Developers and local land use jurisdictions beware. The California Department of Transportation (“CalTrans”) has initiated an update of the 2002 California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook which is scheduled to be completed in 2010. The Handbook provides guidance to County Airport Land Use Commissions (“ALUC”) in the imposition of height and other zoning and land use restrictions around airports.
An initial problem arises from the Handbook’s interpretation of the airport land use planning process as set forth in the California Aeronautics Act, Public Utilities Code § 21670, et seq. The California Supreme Court has defined airport land use plans as in the nature of “multi-jurisdictional general plans,” Muzzy Ranch Co. v. Solano County Airport Land Use Commission, 41 Cal.4th 372, 384 (2007), that often supercede local zoning at distances as great as five miles from the end of each runway. For land use jurisdictions, this means that carefully crafted local regulations within those areas are rendered essentially null, because land use jurisdictions must bring their general and specific plans into consistency with airport land use plans within 180 days of the airport land use plan’s approval, or overrule the approval of the Airport Land Use Plan by a two-thirds vote. Gov. Code § 65302.3.