Palomar Airport Expansion Issues: What Can the Public Do? Blog #6

UnRaveling the Airport Rubik's Cube


Remember the Rubik’s cube?  The twistable puzzle-cube with multi-colored sides.  When the puzzle is solved, each cube side has only one color.   Identifying your rights to challenge a Palomar Airport project is somewhat like unraveling a Rubik’s cube. The path is confusing.   The FAA and County do not make it easy.

Public Opposition: the History

In Blog #4, we learned that a Carlsbad ordinance allows voters to vote on Palomar Airport expansion.  But only if the expansion requires an amendment to the Carlsbad zoning or planning laws. 

The Ordinance started as a citizen initiative.  In 1979, the County wanted a second Palomar runway on land north of the airport.   When concerned Carlsbad citizens petitioned the Carlsbad City Council, the council saw the writing on the wall.

The County then forgot the second runway.   But the County did not forget its expansion plans.  Fast forward twenty-five years.  

Citizens Asleep at the Switch #1?

In the mid-2000s, a curious thing happened.   The County was allowed to relocate its on-airport parking to newly acquired land off the airport.  Without a vote of the people.

When it was first adopted, the Carlsbad ordinance was viewed as preventing any use of off-airport property for airport purposes without a public vote.  But in the mid 2000s the County convinced the Carlsbad Council that the off-airport parking was permitted by the City general plan and zoning.   Hence, no vote.

Lesson 1?  If enough people express their concerns about Palomar Airport expansion, Council members will listen.   Their jobs depend on it.

Lesson 2?  When the pressure on politicians fades, so does their resolve.

Citizens Asleep at the Switch #2?

Within the next 4 months, the Carlsbad City Council and the Board of Supervisors will need to decide whether Palomar Airport should remain a “Basic Transport General Aviation” Airport as Carlsbad Conditional Use Permit [CUP] 172 now provides.

In Blog #4, we learned that Carlsbad granted CUP 172 to the County to operate Palomar as a limited use airport.   Carlsbad staff – when commenting on the FAA California Pacific Airlines [CPA] environmental assessment three months ago -  stated that CUP 172 would have to be amended to allow the substantial increase in passenger traffic that CPA proposes.

Will the County Board of Supervisors request such a CUP 172 modification?  Will Carlsbad grant such a modification?  Will the grant require a change in the Carlsbad zoning and/or planning laws and hence a vote of the people?  Or will Carlsbad simply act by council vote as it did when approving the airport’s off-airport parking in the mid-2000s?   What  California Environmental Quality Act [CEQA] analysis will be prepared for such an action?

Citizens Asleep at the Switch #3?

The County’s 15-month study to lengthen the Palomar Airport runway from 4900 feet to 6000 feet ends soon.  Based on its history, the County will likely try to extend the runway by preparing a CEQA negative declaration rather than the required Environmental Impact Report.   Then the County Board of Supervisors will vote to approve the runway extension.  

Based on Exhibit A to Conditional Use Permit 172, the County will assert that no Carlsbad approval is required.   Why?  Because Exhibit A gives the County substantial discretion to develop its existing Palomar site.     Such substantial discretion may in fact exist as long as the County is not converting the airport from a basic transport general aviation airport to an airport for regularly scheduled larger planes handling commercial airline passengers. 

So what should citizens opposed to unlimited Palomar Airport expansion do?  For beginners, insist that the FAA, County, and Carlsbad properly and timely disclose their intentions to the public.   Then, insist these agencies prepare proper environmental analyses.

Next Week: Blog #7 Palomar Airport Expansion Issues: Sidestepping Palomar Airport Environmental Requirements.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Skip Stein December 04, 2012 at 06:06 PM
As far as the safety concerns of the runway expansion of Palomar, I will leave it to the experts and hope they due diligence on this subject. I am for the expansion of Palomar airport as it will bring more guests to the area and therefor aid our economy. I would like to share a thought, I have seen in other areas of the country where there may have been a military air field in the neighborhood when houses were built and sure enough, several years later the residents started whining about the noise, etc. of the air base. Unfortunately, in many cases the air base ended up being closed. My comment is simple, regardless of the current and future 'regs' of the subject, if you see planes and an airport when you buy your house and do not like it, go somewhere else. One last comment, when LAX expanded back in the 1970's, they bought out and tore down a rundown neighborhood in the path of the expansion, therefor eliminating the problem. If the land is open and slated for commercial use, as much of the area around Palomar is, then shift this commercial development to another open canyon or mesa of Carlsbad or Vista. Is it not the residential land developers that are driving the residential boom?
Luke Miracco August 12, 2013 at 01:16 PM
Sorry Skip I have to disagree. Palomar was a small airport surrounded by residential areas through out the 1990s. It is only with the recent upgrades, parking, hangers etc. and now potential expansion where we see a significant increase in air traffic. That is not fair to those communities and homeowners who lived in and around the airport. That is changing the rules of the game. Let me add that the footprint is getting wider and larger. More planes and larger planes will now impact even those communities 3-5 miles away from the airport. It will impact all of South Carlsbad including the beaches, hotels and shopping areas in a negative way because no one goes on vacation to a beach with screaming jets overhead. This is simply poor planning.


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