Palo Alto officials, faced with uncertainty about the long-term viability of the city airport, have begun looking around for a new management organization to run the 70-year-old facility at the edge of San Francisco Bay.
Among the suggestions: a private company, a non-profit organization run by airport users or a joint powers authority of surrounding cities.
The city owns the propeller-plane airport in the baylands, but it has been run by the Santa Clara County airport authority since 1967. Michael Murdter, the county's airport director, told city council members this week that the county has no interest in continuing to run the airfield after the city-county contract expires in 2017.
The issue is money, Murdter said. He described the airport as a financial risk, unlike the other two small airports run by the county, San Jose's Reid-Hillview and the South County Airport in San Martin.
Carl Yeats, Palo Alto's director of administrative services, is heading up the city effort, guided by a city council vote in July, to keep the busy airport going past 2017. His first step is to get a copy of the county's financial analysis ``and see what they're talking about,'' he said.
County airport officials are expected to formalize their stance to drop out after 2017 in a comprehensive plan due out in mid-October. The plan must be ratified by county supervisors, but Supervisor Liz Kniss, who represents Palo Alto, said airport officials probably have the backing of the majority of the supervisors.
``The city's going to have to deal with it,'' said Ralph Britton, the president of the Palo Alto Airport Association, a group of pilots, aircraft owners and business owners.
Murdter and other county officials have argued that the airport needs to build more small storage hangars that could be rented out to aircraft owners at a profit. But there have been objections to more hangars from some residents because of the airport's proximity to the wetlands in the Baylands Nature Preserve.
City council member Judy Kleinberg said that, whatever the management, ``We will need more hangars, because there's a need and it's a money maker.'' The most likely site for new hangars, along Embarcadero Road, belongs to the airport and ``is already graveled-over land,'' she said.
She suggested that Stanford University, which uses the airport for emergency medical flights, should get involved in the process.
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