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Palo Alto council votes to take back airport

Original post made on Nov 14, 2007

Within three years, the City of Palo Alto could be operating its own airport, the City Council voted 5-3 Tuesday night. Or maybe not.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 14, 2007, 1:31 AM

Comments (97)

Posted by mn, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2007 at 9:25 am

The COUNTY has incredibly high overhead??? And switching to our 'low-overhead' city is going to help???


Posted by Bob Davis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2007 at 9:39 am

This is truly ridiculous. The city has way too much on its plate right now to get into the business of running an airport - something it has no experience or expertise in.

We should close the airport and sell the development rights in a way to help alleviate the city's financial difficulties. This would have the added benefit of clearing the skies above Palo Alto of the buzzy little planes that annoy too many residents.


Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2007 at 9:43 am

The airport should be sold to the highest private bidder. This "competition" between governments (city/county) is nonsense. The taxpayers pay.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 9:57 am

I agree with R Wray, but I do think there should be a proviso of keeping it an airport. The future of private air travel is boundless and I don't think we should make the mistake of losing this potential gold mine even if in the short term it doesn't appear to have the potential. A private consortium is much more likely to make it a going concern and be able to attract business here as a result. Government at any level, will only lose money.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2007 at 11:17 am

This is truly idiotic. The city has no business running an airport.

Even if it were to privatize - it is way outside the pervue of what our city should be doing with it's limited resources for management and oversight.

Barton's quote is dead on. If the county wants to get out of the airport (and they run other airports) - then there is definitely a problem (or many problems) that needs to be addressed.

It's going to be underwater in 20 years anyway. Close the thing and be done with it.


Posted by Zack, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2007 at 2:00 pm

Our airport is owned by us (City of Palo Alto). It is not owned by the county. The county owns the other three airports it runs, so it is not motivated to give equal attention to PAO. For instance, the county is obligated to run our airport until 2017, but it refuses to properly maintain it between now and then.

Palo Alto did the ight thing. It will take over the rights to manage the airport before 2017. However, it should NOT run the airport. There are plenty of private airport management teams that will bid for the rights (and take the profit and absorb any risks. However, the City MUST allow some more hangers to be built out there (that is where the real money is).

Our airport is a potential gold mine for us. Judy Kleinberg and Pat Burt both see that potential. Our airport needs to be folded into a vision invloving the golf course and major hotel/business conference center, to include redevelopment of the south of Embarcadero business zone. There is some real potential for major tax $$ coming out of this plan. The playing fields issue will also be helped, by freeing up about 20 acres of land.

I am not associated with PAO, but I can see that it would be a major blunder to allow it to be closed.


Posted by Buster, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2007 at 2:50 pm

I doubt if Zack is right about the "gold mine" nature of the airport. But there is an easy way to find out. Let's put out bids for keeping it as an airport, and for alternative uses. Highest bid gets it.

I don't know which would win, but I imagine the county's experience points to an airport not being financially optimum.

As an aside, I agree with the poster above who is annoyed by small plane noise. Closing the airport would be a boon to PA for that non-financial reason IMO.


Posted by Zack, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2007 at 2:52 pm

Buster,

We could also put out to bid our golf course, and our city parks and our libraries. Highest bid gets the property. You game?


Posted by Buster, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2007 at 2:55 pm

Most of the users of the airport are out of towners with high incomes. We subsidize libraries and library users - a policy probably something most residents agree with. I doubt if most Palo Alto residents are up for subsidizing rich plane owners and operators from Atherton.


Posted by Buster, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2007 at 2:59 pm

By the way, Zack, how come you back away from your "gold mine" comment so quickly? I only suggested the airport be evaluated in competition with other uses. If it's a gold mine out there, you don't need to worry, Right?


Posted by Zack, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2007 at 3:04 pm

Most people who play golf are above average income, in fact some are rich, and many out-of-towners use our golf course. I hate golf (becasue I am lousy at it, I suppose), but I still support our golf course. I almost never use our libraries (not necessary in the age of the Internet), but I still support them, because some people think they are cool. I rarely use a City park, but others like them. I look at these things as major amenities that enhance our Palo Alto lifestyle. They also support our property values.

Keep our airport, but make sure it is run by private professionals, with no net cost to the city.


Posted by Buster, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Zack's economics make no sense. If the airport could be generating more revenue for the city by converting it to another use, then there is by definition a "net cost" to keeping it as an airport. What happened to the bold "gold mine" claim?

Most users of the airport are out-of-towners. Not true of libraries. Not true of parks. And, I believe, not true of the golf course.

I think Zack just wants his flying hobby subsidized by the rest of us. Palo Alto has financial difficulties. We don't need to support the frivolities of wealthy residents of other towns.


Posted by Ben W, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 14, 2007 at 3:21 pm

I think airport supporters need to decide their rational for supporting city operation of the airport. Is it because it's a good business proposition because it's a revenue "gold mine"? If this is the case then we need to judge it against other business generation models of the land.

Or is their rational that it's a "city service" that the city should provide to residents in the same way it provides parks and libraries even if it costs tax money to do so? If this is the case, then we need to decide whether we want to provide airport services to a relatively small group of residents (I believe the panel appointed by the council to study the matter found about 1/3 to 1/4 of the users are PA residents) while we're considering cutting other more broadly supported services.

