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California city goes to court over airport landCalifornia city goes to court over airport land

On the heels of approving a major long–term development agreement for Oceanside Municipal Airport, the city is taking action to prevent the sale of airport land, asking a federal judge to sort out the controversy over nearly 15 acres of property.

Oceanside purchased the land in 2003 using federal Airport Improvement Program funds. At the time, the city agreed to develop the land for aeronautical purposes within five years and not to sell the land without FAA approval. But under the purchase agreement with Deutsch Co., the city also agreed that if it had not developed the land within five years, Deutsch Co. could buy it back at the same price the city paid—a right Deutsch’s successor company, AELD, now wants to exercise.

Earlier this year, the FAA told the city that it could not sell the land back to Deutsch because it used federal money for the purchase, leaving the city caught between conflicting obligations.

Now Oceanside is asking a federal judge to sort out the mess in light of a 50–year “development lease” approved by the city council last month. That lease would allow Airport Property Ventures, a Los Angeles–based company that includes former executives of the agency that runs Los Angeles International Airport, to spend $21 million on airport improvements over the next 25 years.

“It is encouraging that the city of Oceanside recognizes the need to retain this land for airport development and is taking proactive steps to resolve the conflicts surrounding its ownership,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of local airport advocacy. “We have fought hard for this airport and will support the city’s efforts to retain ownership of the property.”

AOPA has been actively involved in working with Oceanside users and the Oceanside Airport Association to fight attempts to sell airport property and place restrictions on airport use. 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 because part of the airport property was acquired with federal funds specifically for airport development.

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