Watsonville Airport Lawsuit Update

Litigation Delay
The court hearing for the lawsuit between the Watsonville Pilots Association (WPA) and the City of Watsonville has been postponed by the superior court in Santa Cruz. Others involved in the lawsuit are: The Friends of Buena Vista (FOBV) Citizen’s Group, The Sierra Club, and The State Division of Aeronautics. At issue is City of Watsonville’s General Plan Update and associated Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which provides for development adjacent to Watsonville Airport off the departure end of runway 26/approach end of runway 8. The hearing scheduled for July 27 and is now delayed until October 12th or later.


When I informed my attorney daughter of this postponement she replied, ?Welcome to litigation…?The impression is that the Court needs more time to study the many issues contained in the briefs.

Some of the sticky questions are:

  • Can a city redefine or reinvent airport land use planning, deviating from State airport land use planning precepts.
  • Can a city redefine acceptable risk to allow high-density development in airport safety zones?
  • Can State Aeronautics Law be interpreted by a city (or county) to allow dodging around the law’s intended goal, …to prevent the creation of new noise and safety problems?
  • Can EIR’s be written to support a predetermined plan? In other words, can an EIR be made-to-fit or reversed engineered?
  • Must a city (or other entity) have additional water available, or can it use possible future water sources in an EIR for planning a development?
  • Social Injustice has become an issue. Is it lawful for an entity to subject certain people to airport noise and increased safety risk from aircraft with emergencies?

These are some of the questions (with associated facts) that have to be carefully studied by the court. These issues are not unique to Watsonville Airport. These are issues that apply to many airports, not only in California, but throughout the country. If this case is appealed, it could be precedent setting.

A CNN commentator, previously with the NTSB, discussed the recent Cessna 310 crash two miles from the Sanford, FL airport. The aircraft impacted two houses. The impact and fire killed five people, three in houses, plus the pilot and the husband of a NASCAR official. The commentator noted growing encroachment problems around airports throughout the country. Encroachment of Sao Palau Airport was involved with the high fatalities in the recent A320 crash there.

The lawsuit regarding encroachment at Watsonville Airport has widespread ramifications that affect the future of airports everywhere.

Dan Chauvet

Dan Chauvet
WPA Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs

Editor?s Note: WPA is a Chapter of the California Pilots Association. We have previously requested that every pilot in the state, and all pilots for that matter, get involved in this potential landmark case. Watsonville cannot be allowed to disregard the state process on EIR’s or the State Aeronautics Airport Land Use Guidelines. Please send your donations to:

% Hal Zamora

Be the first to comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.