Cool airport ruckus

IT'S TIME FOR RESIDENTS near the Livermore Municipal Airport to cool their jets.

The city has selected a private company to take over fuel sales and other concessions at the airport as well as construction of new hangars. But, residents from Livermore and Pleasanton who live nearby are warning that this is the first step in a major expansion. Pleasanton city officials also have gotten involved, insisting on completion of an environmental impact report before the new company takes over.

The complaints appear to be a case of overheated NIMBYism based on a lot of unfounded fears.

First, the airport has been in its current location since 1965, before most of the homes in the area were built. So the residents should expect some airplane noise in their neighborhood.

Second, residents warn that the 65 new hangars will lead to increased traffic at the airport. Actually, there are already nearly 400 hangars at the airport and the new ones will replace about 50 to 100 outdoor tie-downs for aircraft. So there's unlikely to be much difference in the number of flights in and out of the airport.

Third, an increase in airport traffic should not be a deal-breaker. After all, even if there were an increase in traffic, it's unlikely to offset the more than 25 percent decrease in the past seven years.

There are currently about 175,000 takeoffs and landings at the airport each year, down from peaks of about 240,000 in 1999 and 275,000 in 1993.

Demand for use of the airport is much more a factor of the business economy than of the new hangars or concessions.

Fourth, residents warn that the improvements will lead to more jet traffic. Newer jets can actually be quieter than some propeller planes. Moreover, jets account for less than 2 percent of the flights at the airport.

Finally, residents and the city of Pleasanton said that Livermore should have completed an environmental impact report before recently signing a lease with the new company, Livermore Air Center LLC. The city and residents are concerned about the noise impact from any changes at the airport. They are entitled to know what that is.

But, the company isn't expected to take over operations for another year or two. The city of Livermore plans to require an EIR before approving the company's plans for the hangars and a new fuel center. That seems to be the appropriate time for an environmental review.

Meanwhile, Livermore officials would help their case if they would openly address some of the issues that concern residents. They should provide assurances that the airport won't turn into a large-scale air cargo depot; that regularly scheduled charter service will not be permitted; and that nighttime air traffic will be minimized. They should also be forthcoming about any plans for expansion.

In sum, the city needs to be transparent and responsive to neighbors' concerns. And those nearby residents need to be realistic about life near an airport.


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