I think the airport supporters have a hard row to hoe on this. I doubt there's much of a business case to be made (or the County which does know how to run airports would have made it). And I don't see any policy or equity reasons to support Atherton airplane owners when we can't find money to build or run libraries to the satisfaction of most residents.


Posted by Zack, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2007 at 3:31 pm

No, Buster, Zack does not "want his flying hobby subsidized by the rest of us", becasue Zack does not fly.

Zack wants a variety of amenities in Palo Alto, becasue Zack thinks they add to our mix of interests. He thinks that the golf course, for example, COULD be sold off to the highest bidder, in order to fill the city coffers, but he thinks that would diminish our lifestyle in PA. BTW, Zack has NEVER walked on the trails in Byxbee Park. Imagine how much that useless land, used by MANY out-of-towners would fetch in the free market? But Zack thinks that Byxbee should stay as an open space. Pretty naivie of him, Buster, eh?.

Zack does NOT back off of the idea that the airport is a potential goldmine. Not one bit.


Posted by Buster, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2007 at 3:36 pm

Either the airport is a gold mine that will fill the city's coffers, in which case I have no quarrel with Zack. Let's start raking in the dough.

Or it's not a gold mine but something that adds to the "rich mix of services" in town that we support for non-economic reasons - in which case I (and I would bet the vast majority of other residents) don't think it's worth subsidizing - especially since the majority of those feeding at the public trough are not residents of Palo Alto.


Posted by Mary Ellen Davis, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Zack says, selling the airport would "diminish our lifestyle in Palo Alto".

As one of the many residents bothered by small plane noise, I believe that selling the airport would enhance my own life, and lifestyle greatly.

And if it's true that most airport users are not from Palo Alto, we need to look into closing it for that reason alone.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 4:06 pm

Slightly amused by the discussion of Zack and Buster about the airport being a potential gold mine, which was my phrase not theirs.

Business travel is already going private, anyone seen the discussion about Google and Moffett. A private concern would indeed make more money than a governmnet run airport by the very nature that businesses are in business to make money and government is run on taxes which by their nature are ever increasing. For the city to run the airport they would not necessitate that it has to run at a profit, the city does not know how to do this. The city knows how to budget, how not to keep to a budget and how to overspend and ask for bonds. It does not have to keep shareholders happy. Businesses would immediately look for ways to make money for themselves and their shareholders, they would add more amenities and charge realistic prices. They would encourage restaurants and other facilities for their users and these would naturally become available for locals.

Therefore, the airport could encourage businesses to move here and also provide more amenities that the rest of us could enjoy.
Theoretic maybe, gold mine, depends.


Posted by Pat Gillette, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2007 at 4:15 pm

Resident is on the right track. Whatever the use of the airport land, private owners always will do a better job than the city operating it.

But Buster is right too: if the goal is to provide revenue for the city, it's not enough to ask who can run the airport most profitably. We also need to ask first, whether the airport is the best use of the land at all. If we open it up to all bidders, and airport seems like it's the best use, then presumably a bidder wanting to contunue air operation will have the inside track.

The airport seems an unlikely candidate to me. Resident is right about more private air travel coming. But there's a lot of very close competition: Moffit looms as a potential competitor if Mt. View, not cursed by the Palo Alto process, sees an opening to steal more revenue sources from us. And the San Carlos Airport has a big head start on any Palo Alto effort. But let's put things on the table and see if any private interests put their money where the airport supporters' mouths are.


Posted by Jane, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 14, 2007 at 4:38 pm

I became a pilot at PAO. It was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life! I have lived in Palo Alto for 32 years. I hope my two children will have the chance to experience flight at PAO. It is a fantastic resoruce for Palo Alto!


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:14 pm

This is the craziest thing the city council has done in years. This airport is a money loser. The so-called "audit" produced by the city auditor was a sham. The airport is by no means safe. The pilots--most of whom are not Palo Alto residents--have been resistant to paying the full costs of the airport. Most people don't understand the the FAA is paying about 2/3rds of the costs of running the air port, and no one is keeping track of all of the costs. The land is worth about $500M (nominally). The pilots have not been paying rent on the land in the past, since the city did not charge the county for rent. The residents have a right to use of the property, or a reasonable rate-of-return on the property if it is leased out. With about 300 pilots using $500M of city property, the yearly cost has got to be more than the virtually free lease fee which was negotiated in 1957.

In the past, the Pilots have sued because the County wanted them to pay something akin to "full cost". They became petulant children and threatened the County with a suit. Sadly, the Supervisors caved and rescinded tie-down fees which would have helped to bring in funds which are closer to costs. One of the really sad aspects of the story is that the County Airport management can not account for all of its revenues and expenses back to 1957--so they can not provide a "full accounting" of the operation. Then there is all of the Federal money which pays for various improvements and the salary of the tower personnel. If the "full costs" of running this airport were determined, the cost-per-tiedown would be much closer to 2,000 per month--not the giveaway fees currently being charged by the county.

Then there is the issue of insurance. Currently the County is the "insurer of record". This responsibility will shift to the city. The City will be able to be third-party insurance, but the costs of these policies goes up markedly after an accident. These costs will be transfered to the pilots, who will doubtless scream and shout that they should not be responsible for all of their costs--based on their shameless behavior in the past.

