The California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook, October 2011 (“2011 Handbook”) was released this week. It supersedes the 2002 Handbook edition. The Handbook constitutes “guidance,” Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 21674.7, for Airport Land Use Commissions (“ALUCs”) in the determination of the scope of their jurisdiction over off-airport land uses as well as in the
The California Department of Transportation, Aviation Division (“Caltrans”) has announced yet another delay in the publication of the “California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook” (“Handbook”). The Handbook constitutes guidance for California’s airport land use commissions (“ALUC”) in the establishment of height, density and intensity restrictions for land uses around California airports. This delay continues and even increases the risk of conflict between ALUCs and local land use jurisdictions throughout California.
ALUC restrictions are not the last word concerning land uses around airports, as local land use jurisdictions have final authority to approve or disapprove land uses within their own boundaries. However, ALUC restrictions can make it more difficult for a local jurisdiction to effectuate previously enacted development plans in the vicinity of an airport. This is because, to overcome the ALUC determination of inconsistency with ALUC restrictions, the local jurisdiction must overrule the ALUC by a two-thirds vote, a hurdle often difficult if not impossible to overcome because of fears of liability.
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.