Oceanside looks to private company to run airport

May 22, 2008

After years of contentious debate over the future of Oceanside Municipal, the city council is negotiating with a private company to operate the California airport for as long as 50 years.

In a May 14 vote, the Oceanside City Council agreed to negotiate with Airport Property Ventures of Los Angeles, a company that includes former executives of the agency that runs Los Angeles International Airport, to operate Oceanside Municipal. The company asked for a 50-year lease and promised to spend $21 million on airport improvements over the next 25 years.

“This is the first time in many years that significant development projects are being planned for the airport, and we’re cautiously optimistic that this will be a turning point for its future,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of local airport advocacy. “But we also need to remember that this is just a first step. A final contract still needs to be negotiated and approved.”

AOPA has fought hard to keep Oceanside open in the face of numerous schemes to close the field and redevelop the land for nonaviation uses. In 2006, airport supporters scored a major victory when AOPA-backed education efforts led to the election of pro-airport council members.

Then in January 2007, the FAA told the city of Oceanside in no uncertain terms that it must keep the airport open in perpetuity. That’s because part of the airport property was acquired with federal funds specifically for airport development, obligating the city to keep the entire airport open and operating indefinitely, even if it accepts no additional federal money.