Montgomery Field – Developer Buys Support from Local Newspaper

The Union-Tribune contains an editorial in support of the City and Sunroads to build their hazards to air navigation. Two ‘letters to the editor’ follow, one dealing with the issue of a developer buying their way out of trouble and one dealing with safety. To the Editor: The Union Tribune got it entirely wrong in its Monday editorial, Fly by the Book, about the Sunroad Enterprises Building near Montgomery Field Airport. You supported a developer buying its way out of a problem by dumping costs on the taxpayers, the aviation community, and consumers.

 

My four-year term on the City’s Airports Advisory Committee just ended. I spent several hours reviewing the Sunroad Enterprises building situation near Montgomery Field. This is simply a developer deliberately violating the law and then trying to buy its way out as a solution. It is all money driven. The developer knew it would make more money by violating the law and later paying some “buy-off,” so it went ahead and made misrepresentations to the FAA that the top of the building would only be 160 feet above the ground, and then actually built it to 180 feet. Its own letter to the FAA shows the building could have been built within the law, but economics drove a different reality. Now we have something that is permanently hazardous, unless it is removed.

Montgomery Field brings millions of dollars of positive economic impact to Kearney Mesa and San Diego every year. Putting illegal and hazardous buildings nearby reduces the airport’s utility and thereby shifts those dollars away from the City and into developer pockets. Had the developer sought all of the required permits, they would never have been granted. The developer’s answer seems to be, “let the City, namely, the taxpayers, suffer.”

You note the City doesn’t want to be liable for an air disaster at Montgomery Field. Our interests are served by removing anything that can cause such a disaster, not by a developer indemnifying the City once a disaster occurs. San Diego will have blood on its hands if it acts that way. Is it okay to have a disaster, so long as we don’t have to pay for it?

If ethics really drive the decisions at City Hall under Mayor Sanders’ administration, the ethical answer is, “you tried to get away with something and got caught. Take it down and do it right.” Does City Hall have the nerve to say this to a developer who is a major campaign contributor? It is time for the voters in San Diego, who are the real victims of this hazard, to see what ethics really mean to our government. It shouldn’t mean a pay-off is an acceptable answer to breaking the law. Otherwise, we should allow burglars and other criminals to pay-off their victims and go their way, to commit more crimes later and repeat the pattern. That’s called anarchy, not ethics. That’s the old-way, not what Mayor Sanders promised for the future.

Gerald Blank
San Diego, California 92101

To the Editor: In your editorial of Dec 11, “Fly by the book: Let a safer building project proceed,” you support the developer proceeding. But you don’t explain why this would be a safer building. And you repeat an unsubstantiated claim that the plan “poses no hazard to public safety.” But you were right that the project “needn’t be grounded permanently.”

The builder could comply with the FAA hazard determination and reduce the height! That’s a safer building. That’s no longer a hazard to public safety. And that’s not grounded permanently.

The FAA determined that a 180-foot building would be a hazard to airplanes that use Montgomery Field. On average, there are 200 airplanes a day that fly over that building site. Not just in bad weather, but all types of weather. Tall buildings and low-flying aircraft are not compatible. The building should be lowered to remove the hazard to all planes that fly over it.

The plan to add an instrument landing system at Montgomery Field is not a panacea. Residents to the west of Montgomery Field will be invited to make their comments known. They live under the proposed approach path, and we expect an environmental review will be required. Adding planes that fly low over their neighborhoods during bad weather will be a factor to consider. Given that accident statistics show that more planes crash short of the runway during approach, adding an instrument approach will spread the risk to both sides of Montgomery Field.

So, what would be safer? Spreading the risk or lowering the building height?

As a concerned citizen of San Diego and a pilot (I flew your reporter and photographer for your front-page story), I don’t want to shift the liability for an accident. I want your support to prevent accidents.

Rick Beach
Point Loma, San Diego, CA

The local newspaper has published two articles heavily critical of the hazard to air navigation and yet on Monday published an editorial that supports the City and developer, Sunroads Enterprises. See these links:
http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20061105/news_1n5tootall.html
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20061203-9999-1n3tootall.html
http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20061211/news_mz1ed11botto.html

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