Pleasanton may file suit over airport

Pleasanton soon may file a lawsuit against the city of Livermore for approving an increase in operations at their city airport without first analyzing potential environmental effects.

"We have talked to Livermore on numerous occasions," said Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho, who added that he has not yet received a response.

Last week, Pleasanton sent a letter "once again requesting that the city of Livermore perform an environmental review to determine what impacts, if any, could be expected as a result of the approval of the ground lease."

The Livermore City Council unanimously approved a contract with a private operator in June to manage fuel sales and 65 new hangars at the Livermore Municipal Airport.

"They approved the lease without an environmental review," said Pleasanton City Attorney Michael Roush. "We're discussing whether or not we want to challenge that action."

Airport manager Leander Hauri could not be reached for comment, but Darren Greenwood of the Public Works Department said the consensus among airport officials is that an environmental review isn't needed until a final, specific plan is submitted by the new operator.

"It's a question of whether we should do it now or wait until we have a better idea of what's coming in and do it then," Greenwood said.

He added that Pleasanton's letter has one promising aspect -- a willingness by that city to split the cost of a long-awaited and expensive noise analysis.

Roush said Pleasanton officials have until late December -- 180 days from the date the lease was approved -- to file a lawsuit in Superior Court alleging a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.

The Pleasanton City Council met in closed session Oct. 16 and will meet in closed session again Nov. 6 to discuss the anticipated litigation, Roush said.

Any litigation that could halt the proposed changes at the Livermore Municipal Airport probably would come as a welcome respite to the large group of vocal Livermore and Pleasanton residents who have complained that more hangars and a private operator will bring more jets to the airport.

"The bottom line is about noise and pollution and property values," said Max Curtis, who is part of a coalition of about 450 residents opposed to bringing in a private operator.

They say the city will lose control of airport operations, and the result will be an increase in airport traffic. Curtis said the airport could start allowing charter passenger flights to use the grounds. He is most concerned about noise from small jets.

Livermore Air Center LLC, the operator that won the contract in June, expects fuel sales to increase by 15 percent in the first year of operation and 5 percent annually after that. A projected revenue study lists about 65 percent of the fuel as being jet grade.

"The jets that come in are much more intrusive," said Curtis, who lives about three miles east of the airport. "They make a much more obnoxious sound than propeller planes."

Curtis said he also doesn't like the looks of a proposed 25,000-foot main hangar.

"What kind of jets do you think will use that?" he asked. "Big jets. Whatever they can fit through the door, that's what they're going to put in there."

City documents state that the space will be used for "engine repair activities, hangar keeping and any permitted aeronautical activity," such as flight training.

In a letter sent to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission earlier this month, Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena stated that the city has no desire to substantially increase airport activity.

A Bay Area airport planning board suggested in September that some passenger and cargo service could be rerouted from main hubs to outlying airports such as Livermore's.

Kamena's letter says that, according to the city's general plan, the airport is a "general aviation facility" not certified for commercial service, and there is no intent to change that.

According to city reports, aircraft operation at the Livermore airport has decreased 35 percent in the past seven years, and current activity is similar to that in the mid-1980s.

City officials have said that airport improvement plans will not appreciably increase the number of flights.

But Curtis said he believes that ultimately the airport operator is going to be seeking a profit -- which would come with more takeoffs and landings.

"They wouldn't be doing this is if they thought they'd survive on putt-putts," he said. "The idea about (taking over operations) is that you're going to entice jet traffic into the airport. Everything they are doing caters to that."

Meera Pal covers Pleasanton. Reach her at 925-847-2120 or . Eric Kurhi covers Livermore. Reach him at 925-847-2184 or .

If you go

WHAT: Pleasanton City Council

WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 6

WHERE: City Council chamber, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

The council will discuss potential mitigation regarding the Livermore airport during a closed session, but comments may be made during the open-session portion of the meeting.