All-in-all, this is a really bad deal for the taxpayers and residents of Palo Alto.


Posted by Shelly, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:16 pm

I met my husband becasue I accepted a "dare" to go out with him. He took me on a flight at Palo Alto airport. I was hooked! Twenty years and three kids later, I still dream that dream of flight. He doesn't fly anymore, but we still have our dreams. It was so wonderful!

Please keep our airport open!


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:27 pm


> Whatever the use of the airport land, private owners
> always will do a better job than the city operating it

The PA airport has a very checkered past. It was originally on the Stanford lands. Sometime in the early 1930s, the residents of College Terrace threatened suit if the airstrip were not shut down. The PA Chamber of Commerce got involved and some unused land down by the water was identified as a likely source. The air strip was moved a couple of years later. As it turned out, the air strip was partly in San Mateo County, which created a problem later on when Santa Clara County wanted to take over the airport. This situation necessitated a land swap between Santa Clara County and San Mateo County (and a number of other curious offers).

Over the years the Airport grew from an airstrip. The newspaper articles from the Palo Alto Times record that the Airport was always short of money and the management claimed that it would go out-of-business unless "government" money was made available. There was a private management company operating the airport up until about 1955, when this private operator claimed that without "government" money it would go out-of-business. It was about that time that the airport was taken over by the County and the private operator exited the scene.

This airport is just too small to be financially viable. There is simply no history to back up any claims that it is a "gold mine" and if the city goes forward with this plan it will doubtless see history repeating itself and the airport in constant financial problems.


Posted by Kirk, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:39 pm

No-PA,

If you are right, and the current plan fails, then Palo Alto can just sell the land to the highest bidder, right? What's the big risk?

I agree with Zack, by the way, why shouldn't the same criteria be applied to the golf course, or our parks and libraries?

I also do not understand how our airport land is so valuable, since our current leaders are telling us that it will be under water within a few decades. Who would buy it?

I say, let the private guys run our airport. If it doesn't work out, give up on the dikes, and let it flood.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:42 pm

The airport and the foolishly closed yacht harbor represent transportation alternatives, something we cannot have too many of. As for selling off, I would agree to selling the whole city to a municipal service district with specifically delimited authority.


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:52 pm

> If you are right, and the current plan fails, then Palo Alto
> can just sell the land to the highest bidder, right?

This scenario may play out. However, it will not do so without a lot of taxpayer subsidy. There are many costs to running an airport which have not been fully identified by Palo Alto to date. The Airport Administration (such that it is) currently is being subsidized by all of the airports. Palo Alto will have to hire Administrators to duplicate the work being done by the County. Given Palo Alto's unwillingness to charge market rates for properties that it rents out (like the Cubberley Center), it is difficult to believe that they will charge the full cost of operating the airport to the Pilots and businesses using the airport--meaning that there is every reason to believe that there will be subsidies from the General Fund to make up the differences. At a very minimum, expect to see "loans" that end up being forgiven at some point.

There is an issue with selling the land. A lot of it is designated as "sensitive". There are possibilities of using the land for some other purposes which might bring in money to the city. However, selling the land would be the most effective use of the property--keeping in mind that no person in his right mind would spend $500M+ to build an airport for 300-400 planes.


Posted by Jake, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:58 pm

On an historical note: wasn't it the straightening of San Fransquito
Creek which added land to Santa Clara County around the airport
and golfcourse? -Jake


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 8:00 pm

> On an historical note: wasn't it the straightening
? of San Fransquito Creek

I believe you are correct, now that you mention it.


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2007 at 8:05 pm

No-PA-Owned-Airport,

Where does that "$500M+" figure come from? If the land is "sensitive" and prohibited from remaining as an airport, what private investor would dare to invest?

I spent ten years at a VC firm. I would not touch it, unless the airport was fully supported.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 8:14 pm

Walter mentioned a yacht harbor also. Wouldn't it be a great idea if someone could come up with a fix that would involve a yacht harbor also. Come on folks, Marinas and airports, the well to do would love to do that one. If Berkely has its Marina, why not Stanford? Come on, there must be a wonderful possibility here. And why not restaurants overlooking the Bay and wildlife?

We should be jumping to find ways to jump on this one. What?


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 8:15 pm

> Where does that "$500M+" figure come from?

The airport sits on 100+ acres. The going price of land in Palo Alto is $5M and acre. The nominal cost (pre-appraisal) is then the product of these two numbers.

The problem with this $500M number is that land does have some "wetlands" component. It could very well be that the issue of selling the airport would have to go to a vote, making a transfer to the private sector difficult.

The main point here is that the land has value and the city has discounted it to valueless vis-a-vis its lease with the County. The city will have to now start charging something reasonable for the land, or walk away from a plot of land that has value in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

> I would not touch it, unless the airport was fully supported.

Don't understand. Could you clarify?


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2007 at 9:29 pm

100+ acres in Palo Alto? If you don't want it, I'll take it :)

Did any of you naysayers see this quote:
"Bob Lenox, a member of the Santa Clara County Airport Commission, said he thought the airport wasn't financially viable for the county because of its "incredibly high" overhead and Palo Alto's restrictions on further development at the airport that could increase revenues."

Read into that quote for some clues, folks.

