Aircraft Owners Still Waiting for Hangars at Oceanside Municipal Airport

Feb. 1--OCEANSIDE ---- Getting 21 hangars built at the Oceanside Municipal Airport has been tricky business, but moving into the hangars has been even trickier.

Twenty-one new hangars at Oceanside Municipal Airport were approved by the Oceanside City Council in 2001, including the first 11, which were finished last summer after two years of work. Electricians are expected to do their final inspection on those buildings this week, allowing San Diego Gas & Electric Co. to hook up meters, the last step before the new hangars are physically ready to host planes and helicopters.

But even then, the aircraft owners who have agreed to rent the hangars for $510 to $740 a month will have to wait to move in.

Last year the city admitted it did not get the proper permits from the city's building department for the hangars, and that issue still hasn't been resolved. Even after that's taken care of, more than 100 people on a waiting list for a hangar will still be left wondering if they'll ever have a home for their aircraft at Oceanside's airport.

"I'll believe it when I see the people move into them," said Harold Davis, airport operations manager. "I wish I could say it was tomorrow."

In September, the City Council put a hold on any plans for new hangars or other improvements to the airport, calling instead for a land-use study to determine the best use for the land. That leaves in limbo plans for 10 hangars adjacent to the new ones, as well as future airport plans that call for as many as 151 total hangars at the airport. The land-use report ---- a joint study by a consultant and the city's Public Works Department ---- is due for council scrutiny in April.

"I would have predicted (the 11 hangers) would have been occupied by now," said Peter Weiss, Oceanside public works director. "Even if they were occupied today, the real issue, regardless of those hangers, is what do we do next?"

The airport is costing the city as much as $50,000 a year, Weiss said, adding that if the city doesn't build more hangars, the airport will continue to lose money.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said last year that development restrictions around the airport have kept potential developers away. Sanchez joined Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Shari Mackin in calling for the land-use study.

Mackin said she is eager to see the report, but wouldn't say what results she expects.

"I'm just anxious to see all the facts in front of me," she said.

Weiss said the "study will be factual," but he predicted the conclusions would not satisfy everyone.

Councilman Rocky Chavez said Tuesday that for any land-use study in Oceanside, the predictable recommendation is usually to use the land for residential purposes.

But "we only have one airport," he said. "It's part of the character of the city. I'm still 100 percent behind the airport. It adds character, and there's enough potential with that airport to redefine what the best use (for the land) would be."

The new hangars not only look nicer than the old ones, but are also taller and feature more room. Those renting the old hangers got first stab at renting the new ones. Davis said more than 100 people are on the waiting list for a hangar, but because the addition of new hangars is far from certain, some people are being referred to other airports, including Fallbrook's.

One of those people who couldn't get a hangar was the new president of the Oceanside Airport Association, Ben Meyers.

"I've got a plane," Meyers said. "Unfortunately, I've got no place to put it." He said that he couldn't get on the waiting list for a hangar in Oceanside, so he took his plane and stored it at the McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad.

"(The Oceanside airport) has been systematically dismantled by the council these past couple years, from the point where it was a sustainable and profitable place, to where, now, it's all on hold," Meyers said. "To continue to stall is just allowing the airport to decay and become obsolete."

Meyers pointed out the same thing that's been told to the council: By accepting federal money in 2003 to purchase land for the airport, the airport must remain open at least 20 more years, and possibly in perpetuity.

"The FAA will not allow this airport to be closed," Meyers said. "It's a grant obligation. What's left to discuss?"