Oceanside- FAA Clarifies Airport Longevity

Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Oceanside officials have own ideas about FAA letter
By Lola Sherman
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune

OCEANSIDE – A day after receiving a Federal Aviation Administration letter warning that the agency would never allow Oceanside Municipal Airport to be closed or developed commercially, city officials were still sorting out what it meant. Councilman Jerry Kern said yesterday that the FAA wants Oceanside to improve the airport in the San Luis Rey Valley and yet has turned down the city’s requests for a grant to make changes. f the FAA wants the airport, it has to come up with the money, Kern said.

The FAA letter, which arrived Monday at City Hall, said the city must complete its 1997 master plan, which called for adding 100 hangars. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor yesterday said Oceanside also had safety issues to resolve before it could receive money for more hangars.

Interim City Manager Peter Weiss said he was looking for state money to take care of the safety improvements, including new fencing.

Weiss also said that although the letter ruled out commercial development on the 50-acre airport property, the city could bring a big-box retailer to city land adjacent to the airfield.

Meanwhile, county Supervisor Bill Horn said he still was interested in a county takeover of the 50-acre Oceanside airport – a possibility the Board of Supervisors began studying in October when the city raised the issue of closing the airfield.

“It’s a regional asset, especially if the Chargers go to Oceanside,” Horn said. “Everyone might not have planes, but football fans have planes.”

The Chargers are negotiating with Oceanside, as well as Chula Vista and National City, to find a site for a new stadium.

The FAA letter from the agency’s Los Angeles Airports District office was sent to the City Council in response to a Nov. 1 council vote. That 4-1 vote, with Mayor Jim Wood dissenting, was in favor of keeping the airport open for 15 to 20 years while repaying state and federal loans, building new hangars on the south side of the property and trying to add commercial development on the north side.

The FAA letter said the 15-to 20-year time frame was an “erroneous assumption” and that the airfield, essential in the national system of airports, must operate indefinitely with no non-aeronautical uses on the property.

The city also needed to follow through on the 1997 master plan, the letter stated. The airport, built in 1963, has a 3,000-foot runway that is restricted to propeller planes.

Oceanside city officials said yesterday they still wanted a Costco or similar store near the airport.

(anti-airport) Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said the city could expect $1 million in annual sales tax revenue from a big-box retailer and called it a shame that the FAA would not accept a compromise.

Wood said some kind of development was needed because the airport runs $400,000 into the red annually.

Weiss said the proposal under discussion with Costco would not put the store or its parking on airport land but on an adjacent city-owned site.

A detention basin to catch water runoff is now on that Foussat Road property and would have to be moved onto the airport land, Weiss said.

Yesterday, an attorney for the Oceanside Airport Association – a group of about 900 pilots and airport boosters – sent a letter to the City Council, calling for it to formally rescind the Nov. 1 vote at its next meeting.

Council members said yesterday they weren’t ready to do that. Kern added that the agenda for the next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 14, already was loaded.

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