Oceanside – City’s Past Behavior Towards Airport Now An Issue

Sunday, September 9, 2007
Municipal Sabotage?
Aviators’ ‘little gem’ faces costly challenges
By Lola Sherman
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune

It’s been referred to by private pilots as “a little gem of an airport,” but there’s tarnish on the jewel. County officials, the Federal Aviation Administration, and a 1994 master plan for the Oceanside Municipal Airport have pointed out problems at the airfield on state Route 76. The county’s chief administrative officer says “existing deficiencies and risks associated with the Oceanside Airport may cost millions of dollars to resolve.” Walter Ekard, the county’s chief executive, wrote in an Aug. 13 report to the county Board of Supervisors that “liability for past deficiencies and legal actions caused by the city” of Oceanside plagues the airport.

Further, “serious compliance issues with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have occurred without apparent resolution,” Ekard wrote.

Among the issues cited:

  • The 1994 Airport Master Plan says the taxiway and parked aircraft are too close to the runway.

    That has not changed, said Gary Gurley, city general services manager.

    The FAA would not require Oceanside to fix the problem unless the federal agency were to fund a new project at the airport, regional spokesman Ian Gregor said last week.

  • The master plan says there is a 10-foot flight clearance over Benet Road at the west end of the airport, although federal regulations call for a 15-foot clearance.
  • Ekard’s letter said legal problems exist regarding 14.7 acres north of the runway that the city purchased in 2003 with a $2.5 million FAA grant.

    The sales agreement gave the seller, the Deutsch Co., the right to buy back the land if it wasn’t in airport use by March 2008.

    Gregor said he was not familiar with the Deutsch deal, but “any provision calling for the land in question to revert back to the seller would violate the commitment that the city made to the FAA when it accepted federal grant money to buy the property.”

    “In other words, such an agreement would be illegal,” Gregor said.

    Gurley said the vacant land is in airport use because it is a buffer between the airport and adjacent natural habitat.

    Ekard’s staff studied the airport at the direction of the county Board of Supervisors a year ago, to determine if a county takeover would be a good idea. Supervisor Bill Horn, himself a pilot, urged the board to act.

    At the time, the Oceanside City Council was considering whether it could close the airport and develop the site for a shopping center or homes.

    The FAA notified the city that the airport could not be closed, so the council now is seeking a private operator.

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