Land-use measure passes California legislature

August 31, 2010

California public-use airports would be assured the protection of an airport land-use commission under a bill passed by the state Assembly Aug. 30.

SB 1141 would require airport land-use commissions in each county that has a public-use general aviation airport. AOPA has been working for years to promote this legislation, which could help prevent encroachment and enforce better planning for the land around airports. Now the association has turned its attention to the final hurdle before the legislation can become law: the governor’s desk.

State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, who sponsored the bill, worked with AOPA to advance the legislation and was critical to its success in the Senate; the Senate originally passed the bill June 2.

“Airport land-use commissions are critical to ensuring proper use of land around airports across the state,” said AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro. “Senator Negrete McLeod has showed tremendous perseverance on this significant issue. Now we are working to communicate to the governor how important this measure is for both airports and their neighbors in the community.” The governor’s signature is no mere formality; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has used his veto power liberally during his time in office.

The original law creating airport land-use commissions was enacted in the 1960s, but changes and exemptions since then have allowed some counties to operate airports without having an airport land-use commission. That has meant some construction near airports has not gone through the proper planning—a practice that has led to conflict between airports and their neighbors, such as a multi-year legal battle between the city of Watsonville and pilots that was only recently resolved. SB 1141 would restore the protection that a land-use commission provides, paving the way for positive long-term airport-community relationships, Pecoraro said.