Look out a decade, fellas and gals...there IS going to be development on and/or adjacent to that land.

Arguments against this move are naive, and rather unworldly - from a fiscal, and visionary point of view.


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 9:54 pm

> "Bob Lenox said he thought the airport wasn't financially viable
> for the county because of its "incredibly high" overhead and
> Palo Alto's restrictions on further development at the airport
> that could increase revenues."

The Airport has been making $10-20K per year (+ or -) for a while now. The actual "overhead" in County-based expenses is meaningless unless there is a fully developed business model which identifies all of the personnel needed, as well as their salaries. Every one identified by the PA City Manager for new positions (of late) seems to come with a $100+K price tag, so Mr. Lenox is going to be a victim of some PA-style "sticker shock" before all of this is over (not to mention finding that his statement proven at odds with the truth).

As to the PA restrictions on the land, maybe future City Council will undo some of these restrictions, maybe it won't. This topic was not discussed by any of those running for City Council, so we have no idea how they will see the issue.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2007 at 10:06 pm

"As to the PA restrictions on the land, ***maybe future City Council will undo some of these restrictions***, maybe it won't. This topic was not discussed by any of those running for City Council, ***so we have no idea how they will see the issue***."

Let's say I'm a bookie. Does anyone of those against this move want to start taking odds against the city 'undoing "some of these restrictions"? :)

This is great work by the City Council!!




Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 10:13 pm

> This is great work by the City Council!!

Given that 2/3rds of these pilots are not Palo Alto residents, and will be resistant to paying higher tie-down fees, it's more likely that the City Council will be guilty of a gross breach of fiduciary responsibility.

(Oh, and then there is all the work that the County had planned in its "Master Plan" for major Airport upgrades. Who do you think is going to be on the hook for this work, should time come that this sort of work needs to be done?)


Posted by lezner ylime, a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Speaking of Master Plans, the Baylands Master Plan update is going to be a key component of any future plans for this land. It is the key to those "restrictions on future development". Unless it changes significantly, that land isn't worth much more than what the County pays in rent. Any significant changes will be fought fiercely by the same groups that worked to close the Yacht Harbor. The use of this land as a small airport is "grandfathered". But any other use beyond reversion to natural baylands is going to fight a really difficult uphill battle.


Posted by Airport Development Makes Sense, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2007 at 11:33 pm

"any other use beyond reversion to natural baylands is going to fight a really difficult uphill battle."

Let the battle begin. :)

We have some lead time, so let's get to it!

Keep in mind that there are major environmental benefits that can accrue from development of that land, especially if a good portio of that development can be focused on creating less commutes; less Co2 dumping into the atmosphere; more accessible housing (a la BMR units, along wit "at-market" units, etc. How about throwing in a few electric or other environmentally friendly transport dealerships, as the latter will begin to proliferate in the next 5-10 years.

We can still operate the airport (planes are on their way to becoming more environmentally friendly - this WILL happen), and do some cool development on the periphery. Or, if running the airport seems a drag, move in the direction of changing use.

ABAG, anyone? :)


Posted by Long time resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2007 at 12:11 am

The answer to how the city can make a few million every year from the airport is to charge non residents whatever it takes to make this money to use the airport. The taxpayers of the city shouldn't subdize the pilots of Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley, Atherton and Woodside to operate the airport.
Palo Alto needs to make money on it's endevors, not lose money that it seems to be good at like the space it built downtown and leases it out at a loss of maybe millions over the term of the lease. ?? Or the fiber to the home fiasco which cost the taxpayers up to a million $$.

Small, special interest groups shouldn't be running the city


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2007 at 6:43 am

I wouldn't touch it, as a major development play, because I see no development possibilities that would be allowed, without the airport. The real choice is airport or reversion to parkland. The land has no value without an airport, in my opinion. It is also low lying land and prone to flooding, something an airport can withstand on occasion, but not a major development.

The proposal to tie the airport in with the golf course and south of Embarcadero Rd. development does make some sense to me. The city would retain ownership of the land, and write long-term leases to a private developer who would assume most of the risks. Of particular concern would be maintenance of dikes, height restrictions of any hotel, traffic flow.


Posted by S, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 15, 2007 at 8:41 am

NO.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2007 at 8:50 am

What we have to remember here is that this is a busy airport. Go by at any time and you will see a constant flow of take offs and landings. There are people there busy, any day, working on planes, etc. This should be viable. We are not talking about a neglected, unused air strip. We are talking about something that meets a need to its community, regardless where that community lives. If people are using it, then they will want to continue to do so. If they can be encouraged to spend more money on amenities and also with the associated costs of using the airport for its basic function, then they will continue to do so. We don't need to attract more use, what we do need is to make what is already used viable.


Posted by Eric, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 15, 2007 at 9:37 am

Now PA has proposed taking back the airport, they will have problems. The County owns the 3 other airports so PA airport will now be in direct competition with the other 3 airports.

Problems came originally because the county wanted to increase the tie-down rates at PA airport. The plane owners quite rightly said if rates are increased in PA we'll move our planes to an airport with lower tie-down rates. So, unless rates are increased at the other 3 airports in Santa Clara, it will be very difficult to increase tie-down rates in Palo Alto.


