[Archive Home][Date Prev][Date Next][Index]
"Terminal NIMBYism: San Diego Fiddled While Other Southern California Cities Expanded Aviation Infrastructure"
Monday, May 15, 2006
Airport Plan May Pit Navy Against San Diego Civilians
The military rejects the notion of joint use of its facilities, but Miramar
may be a replacement site for Lindbergh Field. A report is due today.
By Tony Perry
The Los Angeles (CA) Times
SAN DIEGO - In describing the economic and social relationship between the
Navy and the San Diego region, the secretary of the Navy last week reached
for a business comparison.
"The Navy has been the anchor tenant of the city and county of San Diego for
many, many years," Donald Winter said.
If so, the two sides seem headed for the biggest landlord-tenant dispute in
their history, over the issue of a new civilian airport.
For half a century, civic leaders have said the region's economic future is
imperiled by an airport that is convenient to downtown but woefully
But finding a site for a new airport is an exercise in NIMBYism.
Now a consensus appears to be coalescing around the idea that, if San Diego
is to replace Lindbergh Field, the new airport will have to be at Miramar
Marine Corps Air Station, North Island Naval Air Station or Camp Pendleton,
all of which have runways and lots of open space.
Miramar, smack in the middle of the city, is the clear favorite.
The mantra is joint use for civilian and military aircraft, even though the
Navy and Marine Corps have repeatedly, emphatically, unequivocally, rejected
Today, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, created in 2001 to
slice the Gordian knot, is to release its analysis of the three military
The authority has set a June 5 deadline to pick a site that could be
submitted to voters in November.
Technically, the vote is only advisory, but if voters say yes to a site, the
airport authority will start gathering the billions of dollars needed to
build a new airport.
Some local officials believe that, if the public endorses, say, Miramar, the
military will cave in or Congress will order the military to accept the
joint use concept, which is in limited use at other military bases.
So when Winter visited here, part of his mission was to convince the locals
that they are wasting their time on Miramar, North Island and Pendleton.
The debate will only "create a lot of collateral damage between the
Navy-Marine Corps team and the citizens of San Diego," Winter told several
hundred members of the San Diego Military Advisory Council assembled for
breakfast at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, where the roar of planes from
Lindbergh could be heard.
Steve Erie, a professor of political science at UC San Diego who thinks
joint use is worth considering, said the city and the military seem to be
playing "a game of chicken."
There is no indication that Winter's comments changed any minds on the
authority, where the majority appears to favor Miramar.
"When I got into this three years ago, we were looking for the best
location," said authority member William Lynch. "Now I realize that Miramar
is the only location. It has 23,000 acres; we need, at most, 5,000."
Through nearly all of its history, San Diego has depended on the
infrastructure kindness of strangers. Without Los Angeles International
Airport, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the Los Angeles-based
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, San Diego County would
not be nearly as populous or prosperous, Erie said.
While San Diego has fiddled, other areas have built airports that can
accommodate international passenger flights and large-scale cargo flights.
Lindbergh Field is a quarter of the size of airports in Oakland, St. Louis,
Cleveland and Tampa, Fla., each of which serves regions of about the same
Lindbergh Field, with 200,000 arrivals and departures annually, is the
busiest one-runway airport in the country. At some point, it will reach
Hemmed in by the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Lindbergh lacks room for a
second runway or a longer one.
At 9,400 feet, the runway cannot accommodate planes bound for the markets or
tourist destinations of Asia.
In theory, five locations are still in the running.
In addition to the three military sites, authority members have identified
vacant land near the rural communities of Boulevard and Campo and a spot in
the Imperial Valley desert.
The former is 69 miles from downtown San Diego, the latter 104 miles, making
the chances of public acceptance of either site somewhat remote.
Winter, a former president of Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Missiles System
sector, repeated the theme that decades of Navy and Marine Corps brass have
sounded: Mixing jets and helicopters with commercial airlines is too
dangerous and would hurt military readiness.
"The safety issue and mission implications are just overwhelming," he said.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon), chairman of the House Armed Services
Committee, is not waiting for the November vote. He added language in the
defense spending bill approved last week that would ban civilian use of any
local military airports, earning him a rare rebuke from the editorial page
of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Disputes between the city and the military, though not common, are not
unprecedented. In 1980s, then-Mayor Pete Wilson, a former Marine, was
furious when the Navy condemned land on the edge of Balboa Park for a new
hospital after the measure failed to win voter approval.
The airport dispute comes at a delicate time for the Navy and City Hall.
The two sides are negotiating the future of Navy-owned property along the
Embarcadero, a 15-acre site touted as the last piece of prime downtown
waterfront real estate.
Once the analysis of the three military sites is released today, the airport
authority plans a series of public hearings.
Already videos are being shown in the airport warning of increased ticket
prices and canceled flights if a bigger airport is not built soon.
"We've just got to get the people and the politicians to focus on this
issue," Lynch said. "This community is between a rock and a hard place.
We're all patriotic but.. "
Do you have an opinion about this story?
Share it with other readers in our CAA Discussion Forums
Fair Use Notice
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
If you have any queries regarding this issue, please Email us at email@example.com