DECEMBER 15, 2005
Venture capitalist Reid Dennis keeps a fleet of seven aircraft at Park Avion, the growing complex of luxury private hangars at Hayward Executive Airport. His favorite is a sleek 1946-built Grumman Mallard seaplane he bought 31 years ago.
"It doesn't get flown as much as I like but it's great to go to Tahoe and stuff like that -- land on the lake, go right up to the house," Dennis said.
As he approaches 80, Dennis, a Silicon Valley pioneer, is retiring from his day job but spending a lot of time chartering flights out of Hayward. He is not alone.
Gary Briggs, owner of Hayward-based Ascend Development, recently broke ground on a project that will more than double the size of his Park Avion complex with an additional 80,000 square feet of custom hangar space. Briggs completed his first batch of Hayward hangars in 2003 and is also working on similar projects in Texas and the Northeast.
"We're just really pleased that they're moving ahead with this project," said Shiner, who remembers when Briggs thought up the idea several years ago and drew it on a napkin.
Dennis owns two of Park Avion's existing hangars and is buying another one at the new site that is scheduled to open in 2007.
There is plenty of room in these gleaming polyurethane-coated pads for his flagship seaplane — a bulky Grumman Albatross — or a 96-foot-long, 12-passenger Gulfstream V, which is one of the biggest corporate jets that can fly out of Hayward.
And on any given day, Dennis said, he has friends, family members, big-time brokers or occasionally a member of Congress is getting whisked away from Hayward's municipal airport on one of his planes, avoiding the runway congestion of the big three Bay Area airports. "I live in Woodside and I can get to the Hayward airport faster than I can get to the San Jose airport or the general aviation facilities in San Francisco," Dennis said. "It's very clean, very convenient, limited traffic."
At a rent of about $35,000 a year, Airport Director Brent Shiner said, the new 80,000 Park Avion addition will be a boon to the city-owned airport. "The potential of this airport to serve this market of corporate aircraft is pretty strong, and we've always known that," Shiner said. "Any time we have more aircraft that will be based at the airport, it helps all of our businesses."
Not everyone in Hayward is enthusiastic about the corporate traffic. John Kyle, who lives on nearby Teakwood Street, doesn't object to hangar developers making a profit. But Kyle said he is bothered about how much of a burden neighborhood taxpayers have to bear for a city-owned facility that brings in air and noise pollution and costs millions to keep up.
"I don't think they're paying enough rent to justify that acreage, and I know there is going to be bigger debts," Kyle said. "When you talk about $35,000 in rent for an 80,000 square-foot building, they've got a bargain."
Shiner said the local benefits of a growing airport do not just come from rents. Although Hayward, unlike some other airports, collects no landing fees, aircraft owners pay property taxes to the county. The city also gets a percentage of revenue from fuel sales, Shiner said.
Jason Jepson, a spokesman for Ascend, said people willing to pay up to $60 million for a jet are willing to buy a $1 million luxury hangar rather than keep the plane in a plywood rental.
Briggs said the people who buy his high-end hangars are serving clients who need to travel worldwide on a moment's notice. He said the completion of a wider, less congested Hayward-San Mateo Bridge made Hayward's airport more popular for Peninsula executives. "It's really a function of the fact that the private jet industry is increasing so rapidly," Briggs said. "Airline travel has become so cumbersome and time-consuming over the last few years."
Dennis said he longs for the days when first-class travel meant something other than sitting in the front end of the plane with frequent flyer customers and off-duty airline staff. The hangars at Hayward's Park Avion feature wine cellars, enormous windows and "relaxation rooms." Dennis said about 70 percent of his travelers are business people who make last-minute appointments, while about 30 percent are acquaintances who use the aircraft for travel and plan well in advance. "We get a lot of business going to Montana. It's a place that a lot of people in the Bay Area have become enamored of," Dennis said. "People have ranches up there and not everybody has their own airplane."
Dennis, who is about to give up his venture capital work, said his air travel business in Hayward keeps growing steadily. "It's an interesting business. It's a fascinating business," Dennis said. "The charter business keeps me occupied, off the streets and out of the bars."
Source: Hayward Daily Review