Posted by pilot, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 10:02 am

Eric- there are only 3 airports in the county: Palo Alto, Reid-Hillview and South County. If you are thinking of San Jose International as the fourth, it is not a County-run airport.


Posted by realist, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 10:32 am

In addition to the other airports in Santa Clara County, the PA airport will be in direct competition with the San Carlos Airport - a much better, and better run facility.

But this is really beside the point. Here we have a group of relatively wealthy dilettantes - most of whom live in Atherton, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills, or other enclaves - who want one of their hobbies subsidized by Palo Alto taxpayers. Under the path the city apparently is going down, Palo Alto taxpayers not only put up money, they also suffer most of the deleterious effects of small plane noise coming from the airport.

The idea that this is, or should be, just another amenity the city provides is pure balderdash. We don't subsidize Atherton polo players, residents of PA and nearby cities who like European Cruises, or Larry Ellison's yacht racing. Private flying is more like these than it is like library or park use.

Time to shut down this idea before it gets off the ground.


Posted by pilot, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 11:22 am

realist, there is no competition between airports. It is quite the contrary in fact since most general aviation airports are constantly under attack by people like you. People who complain about a small plane that barely makes any noise flying over their multi-million dollar home. Who's the elitist here?

I am by no means wealthy, but I had a dream to become a pilot. It was a struggle for me to pay for lessons and there are many others like myself. Think about it next time you go for a vacation or business trip, where do you think that pilot learned to fly? Probably a place like PAO. The majority of flights there are for training.

And before you jump all over something you obviously know nothing about, you have to realize that PAO is thriving community. Many people are employed or have businesses there. Are you suggesting they should all lose their jobs so you don't have to hear airplanes?

There are other uses for the airport. Have you heard of Angel Flight? Pilots donate their time to transport patients for medical treatment. There is at least one flight daily landing at PAO to take someone to Stanford. The Stanford Life Flight helicopter uses PAO for fuel. Many business people utilize smaller airports who would otherwise be crowding already overcrowded airports such as SFO or SJC. If there is a major disaster, PAO could be used to fly in emergency supplies.

Any community should be proud to say they have an airport, whether you use it or not.


Posted by realist, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 11:57 am

The presumptuous self-righteousness of some private pilots far exceeds the most tendentious self-serving rhetoric of other government welfare recipients.

According to the prime lobbying group for private aviation interests, the AOPA, the average income for private plane owners is in excess of $200,000 per year - a huge income in most of the country, and nothing to be ashamed of in the Bay Area. In any event, hardly a group deserving a subsidy. Even millionaire sugar farmers have given up on the poor-mouthing "struggling" farmer rhetoric in favor of farm support payments nowadays.

Pilot says he had a dream to learn to fly, implying that his "dream" was somehow special and worthy of largess from our scarce tax money. Why is pilot's dream any different from those of us who have other avocations we dream of pursuing? Just because you want something a whole lot doesn't mean the rest of us have to pay for it.

And the notion that we should subsidize training of pilots for entry into airline jobs is even more laughable. If the airlines need pilots, let them foot the bill for training those they can't hire from the military - the traditional source of airline pilots.

Pilot also suggests that because some pilots donate time to charitable endeavors, we should subsidize them. I donate to charity too. Does that entitle me to subsidy from my fellow citizens for the alaskan cruise I am dreaming of, with every bit as much fervor as pilot's dream to fly?

Pilot's other contention - that we should subsidize the airport to preserve the jobs there - hardly merits serious consideration either. Uneconomic businesses fail all the time, and without government subsidy, their owners and workers have to find something that is profitable to do with their time and energy. Why should airport workers be immune to the realities of life that the rest of us face every day?

Close that noisy and expensive playpen for the wealthy dilletantes of Silicon Valley now.


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2007 at 12:02 pm

> I wouldn't touch it, as a major development play, because
> I see no development possibilities that would be allowed,
> without the airport.

The continuation of the airport would be at the discretion of the new owner. The airport has been a money loser since day one, so any private sector owner would have to keep that in mind.

> The real choice is airport or reversion to parkland. The land
> has no value without an airport, in my opinion.

This is certainly one person's opinion. It would be interesting to have a hundred property developers have a look at the combined airport/golf course plot and see what possibilities might arise. Remember that the Golf Course sits on 180 acres of city-owned property that is worth about $800M. Combined, the possible value is over $1.3B for these two plots of land.

> It is also low lying land and prone to
> flooding, something an airport can withstand
> on occasion, but not a major development.

The Airport is guarded by levees, which have been breached twice over the years. The Golf Course can be flooded by the creek. If the Airport were to be developed for other purposes, then it stands to reason that some thought would be given to the adequacy of the levees. With the levees in placed and serviced, the land is probably not "prone to flooding".


> The proposal to tie the airport in with the golf course and south
> of Embarcadero Rd. development does make some sense to me.
> The city would retain ownership of the land, and write long-term
> leases to a private developer who would assume most of the risks.
> Of particular concern would be maintenance of dikes, height
> restrictions of any hotel, traffic flow.

Yes. But consider that if the property were sold, and the proceeds invested, that the city would have a continuous flow of funds it needs for future development. $500M at 5% would yield $25M a year.


Posted by Mary Ellen Davis, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2007 at 12:08 pm

Pilot says, those "people who complain about a small plane that barely makes any noise" are being too sensitive.

