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San Diego office tower
Photo by John Grasberger

Contractor agrees to lower height of building near San Diego airport

After San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders on June 22 ordered a contractor to remove the top 20 feet of an office tower near Montgomery Field, the contractor finally acquiesced. The 180-foot building was deemed a hazard to air navigation by the FAA last year.

"This is a textbook example of how the outcome of a complex airport advocacy issue can be influenced when there is a concerted effort by those affected," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports.

San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre had contacted AOPA seeking assistance. The association also worked closely with the FAA to ensure that any alternatives proposed by the contractor, Sunroad Enterprises, would not have a negative impact on the airport.

"AOPA brought the national perspective to this issue and provided technical expertise on the FAA's processes," added Dunn.

An attorney for Sunroad said on June 26 that the company will lower the building to 160 feet, the maximum allowed by the FAA to ensure safety of flight, according to The San Diego Union Tribune .

This comes after months of legal wrangling where Sunroad went ahead and finished the project, despite warnings from the FAA that the building was too tall. The California Division of Aeronautics, local pilots, and AOPA shared the same opinion. In fact, AOPA and the local pilots organization, Community Airfields Association of San Diego (CAASD), which includes AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Rick Beach, are parties to a lawsuit against Sunroad.

At a June 22 press conference, the mayor announced the city's latest stop-work order for the 12-story project. Sunroad has until August 25 to reduce the height of the building. Sunroad executives initially said they would comply with the stop-work order but did not commit until June 26 to tearing down the two top stories.

Sunroad reportedly has plans for two more buildings in the same location.

Meanwhile, Aguirre and the mayor have been at odds over the project. Aguirre has alleged that the mayor acted inappropriately by allowing a campaign donor to build a tall building so close to the airport. The state attorney general's office will now investigate corruption claims against the mayor, the newspaper said.

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