Wood v. City of Hayward

Following World War II, the U.S. Government retired several small military airfields throughout the country, granting the lands to local governments. Accordingly, in 1947 the government granted to the City of Hayward the land on which the city now operates its air terminal (about 713 acres).

The City obtained fee title in 1949 through a quitclaim, recorded in Alameda County Book 5912, pages 117-127, record AD 70660 (Hayward Municipal Airport, W-Calif.-119).

Ordinarily the federal government has exclusive authority to set regulations that affect air traffic. Thus, state and local governments cannot use their "police powers" to regulate aircraft noise. However, if the state or local government is the proprietor of an airport, it can limit the noise from aircaft using that airport. This was the decision of a federal district court in 1976 when Hayward's aircraft noise abatement ordinance was challenged by a tenant of the airport. The court upheld the ordinance because Hayward owns and manages the airport (National Aviation v. City of Hayward, 418 F.Supp. 417, ND Cal., 1976).

Some pilot-activists have been unhappy with this decision ever since. They have continued to attack the Hayward ordinance as "illegal" on the grounds that, in their opinion, Hayward does not own a fee simple title to its airport property and therefore does not have authority to restrict aircraft operations in order to reduce noise. In an attempt finally to force this question, Michael Wood filed suit in federal court (Northern District of California, filed July 22, 1997, C-97-2717, assigned to Judge Illston). In his complaint Wood stated that he is "a purchaser, user, and a tenant [of Hayward Airport], and additionally a U.S. citizen ..., and is a taxpayer, and claims that the U.S. owns the land." (Complaint, p. 2, lines 21-24.)

Wood's case finally came to rest on May 29, 1998, when Judge Susan Illston entered judgment against Wood and in favor of the City of Hayward. Illston ruled that Wood had not presented a genuine controversy since there is no dispute between the City of Hayward and the U.S. government over ownership of the airport property. Second, according to the court, Wood did not have standing to bring this case because he had not shown that he suffered an injury ("an invasion of a legally protected interest"). Wood, however, has filed an appeal. For current information on this case and historical documents relevant to the Hayward Airport, see Wood's website Help Save Our Airports USA.

According to the August 1997 issue of the "California Pilot" (the official publication of the California Pilots Association): "Wood has been involved in ongoing litigation against the City for the past eight years on a number of issues, including his eviction without cause, alleged violations of the Brown Act, and alleged conspiracy of city officials to violate his civil rights. He was the primary cause of an Inspector General's audit of the airport in 1994, in which the City was found to be in substantial violation of its [Federal Aviation Administration] airport grant assurances, resulting in the illegal diversion of $486,400 of airport funds."

[Revised April 28, 1999]