Obviously pilot doesn't live under the common flight paths for the Palo Alto Airport. I do, and I can tell you that the small plane that "barely makes any noise" is a rare animal. At 6 in the morning on weekends, when these flyboys and gals start their outings, there's no sleeping at my house.

I don't know if it's true that we subsidize the airport. But if my tax dollars are paying for it, the noise is insult to injury.

Some people are so consumed by the passion for their hobby that their advocacy for it borders on rude arrogance in their lack of consideration for others.


Posted by bikes2work, a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Nov 15, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Mary Ellen,

While we're at it, let's close Caltrain. Those noisy trains wake me up too. Who needs it anyway? Those self-centered commuters can just drive instead.




Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2007 at 12:22 pm

> Any community should be proud to say they have
> an airport, whether you use it or not.

For people to be "proud" about any municipal facility, it needs to be something that most people use and (hopefully) is self-sustaining in its financing. With over 60,000 people living in Palo Alto, only about 80 are both wealthy enough and so inclined to fly personal airplanes. The city closed down its yacht harbor over two decades ago because it could not "afford" to "desilt" the basin so that it was accessible to enough boats to make the operation viable. Now, the city is claiming that it can provide a 100+ acre plot to over 200 non-residents when it can't provide similar services to its boat owners?

There are many aspects of "being proud". Throwing money away on the symbols of wealth is not one that many people can understand.

> There is at least one flight daily landing at PAO to
> take someone to Stanford. The Stanford Life Flight
> helicopter uses PAO for fuel..

The Life Flight program is run by a publicly-traded company whose president makes over $400K a year. The taxpayers of Palo Alto should not be subsidizing this, or any company, as they currently are with their non-revenue generating lease with the county.

A better solution to this matter is to move the airport to the NASA Ames site and begin to reconsider a more viable use for this highly desirable and valuable city property.


Posted by realist, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 12:22 pm

Caltrain serves a broad cross-section of the community, saves the environment, and allows those who cannot otherwise get around the bay area to travel.

The same cannot be said of the airport, which serves mostly the wealthy of our area, dumps huge amounts of CO2 into the air for flying joy riders, and really serves no great public puropse.

I am surprised to see someone with enough environmental consciousness to use the screen name "bikes2work" write favorably about something as environmentally destructive as private pleasure flying.


Posted by bikes2work, a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Nov 15, 2007 at 12:33 pm

Realist,

I'm sorry no one appreciated my sarcasm. When a really big earthquake hits, how will emergency supplies and flights for seriously injured people get in and out here?

Also, your "average" plane owner salary doesn't take into account that most young pilots don't own their own plane. It also is an average that includes super wealthy CEO's and entertainers that own private jets. This is hardly the type of plane stored at PAO.

If you are so worried about CO2 emissions from aircraft, start a business to design a hybrid electric aircraft. Maybe you can test it at PAO. You'll make millions.


Posted by pilot, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 12:59 pm

Dear realist, you're really not much of a realist after all.

If you expect airlines to "foot the bill" to train pilots, who do you think will ultimately pay for that?

You are not looking to the future. Airports are already overburdened, and for every one you close, the problem becomes worse. You say this doesn't affect you, but next time you end up waiting hours for your flight to take off, think about that. Utilizing smaller airports is the future.

Web Link
Web Link

And for you to automatically assume I am male truly shows the dark ages you are living in.


Posted by realist, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 1:11 pm

I think airlines and airline passengers should pay for training pilots. Pilot apparently thinks that Palo Alto taxpayers should be footing part of the bill - even those that don't fly often.

Pilot also thinks that we Palo Alto taxpayers should be on the hook for solving the undercapacity problems the airlines and the FAA's policies have caused. Excuse me if I just don't think that is my problem.

I don't know what "dark ages" pilot is talking about, but whatever age we're heading for, I hope it's a time when the kind of subsidies from the average taxpayer for the interests of the wealthy that pilot advocates is a thing of the past.

Let pilot pay her own way.


Posted by pilot, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 1:14 pm

I am paying my own way. And you don't even live in Palo Alto, so why do you care so much?


Posted by realist, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 1:32 pm

Why do I care? Well, it offends my sense of fairness to see wealthy non-residents attempting to gouge the relatively less well off general taxpayers so they can pursue a niche hobby.

And I suppose it's because I'm also offended that some private pilots are so blind to reality that they don't even recognize the extent of the privilege they possess because of the effective lobbying of the General Aviation special interest pleaders. "I am paying my own way" indeed:


"Under the current system, a portion of the taxes that a middle-class family pays to go on summer vacation or to visit the relatives for the holidays is subsidizing the use of the system by corporate jets and private individuals who are wealthy enough to own their own aircraft. "Web Link

General Aviation lobbyists are very effective in maintaining the ongoing subsidies at all levels of government. But having an effective lobbying effort doesn't mean the facts on your side. In fact, if you had the facts on your side, you wouldn't need lobbyists.



Posted by pilot, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 1:52 pm

So what is it you would suggest be a better alternative to an airport?

Not everyone uses a park, but taxpayers will have to pay for that.

And those suggesting business or residential development obviously don't have to commute in that area. The traffic at 101/Embarcadero is already at a standstill during commute hours from all the people funneling in from the Dumbarton Bridge. Do we really need more traffic?

