Council Takes First Step to Upgrade Oceanside Airport

OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- Voters who elected two pro-airport candidates in November got what they wanted late Wednesday -- a promise to upgrade the airport.

They even got an unexpected vote from Mayor Jim Wood.

By a 4-1 margin, council members told the city staff to study improvement needs at the airport and report back in 90 days with how to finance them.

After years of friction over the airport, the council stated the airport should be operated in perpetuity. The council said the county Board of Supervisors' interest in acquiring the airport should be considered, and a "good neighbor policy" for nearby residents should be drafted.

The council acknowledged that it must deal with the Citizens for a Better Oceanside organization. And as the result of a lawsuit, it must do a full environmental impact report before expanding the airport on the north side of its 50-acre site adjacent to state Route 76.

Wood did not like the wording about keeping the airport "in perpetuity," but the Federal Aviation Administration requires that the airport stay open to keep the country's transportation system whole. The mayor said he went along with the proposal to seek funds to improve the airport because the election of airport supporters Jerry Kern and Rocky Chavez told him that's what voters wanted.

"I want to give the airport a shot at being what it can be," he said.

A trio of airport supporters addressed the council.

"We've really come a long way," said Ron Cozad, a frequent council critic. Karl Higgins said the airport could benefit the city, and Ben Meyers called it "a thrill for us all to be on the brink of development."

Wood said he hopes the local and national pilots organizations who poured more than $65,000 into the election will spend some on the airport as well.

"As much as you spent on the last election, spend that on the airport," Wood said directly to the airport supporters in the front row.

One of the airport's staunchest opponents, Rayford Scott, was disappointed yesterday.

"I think it's stupid," he said of the council action. "That airport's nothing but a financial disaster, always has been and always will be."

Wood was concerned Wednesday when City Attorney John Mullen said revenue from a lease of airport property, for example from a proposed Costco store, would have to stay with the airport and could not be transferred to the city's general fund to pay for more police officers or other city needs.

The FAA has told the city it can't lease the land for commercial use, but city officials still hope to make money by putting a big-box discount store on adjacent city land.

Only Councilwoman Esther Sanchez maintained her opposition Wednesday.

Sanchez likened the airport to a special-interest park akin to the city's dog park. But, she said, the dog park is used by more people.

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DETAILS

What:

Oceanside Municipal Airport.

When:

Built in 1963.

Where:

50 acres in the San Luis Rey Valley adjacent to state Route 76.

Who:

The city staff to determine how to find funds to improve the airport. Members of Citizens for a Better Oceanside oppose expansion.

How much:

Airport has an annual budget of $468,000.

How many:

About 65 planes based here. Council action has restricted eventual capacity to about 150 craft.



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