MARCH 24, 2010
On Monday the Livermore City Council approved changes in airport zoning that city officials believe will help limit future development of the city-owned airport.
The Council also approved a resolution specifying that development will occur only if tangible evidence exists showing the need for it. That would include waiting lists for hangars or proposals to provide crucial services that may be lacking.
The new language supercedes the airport's 35-year-old master plan, setting zoning standards that allow for less development and predict less airport traffic than what Livermore officials predicted in the 1970s. However, some residents fear the rezoning could open the door to more, bigger, and louder aircraft. Speakers told the Council they want even stricter measures to protect against unwanted noise. Some suggested a mandatory curfew to restrict flights from occurring between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
City leaders reiterated Monday that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations prohibit municipalities from implementing such curfews. Though a small percentage of airports nationwide do have curfews, they predate the FAA regulations and were grandfathered in, said City Attorney John Pomidor.
"The crux of the matter is that people need to get their sleep," said one speaker, David Williams, who added, "There's not a rule that exists that cannot be challenged." His remarks elicited applause from another member of the crowd.
The question of whether other communities have successfully challenged FAA regulations in the past is worth exploring if it will give residents peace of mind, said Councilman Jeff Williams. Williams asked the city attorney to research cases in which cities have gone against the FAA and then report back on the outcome of those cases. "I think that would be useful to the council and it would be useful to (residents who think) we're just rolling over and playing dead," he said.
The airport's 1975 master plan had become outdated, city officials said. They have repeatedly stressed that the zoning changes adopted by the Council will place stricter limits on development than what was allowed under the old plan. While the 1975 plan anticipated 1.9 million square feet of development, the new language reduces the amount of allowable development to 1.4 million square feet.
In the 1975 plan annual aircraft landings and takeoffs were predicted to reach 340,000 by 1995. The city now predicts the number of aircraft operations in the next 20 years will be only 220,100. Currently the airport has about 180,000 aircraft landings and takeoffs a year, and about 670,400 square feet have been developed within the airport.
A companion resolution drafted largely in response to concerns that rezoning could lead to more commercialization and noise explicitly forbids city staff from encouraging development at the airport of a large-scale air cargo operator, such as UPS. The policy also affirms that city officials "do not intend to extend existing runways," will continue to try to reduce aircraft noise through voluntary noise reduction efforts, and will take necessary steps to enhance the airport as the region's key disaster relief facility.
Source: Based on a report in the Contra Costa Times