And those "corporate jets and private individuals who are wealthy enough to own their own aircraft" are bringing their business to *your* community by using your airport.


Posted by realist, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 2:02 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2007 at 3:10 pm

The link posted above has been used many times to justify the continued support of the Palo Alto Airport:

Web Link

While all of the ideas are true in communities that are more rural than Palo Alto, no one has ever developed a "benefit matrix" based on the points promoted on this WEB-site and demonstrated that the huge government investment in the Palo Alto Airport is justified by actual data that makes the case for this continued investment.

General Aviation (and GA Airports) make sense in rural America. However, with the high availability of services here in the Silicon Valley, there is no need for an Airport on city property in such a small town as Palo Alto.

Best to look to moving the Palo Alto Airport to the NASA Ames site, allowing for expansion and a larger user base to pay for the airport.


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2007 at 3:25 pm

No-PA-Owned-Airport,

I think you missed my main point. The airport (and golf course) will revert to park land if these two current uses are not maintained. Essentially, this land has zero value. In my opinion, the only way to derive value from these parcels is to leverage their current use.

Another way to look at it is to sell Byxbee Park. If unresrticted use is allowed, then I agree with you, there is real value. I think my children will be dead before we see such a move in Palo Alto. Our airport (and golf course) are the only reason that we can actually develop some economic value from these parcels.

It is only my opinion, but I do believe that there would be some private interest(s) in a combined deal. Goldmine? Probably not, but potentially a solid deal that satisfies many interests in Palo Alto.


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2007 at 4:25 pm

> The airport (and golf course) will revert to park land if
> these two current uses are not maintained.

Under the current ordinances and land uses this might be true (not certain about the Golf Course). However, the local use of this land is within the purview of the city government--which could advocate for other uses, and help facilitate whatever public approval necessary to allow uses other than parkland.

> Essentially, this land has zero value. In my opinion, the only way
> to derive value from these parcels is to leverage their current use.

> Another way to look at it is to sell Byxbee Park. If unresrticted
> use is allowed, then I agree with you, there is real value.

OK.

> I think my children will be dead before we see such a move
> in Palo Alto.

This is a possibility. However, with everyone claiming that the municipality needs "more revenue" (and a general refusal to look at outsourcing and downsizing), then the single family home owners will have to be the primary source of all new funding. There are only so many of these properties, and the population is aging--meaning that most people will not be interested (or able) to pay thousands of dollars (yearly) in new taxes to pay for every special interest group's claims to "a piece of the pie". If eighty pilots can demand a 100+ acre (and more if they could get it) plot for their "toys"--why shouldn't other groups also demand more subsidy from the city?

Palo Alto has over 4000 acres of parkland and open space. It will become imperative to rethink the use of this land in the future.


> Goldmine? Probably not ..

This term can be attributed to a couple of pilots who have no business model for a PA-owned airport, but who believe that "if you build it, they will come". Rather than developing a business plan, which clearly identifies all of the costs before jumping in the fair, the city has taken the word of a couple of pilots (who may well not even be Palo Alto residents) rather than think through the matter with the welfare of the city as a whole in mind.


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2007 at 4:35 pm

Gat your wallets out:

Water Rescue program:

Engine #3 covers the airport. A plane goes down. The FD has no rescue plan. That would be the leaders. We have to try and do the best job we can in the mud. Huge problem.. The firefighter on the call felt helpless. No one makes it out alive from the aircraft.
Firefighters have to battle the mud.. Key Word MUD.. So the water Rescue Program gets started. With an Inflatable BOAT. Boats need water.. Key word MUD.. Boat gets stuck everytime time we try to use it. Can't use it for the airport no water only mud. Try to Rescue, more like give a ride to winsurfer stuck in the mud.. Everytime I was there to be apart of the RESCUE these windsurfer walked themself through the MUD.. I remember handing on a towel. he asked me how will they get Back.. The Firfighters.. Well waiy hours for the tide to come back in. WATER.. Or try to drag the boat through the mud at great risk of injury.. Now Engine #3 is out of Service for how many hours... The broken Paddle on the wall at station #3 is a trophy for this crying shame of wasted taxpayers money.. You have to laugh or go crazy. You can only laugh so many years... I do not think it takes a great brain to know boats need water. We as firefighter could figure it out. Some how are leaders could not.. Hard facts, Substance if you wanted to look? So ask Chief No Comment How would you respond to an Aircraft into the Mud on takeoff or Landing??? Rememeber the Info I posted on this months ago??? You can't make this stuff up..Only in the City of Palo Alto....


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2007 at 4:38 pm

No-PA-Owned-Airport,

I think you are, basically, agreeing with my view about the value of the current parcels. A lot of things COULD happen, but I am looking at the lay of the land at this point.

I have no confidence, whatsoever, that the current airport and golf course would revert to commerical use if either of those activities are shut down. I think they would become park lands, with no substantial economic value. Perhaps you are right, and future city councils will rezone those parcels, but I don't see it. That is why I said that I would have no investment interest in them, unless the airport is supported.


Posted by Anna, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 15, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Jerry seems to ignore the conclusion reached by the county, which actually ran the airport and knows something about it, that the airport is a COST to its operators - even apparently before factoring in any value for the land or imputed rental income therefrom.

