San Diego Airport Panel Aims to Pick Site June 5

Officials working to settle on a new airport site may be within five weeks of a decision, having already pared three dozen options to a handful of imperfect finalists.

The board of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority yesterday agreed to try to end deliberations on a site for a future regional airport at its June 5 meeting.

The board, which has fractured over site selection in the past few months, agreed to the deadline after discussing whether there should be a backup meeting the week of June 5, whether to limit public speakers to save time and what accommodations, if any, to make for board members whose other jobs prevent them from attending an all-day meeting.

Resolution to those issues will be left to Chairman Joseph Craver, who said a final site choice could be continued to the following week.

"It's going to be important that all the board members be present," Craver said.

Lawyer Paul Peterson, one of nine appointed board members, said the June 5 meeting should start early and end late, if needed, to bring closure to the project.

"Let's try to get it all done in one day," Peterson said.

The site-selection project began in 2002 under the San Diego Association of Governments as an effort to end more than 40 years of debate over replacing the single-runway Lindbergh Field when it reaches capacity.

The Legislature created the airport authority in 2003 to make a decision and take it to voters in a countywide advisory measure, to appear on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The board and its consultants have narrowed their attention to two civilian sites -- East County's Boulevard and the Yuha Desert of southwestern Imperial County -- and three military installations. The board also is keeping Lindbergh Field as a fallback option.

This year, the board has split 6-3 between a majority willing at least to consider joint use of Miramar Marine Corps Air Station or another military installation, and a minority that believes the Defense Department's steadfast opposition is an insurmountable barrier.

Capt. Mike Allen, chief of staff for Navy Region Southwest, reiterated the military's opposition in a brief address to the board yesterday, accusing the agency of "a conscious decision to ignore" issues of military readiness and public safety that would arise from joint use.

A detailed technical analysis from the airport agency's consulting team, weighing the feasibility of a civilian airport at the Marine Corps' Miramar Air Station and Camp Pendleton and the North Island Naval Air Station, is the biggest piece of unfinished business in the site-selection project.

Consultants also have warned that the Boulevard and Imperial County sites may be too far from central San Diego for millions of passengers.

Whatever the agency's choice, it won't be a one-runway "supplemental" airport in North County.

The board yesterday voted 6-3 against resurrecting an idea, discarded in February, of looking for sites where only a single runway could be accommodated to augment Lindbergh Field. Consultants have said passenger counts would be too low and operating costs too high.

Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Teresa Sessom and board colleagues Xema Jacobson and Robert Maxwell, who oppose the joint use proposals, wanted the North County option retained.

Consultants had identified geographically suitable sites near Valley Center and in Rancho Guejito.

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