Dracula Rises Again
By Raymond Bender
At the well-attended November 16 meeting of the Palomar Airport Advisory Committee (PAAC), one of the PAAC members resurrected one of the County of San Diego’s favorite draconian questions: If you bought a house knowing an airport was in the area, why are you complaining? Ignore the noise. Endure the traffic congestion. Don’t breathe until you are far enough away. Brush the soot off your car. And do it graciously.
That was the gist of what a San Marcos mobile home park resident was told when she asked why aircraft had to fly so low over her mobile home.
With apologies to Jack Nicholson in the movie “A Few Good Men,” the county sentiment seems to be:
“I [the county] have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man (woman) who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I [the county] provide, then question the manner in which I provide it. I prefer you said thank you, and went on your way … I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!” [Jack Nicholson, as Colonel Jessup]
How many times do you have to drive a stake through Dracula’s heart to kill him? Once you know the facts, the PAAC member’s question to the San Marcos resident seems uninformed at best and down right irreverent at worst. The stakes through the PAAC member’s Dracula question are these:
16 San Diego Airports. In addition to San Diego International airport, there are 11 public and private airports in San Diego County and four military airports. The County of San Diego operates eight airports. (See County 2011 General Plan, p. 4-18).
So how do you not buy a house impacted by an expanding airport? A large aircraft leaving McClellan-Palomar (Palomar) Airport at 120 knots per minute travels more than 2 miles per minute. If you live ten miles from the airport, the aircraft is over your house in five minutes. Less if the pilot quickly accelerates to 300 knots per minute.
Carlsbad Planning and Zoning Restrictions. Suppose you want to buy a house in Carlsbad, perhaps at Robertson Ranch, now selling. As a buyer, you do your due diligence. Palomar Airport is in Carlsbad. You go to Carlsbad City Hall. You look at the Carlsbad zoning. You read Carlsbad Municipal Code (MC) § 21.53.015, which seems to say the airport will not expand without a vote of Carlsbad residents. You also read Carlsbad Conditional Use Permit (CUP) 172 under which the county operates Palomar Airport. The CUP says that Palomar is suppose to be a General Aviation basic transport airport and won’t expand unless the Carlsbad Planning Commission amends CUP 172.
Beleaguered, but comforted, you plunk down your $1.1 million for your new house.
The Shoe Drops. The county’s 2017-2037 Palomar Airport Master Plan (PMP), which will be released in a month or two, proposes first extending the runway, then relocating it north 120 feet, and estimates passenger flow could increase from the current 50,000 per year to 575,000 in the future.
Now, happily settled in your new Carlsbad home, you ask when the Carlsbad vote will be. Supervisor Bill Horn and Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall tell you the airport is not expanding and there is no vote. They say Palomar can increase the number of flights at Palomar and the number of passengers served to any limit county wishes. “Expansion,” they say, means the county changes the airport borders.
Residents in the city of Vista, just north of Palomar Airport, have complained about aircraft using Palomar changing their flight paths in the last year or two. They have asked the county and the FAA: Why the change? Most recently, the Vista residents expressed their concerns at a meeting between the Vista residents and a newly formed citizens group called Citizens for a Friendly Airport (C4FA).
C4FA has created a website to review McClellan-Palomar Airport development and will be adding information to the website in the next few months, especially as county releases its 2017-2037 Palomar Master Plan (PMP) and PMP EIR in December 2017 or January 2018. See C4FA.org.
What was the FAA and county response to Vista residents? Do not believe your ears or eyes; the flight paths over Vista neighborhoods have not really changed noticeably.
So there seem to be several possibilities explaining the different perceptions of community residents, the county, and the FAA. These include:
- The Vista residents are delusional. Break out the clozapine.
- Hire Ghostbusters to track down the spirits.
- Ask the county whether any businesses have requested changes in Palomar flight paths to shift aircraft noise, at least temporarily.
- Thousands of pilots independently and without prompting decided to change their flight paths to move traffic north of Carlsbad into Vista.
As they say, inquiring minds want to know.
Ray Bender, San Marcos resident; retired City Attorney; J.D. UCLA; MBA UCLA Anderson School of Business.