,

Supreme Court Case No. : S176230

Amicus Curiae Letter in Support of Petition for Review


1. Nature of the Applicant’s Interest

The California Pilots Association is nonprofit, public benefit California Corporation. The mission of its members is to preserve and enhance safe and efficient public airports. To that end this Honorable Court is requested to review the decision of Second District Court of Appeal Case No. S176230. If allowed to stand the decision would set the stage for serious degradation of the state’s and nation’s transportation system.

2.   Public Airports are an Important Element of California’s Transportation System

In addition to thirty one commercial airline airports California is home to two hundred and nineteen smaller public airports that are a vital part of California’s Airport System Plan. Many of these smaller airports are designated by the Federal Aviation Administration as reliever airports to enhance safety and efficiency of busy commercial airline airports. As such they qualify for federal funding to maintain safe and efficient runways and taxiways as part of the nation’s transportation system.

3. Economic Value of California’s Airports

Value of the airports is illustrated by results of an economic study conducted in 2003 by the Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division. Excerpts of the study highlights include:

Aviation contributes nearly 9% of both the total state employment (1.7 million jobs) and total output ($110.7 billion);

Aviation generates $250.2 million in annual tax revenue for California;

Aviation saves lives via emergency response, medical and fire fighting;

Nearly half of all domestic tourists visiting California arrive by air;

Aviation delivered over $14.5 billion in tourist dollars to California in 2001;

California air cargo was valued at $173 billion in 2000.

Honorable Ronald George,
Chief Justice and the
Associate Justices Supreme Court of California
October 12, 2009
Page 2


4. State Policy is to Preserve Public Airports

Recognizing the importance of airports, California Legislators enacted the State Aeronautic Act (Public Utilities Code Section 21001 et seq.):

           21670.  (a) The Legislature hereby finds and declares that:
           (1) It is in the public interest to provide for the orderly development of each public use airport in this state and the area 
surrounding these airports so as to promote the overall goals and objectives of the California airport noise standards adopted pursuant to Section 21669
and to prevent the creation of new noise and safety problems.
           (2) It is the purpose of this article to protect public health, safety, and welfare by ensuring the orderly expansion of airports and the
adoption of land use measures that minimize the public's  exposure to excessive noise and safety hazards within areas around public airports
to the extent that these areas are not already devoted to incompatible uses.
 This policy statement is clear and unambiguous. Protecting the public from safety hazards and noise problems is of the essence. To
that end, maintaining safe and compatible uses of land surrounding airports is imperative. A central goal of the State Aeronautics Act is
"to discourage incompatible land uses near existing airports."  (Pub. Util. Code § 21674.7, subd. (b).) The State Aeronautics Act implements
these important statewide goals through its provisions to ensure that development is consistent with the requirements of a local airport land
use plan.   ( Pub. Util. Code § 21676, subd. (b).


5. Enforcement Litigation

Consistent with state policy, the California Pilots Association, AKA California Aviation Council, has taken legal action to require implementation of airport compatibility law at Chico, Napa, Jackson, Tulare, Los Banos, Brawley, Bakersfield and others. The Court of Appeal’s holding in this case, however, would undermine the California Pilots Association in its efforts to implement state policy of maintaining safety and welfare of persons living and working near airports.


6. Basic Safety Compatibility Qualities

All planning agencies in California including those in San Luis Obispo County have access to the Airport Land Use Planning Handbook. This highly acclaimed publication by the Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division provides clear guidance for airport land use compatibility.

Honorable Ronald George,
Chief Justice and the Associate Justices Supreme Court of California
October 12, 2009
Page 3


The Airport Land Use Planning Handbook addresses basic compatible uses in Runway Protection Zones and Approach/Departure Zones. Among others they include:

* Prohibiting residential land use except on large agricultural parcels;

* Prohibiting children’s schools, day care centers, hospitals and nursing homes;

* Prohibiting nonresidential uses except if very low intensity;

* Prohibiting hazardous uses, e.g., above ground bulk fuel storage.

Caltrans Airport Land Use Planning Handbook. Page 9-44.

If the Second District Court of Appeal’s decision is allowed to stand, San Luis Obispo County and others will be free to ignore state policy of requiring safe and compatible airport land use planning.


Respectfully submitted,


Jay C. White, SBN 040587

Attorney for California Pilots Association

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