California Airport Land Use Commission at risk

The following post is written by California Pilots Association President Ed Rosiak. Suffice it to say, airports are vital, and must be protected. – Ben Sclair, Publisher

The Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) was first introduced in California in the 70’s, after the tragic crash of a surplus Military Jet into a Ferrell’s Ice Cream Store, located across the street, and at the end of a runway at Sacramento Exec Airport.

Since then the California Division of Aeronautics has done an incredible job creating rules and guidelines in the form of the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook to assist in the determination of compatible land development around California airports. Unfortunately, since these are guidelines and are not law, they are often ignored by the airport sponsor, which is either the city or county the airport is located in.

A typical Airport Land Use Commission is made up of seven. Although this arrangement isn’t always the case, the ALUC is defined as follows: two people from the city, two people from the county, two with actual aviation experience, with the final position agreed upon by other six. These are supposed to be volunteer positions, with knowledge provided from each area to provide a truly balanced decision.

The role of the Airport Land Use Commission is to insure the community is provided with safety and noise zones from airport operations. These zones are officially and technically defined in the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook, readily available to all sponsors and planning agencies within the state.

As you know encroachment is the major issue for all airports. The California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook addresses this issue completely. However, airport sponsors are often ignorant of the document or simply decide to ignore it.

Here is (the simplistic view of) how the ALUC is supposed to work.

  • A developer wants to build something within the airport operations area. He has to go to the ALUC to get their approval before proceeding.
  • The ALUC has to determine if the development meets the criteria in the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook.
  • Any cost associated with this process is supposed to be borne by the developer.
  • The ALUC then provides the airport sponsor with their assessment of the proposed development – qualifies or does not qualify.

Here is what actually happens.

  • The developer creates relationships with the airport sponsor and city/county planning department and sells them on the idea first.
  • He then follows the formal process and if it isn’t going as planned calls the airport sponsor to complain asking for the sponsor to intervene.
  • ALUC’s are often placed in political pressure situations when they follow the guidelines
  • City and County members are supposed to be neutral, but, that is not always the case when considering #1 above.

We see this situation time and again, and all you have to do is go to our web site and search on ALUC, or Airport Land Use Commission to view all of the issues the airports face.

If the state eliminates the formal ALUC statute (except for Los Angeles and San Diego – can you say politics??) that means that the checks and balances on developers around our airports will be lost. You can imagine what will happen then?

Download a copy of the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook for your review. This document is being copied by many states which have no such provisions and are now trying to protect their airports.


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