Van Nuys announces stopgap master plan

 - December 19, 2007, 1:37 PM

With the Van Nuys Airport (VNY), Calif., master plan in political limbo, officials at the nation’s busiest general aviation airport have come up with a temporary proposal that could help shepherd development at the airport until the final roadmap is in place. The temporary proposal sets aside 50 acres for piston-powered aircraft–similarly to the way the master plan aimed to preserve space for light aircraft. The new plan also helps apportion the rest of the airport’s available acreage for businesses that support turbine aircraft operations. The temporary plan has received approval from the airport’s Citizens Advisory Council and, at press time, was under consideration by the city airport commission.

More than a year ago, community leaders proposed a compromise version of the long-range master plan known as Alternative J, but it has been relegated to the back burner as the city airport commission put its effort into a $9.1 billion plan to modernize Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Residents and business leaders around VNY are frustrated by the delay and concerned that development at the general aviation facility is continuing on an ad hoc, unplanned basis.

Civic leaders are all the more concerned with the lack of direction, since the number of corporate jets based at VNY grew 12 percent between 2002 and 2003, and eight aviation businesses are bidding for a 7.2-acre site at the airport, including an aviation career-training center endorsed by boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya.

Like Alternative J, the temporary proposal drew political flak from advisory council resident leader Gerald Silver, while business leader Robert Rodine appeared to support designating airport property for corporate aviation service facilities. Silver said residents want a guarantee that operations by older Phase 2 jets will be phased out; the number of new jet operations will be capped; and an overnight curfew on helicopters will be imposed. Referring to the proposal, Silver said, “This is an invitation for more growth. In no way does it resolve the problem.”

But Rodine said the airport property land shouldn’t be preserved for a declining piston aircraft industry when lucrative jet operations could be fueling the region’s economy. He said, “We desperately need a master plan just to reduce the contention in the community. The business owners at the airport also need a master plan so they’ll know if this is a place they can do business.” Los Angeles Mayor  James Hahn has not yet taken a position on the Van Nuys master plan or Alternative J, but reportedly supports the airport staff’s new proposal. A spokeswoman said, “He’s encouraged by the recommendation because it addresses significant community concerns. It’s a great step in the right direction.”