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Oceanside’s airport to get long-awaited improvements

OCEANSIDE — After a two-year lawsuit over land use, Oceanside is moving ahead with its new master plan for the Bob Maxwell Memorial Airfield. 

The yearlong process of updating the plan began earlier this year in March. The last plan was adopted in 1994.

At an open house meeting on Wednesday, officials introduced the preliminary outline to the public at the Oceanside Public Library.

“This is a good thing for the little guys,” said Dan Matloch, an Oceanside resident and commercial pilot. “I think the airport is a diamond in the rough.”

Airport Property Ventures, the company that leases the airport and runs it for the city, was awarded the contract in 2009 with a promise to the city there would be many improvements, said Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood.

Representatives from the company detailed plans to repave the entire runway and taxiway, build additional hangars, install perimeter fencing and possibly relocate the terminal building.

Oceanside is in the process of updating the master plan for the Bob Maxwell Memorial Airfield off Highway 76. The plan for the airport will determine improvements required to accommodate future aviation needs over the next 20 years. Photo by Paige Nelson
Oceanside is in the process of updating the master plan for the Bob Maxwell Memorial Airfield off Highway 76. The plan for the airport will determine improvements required to accommodate future aviation needs over the next 20 years. Photo by Paige Nelson

“This airport hasn’t had a lot of investment, but we have been able to secure some federal grants,” said Darcy Driscoll, senior administrator for Airport Property Ventures.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires all airports to update their master plans regularly to maintain eligibility for FAA grants, said Laura Feja, AECOM Airport Planner.

“We need to make sure it’s affordable, environmentally appropriate and accommodates the growth forecast,” said Feja.

Feja said the plan will help determine what improvements are required to meet future aviation needs at the 43-acre airport for the next 20 years.

Under the grant terms, the FAA will cover 90 percent of the cost to create the new master plan. The remainder of the cost will be funded by Airport Property Ventures.

“The delay has been because of ongoing legal issues,” Wood said, “but this is a prosperous airport and we’re moving forward.”

The city was sued back in 2008, when Santa Monica-based AELD LLC argued it was the rightful owner of 14.7 acres of vacant land at the north side of the airport.

In 2010, a district judge ruled the FAA’s jurisdiction over the airport trumped the company’s claim to the land and the dispute was resolved.

When Wood first joined the city council, he said he questioned whether the airport was worth keeping at all.

“We’ve obviously resolved that since the FAA said they would not let us close the airport,” Wood said, “so we’re going to fix it up.”

Wood said one of the main issues with the plan right now is how to use the empty space, but for many residents who attended the meeting, noise mitigation is a bigger priority.

“We’re all concerned about noise pollution because it affects the quality of life,” said Oceanside resident Victor Roy.

Over the years, Wood said the airport has received complaints about small aircrafts that don’t follow the designated take off and landing path and veer over nearby houses.

“I think people here are worried that somehow expanding the runway will bring in small jets,” Wood said. “We won’t do that — it’s too small.”

Wood said as the McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad becomes more commercialized, the new airport would inevitably draw in more of those small planes.

The airport is mostly utilized by local private pilots and small businesses, with about 12,000 total operations per year. According to the predicted growth forecast, that number isn’t expected to increase drastically.

A final report will be released in January and the complete plan is anticipated to be completed by June.


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Harold Nicholls August 15, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I think it absolutely great that the airport will finally be upgraded and expanded. We live in the neighborhood just north of the airport and do not find any of the noise created by the planes a problem; and no, I am not a pilot. We have lived in this neighborhood for 13 years and enjoy the airport activity. The ones who complain about the noise bought their homes after the airport was built, so they have no reason to complain. We support the Oceanside Airport activity.

Eve Adams August 16, 2013 at 3:43 am

Boy, oh boy…..what a rude awakening is about to occur. Flight schools could go in there, touch and go operations all day long, larger aircraft (big jets) may land with improved runway, perhaps helicopters will arrive in force. These are all things that happened to our small airport, and many, many others like it–stories are all over the web, and now it is a day and night total nightmare for thousands of residents over a wide area. Build it and they WILL come. Residents, even miles from the airport will not know what has hit them. Good luck, you will need it folks.

RIF August 20, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Harold is absolutely right. The Airport has been there since the 1930’s as a practice field for the Navy. If you bought a house near there and complain about the noise aircraft make, shame on you. No big jets will ever land on that small runway. I get tickled by the sensationalism of it all. Did you know that the hangar and tie down fees raise more than $1.5 million annually? Do you also know that the owners pay a 1 percent property tax on their aircraft annually? That airport is part of our disaster relief plan for this community. Disclaimer: I am a pilot who lives under the flight path for Camp Pendleton, but have never landed at Oceanside Airport. Someday I would love to have an aircraft there. This is a great city we have and the airport in my opinion contributes to that. Please embrace it.

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