Land use commission says 'No' to shrinking safety zones

December 10, 2008

Gillespie Airfield, San Diego, CAThe San Diego County Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) has voted not to allow safety zones at Gillespie Field to be reduced in order to accommodate housing within one mile of the airport. The panel also agreed to move ahead with plans to update the airport’s land-use guidelines.

The city of Santee, which abuts Gillespie Field, had asked to eliminate one of the airport’s safety zones in order to develop nearby land for residential use. But in a 6-1 vote, the commissioners determined that the safety zones are vital for the airport and cannot be changed.

“Chipping away at airport protection zones in favor of developers is bad policy, and the ALUC vote to maintain those protected areas shows the panel’s commitment to appropriate development near airports,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of local airport advocacy. “The decision to act in accordance with the Caltrans Airport Design Handbook is critical to preserving the full utility of general aviation airports in the state and San Diego County. This is exactly why the state developed this resource.”

Just last month, AOPA wrote a letter to airport planners emphasizing the association’s strong support for the land-use plan update now under consideration. But that letter also warned that failure to act quickly would leave the airport vulnerable to incompatible development .

The ALUC will now draft an updated land-use plan, along with necessary environmental documents, to be circulated for public comment early in the spring.