July 11, 2008

Airport Land-Use Decisions Might Go Back to the County

By Lori Consalvo

The Assembly on Monday is expected to take up consideration of a Senate Bill that would hand local airport land-use decisions back to county-run committees.

Despite some opposition, SB1118, which was submitted by state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Montclair, in January, is one step closer to becoming a law.

"The senator said the reason she is pushing this bill is to promote safety. It is about proper land use around airports," said Alfonso Sanchez, press secretary for McLeod.

The proposed bill undoes 1993 legislation, which allowed cities to take control of land-use decisions around airports. Before 1993, such decisions were made by counties.

Assemblyman Bill Emmerson, R-Rancho Cucamonga, who opposes the bill, said local government is fully capable of making planning decisions.

"I don't think it's necessary to set up an airport land-use commission," he said. "It is just another layer of government that people have to deal with."

But McLeod insists the bill doesn't strip local governments from making decisions, in fact it restores countywide oversight of these airports.

"There are provisions in the law that allow a city to overrule the ALUC and if the bill passed, it won't change that," Sanchez said.

Another problem Emmerson had with the proposed bill is that it exempts two airports, L.A./Ontario International Airport and Watsonville in Santa Cruz County.

The Ontario airport is exempt because all land-use decisions are made by a government agency (city of Los Angeles) in another county, Sanchez said. Watsonville is exempt because it is the only county that has a single airport owned by a city.

Officials in the cities of Upland, Chino, Highland and Apple Valley, along with the Southern California Logistics Airport and San Bernardino County, oppose the new bill.

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