Thursday, September 21, 2006
County to study taking control of Oceanside airport
By Leslie Wolf Branscomb
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune
The troubled Oceanside Municipal Airport may be taken over by the county. Supervisor Bill Horn is asking for information from Oceanside officials so county officials can analyze what it would take to keep the 70-year-old general-aviation airport in business. The Oceanside City Council has recently discussed closing the money-losing airport, which caters to small private planes, and using the land for something more profitable.
Whether the closure would be allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration is still in question.
Horn said last night that he considers the airport a regional asset, and thinks the county can turn it around. The county already operates eight small airports, including McClellan-Palomar in Carlsbad, Gillespie Field in El Cajon and the Borrego Valley and Ramona airports.
“I know it’s in Oceanside, but it serves the entire region,” said Horn, whose district includes the 50-acre airport. “I just would like to see if there’s some way to save this asset. “We could step in and relieve the city of its burden,” Horn said. “We could make it into a profitable operation.”
Local pilots like the idea, said Ben Meyers, president of the Oceanside Airport Association, a private group. “We’d always hoped that we’d find an owner of the airport that really likes airports. We have a council that seems like it really resents having one.”
At the City Council meeting last night, longtime airport opponent June Kristapovich reiterated her objections to any continuing use of the field. The noise and danger created by the planes, she said, make it unsafe for children to play outside. “People are prisoners in their own homes,” Kristapovich said.
Council candidate C.C. Sanders noted that the airport existed when he came to Oceanside as a young Marine in 1963. People built their houses around it and should not complain, he said.
The airport, on state Route 76 about two miles from the coast, was originally an emergency airfield for the Navy. It has one 2,700-foot runway and is home to about 70 small aircraft.
Late yesterday, Horn asked that his request be put on the agenda for the Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting. Horn is asking the chief administrative officer to send a letter to Oceanside officials requesting information necessary to evaluate the possibility – including costs and benefits – of county ownership.
The request would include information on financial, legal, environmental and operational factors.
Horn is asking the county staff to report its findings to the supervisors within three months.
The estimated cost of a study is $10,000, which would come from the county Land Use and Environment Department’s general reserves.
According to the city, the airport costs $455,000 annually to operate, but brings in only $375,000.
The council has refused grants to improve the airport until a study of possible alternative uses for the land is completed.
Mayor Jim Wood has said the property is worth $35 million.
Council members were in session last night and could not be reached for comment.
Editor’s Note: I find it interesting that the Mayor has assigned a dollar value to the airport land. Could it be the Mayor and anti-airport city council members were already counting the revenue? We have found that when airports are threatened it is always advisable to follow the money to understand the actual motive behind the issue.