Council Wants Palo Alto Airport Open Past 2017

The Palo Alto City Council has endorsed the future of the city's airport, pleasing pilots by agreeing that the airport should stay open beyond 2017, when its lease expires.

But strong disagreement over additional airplane hangars still remains between the city, which owns the airport, and Santa Clara County, which operates it under a 50-year lease signed in 1967.

Dozens of pilots cheered Monday night when the city council agreed to guarantee the airport's operation past 2017, clearing the way for $1.8 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration for such things as security fences, runway lights and a weather station.

Dena Mossar was the only dissenter in the 7-1 vote; Hillary Freeman was absent.

The FAA had demanded written assurances from either the city council or county airport authorities that planes would continue flying for 20 years, until 2025. Michael Murdter, Santa Clara County's director of roads and airports, had said he couldn't make the assurances unless the land lease is extended past 2017.

The core lingering issue is whether the city will allow the construction of more hangars where private pilots can store their airplanes out of the weather. County officials say the hangars are needed to bring in rent payments and keep the airport profitable.

Without the hangars, Murdter said, the county may choose to walk away from the airport in 2017.

The city, however, is hesitant to allow more hangars because of the airport's location next to wetlands at the edge of San Francisco Bay. v The current sparring is an attempt by the county to pressure the city for permission to build more hangars, said Assistant City Manager Emily Harrison.