New bill could have made airport's hard-fought win easier

March 27, 2008

New bill could have made airport’s hard-fought win easier

By AOPA ePublishing staff

Watsonville Municipal Airport won’t face encroachment or noise complaints for a while. The Watsonville Pilots Association and Friends of Buena Vista, a neighborhood advocacy group, won a lawsuit March 21 that will prevent the city of Watsonville from building homes north of the airport.

The judge also ruled against the city’s 2005 resolution eliminating a runway safety zone and limiting another.

But the fight to protect Watsonville could have been much easier, and less expensive, had a bill currently in the works in the state legislature already been enacted.

S.B.1118 would strengthen California’s land-use laws by requiring all counties with at least one public-use airport to have an airport land-use commission. The bill affects Santa Cruz County, in which Watsonville is located, and Marin and San Bernardino counties. The Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by bill sponsor Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino), will have a hearing on the bill April 2.

“The Watsonville case perfectly illustrates why California’s airport land-use laws need to be reinforced. Had an airport commission been in place, it would have helped to ensure the city’s decisions complied with the state’s aviation handbook guidelines,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. “That’s why we’ve been supporting this legislation for the last two years.”

The Watsonville City Council, however, wants to maintain control of land use around the airport and voted March 25 to oppose S.B.1118, according to a report in the Santa Cruz County Sentinel .

AOPA will be testifying in support of the bill during the hearing and will be contacting AOPA members whose senators are on the Senate Local Government Committee to ask them to support the bill.

March 27, 2008