The Palo Alto Working Group report Web Link by people largely in favor of airport operation) could not present a credible case for profitable airport operation using even their optimistic assumptions. Their conclusion: turn the operation of the airport over to a NONPROFIT group. Under their recommendation, the nonprofit group would pay nothing to the city, and the city apparently would retain significant liability jeopardy. The best the Working Group could offer was a hope that somehow the airport could be self-sustaining. This hardly seems like a revenue generator for the financially strapped city coffers, and may in fact turn out to be a significant drain.

The airport is a play thing for a tiny few residents who, because they (along with their Atherton and Woodside cohorts) are relatively wealthy, have a disproportionate voice in city affairs.

It's time for the vast majority of residents who receive no benefit from the airport, but are being asked to bear the financial risk, to say "no" to this plan.

And this is apart from the noise issue - which as some comments here indicate is not a non-issue for everyone in town.

NO-PA-Owned-Airport is right. There is no business plan for the airport that makes sense. Most of the arguments in favor of the airport come right from the national airplane owner's lobbying groups talking points. And they're irrelevant to PA.


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2007 at 6:50 pm

Anna,

I have not proposed that our airport is a financial winner, as a stand-alone. Without looking at the financials, in detail, I would probably come down on the side that it is a small loser. However, I take a major issue with those who say that the land has value, without the airport (or golf course). It just doesn't pencil.

The realistic options are:

1. Close the airport and turn it into park land, like Byxbee Park.

2. Accept the airport and try to make something that actually does make a return on investment. I happen to see some potential with this approach.

Many resources that offer serious development potential are aimed at the rich. They use them, then pay taxes for doing so. They also offer a critical mass to leverage other wealth-producing activities. I see no potential without the airport. Perhpaps I am wrong, but those are my honest views.


Posted by Brian Portmore, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 15, 2007 at 11:46 pm

You people miss the slight of hand trick. The county is the problem.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2007 at 12:26 am

200 people use that airport? Is that a joke or about right?

Could we convert the airport to parkland and convert other parkland to development?

The idea that we operate a semi-shabby airport for primarily wealthy non-residents, plus a few of our own - that is so Palo Alto.


Posted by Anna, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 16, 2007 at 5:48 am

The Working Group appointed by the city, composed primarily of aviation advocates, could come up with NO profitable scenario for profitable airport operation like that envisioned by Jerry - even using their very optimistic (some would say questionable) assumptions.

While it is true that some business aimed at the rich can be profitable, there is no plan or reasonably probable scenario where such a plan exists for the PA Airport.

Moreover, as the Working Group admitted, there are significant financial and legal liabilities associated with running an airport that the city would need to take on.

Terry is right: this is becoming a Palo Alto shibolith that makes no sense other than as seen through the lens of the Palo Alto Process.


Posted by the Real Anna, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2007 at 6:50 am

Look *inside* this deal folks; read the subtext. Instead of taking this deal literally, *think* about near-long-term to long-term possibilities.

Some residents (especially, many posters in this forum) want to believe so bvadly that our city is run by incompetents, they'll make themselves believe preposterous scenarios that they would ordinarily discount, if faced with different issues.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2007 at 7:55 am

Sorry, RA, I guess I don't have your x-ray vision - can you we less gifted folks what's "inside" the deal that we should "think" about? I just seen a loopy airport deal for a town that shouldn't have one. What's the "real" "deal" "here" "?"


Posted by Anna, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 16, 2007 at 8:05 am

Looking at the "subtext" of a deal that can't be explained in a way that makes sense in clear English doesn't sound like a way to do business or make policy.

This is starting to sound like one of those recondite "deconstructionist" exercises they do in humanities grad schools nowadays - explaining why most of the graduates of such programs are driving taxis instead of running businesses.


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2007 at 9:58 am

RA;

I miss a key and power.Bavdly.. Good word for this type of government.
Just playing... This City is STRANGER then fiction.. You should work there. Then you might see it..

Yes they can screw anything up so bad, that one thinks it can't be true.


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2007 at 12:09 pm

> I think you are, basically, agreeing with my view about the
> value of the current parcels.

To the extent that the land can not be immediately converted to private use equaling an "incumberment" on the property, perhaps we are in some agreement. To the extent that you claim the land had zero value--we are not in agreement.

> I have no confidence, whatsoever, that the current airport
> and golf course would revert to commerical use if either of
> those activities are shut down.

While this is a fair concern, this thinking needs to be butressed with the fact that there are almost 300 acres of prime PA land near Highway 101 and on the water whose worth can not be valueless. The question becomes one of whether valuable assets become worthless in the hands of the Palo Alto political process.

> I think they would become park lands,
> with no substantial economic value.

This is certainly a possibility, keeping in mind that the Golf Course is close to break even while sitting on almost $800M worth of property and the Airport is costing over $2M in Federal funding per year than it is bringing in in taxes and fees to the County and City.

> Perhaps you are right, and future city councils will rezone
> those parcels, but I don't see it. That is why I said that I
> would have no investment interest in them, unless
> the airport is supported.

OK .. now your comments are fully supported. By the way, there is another issue with the Airport that Palo Altans ought to be know. The Airport's Tower personnel and other operational expenses have been and are funded by the FAA (and other Federal) sources. This funding would go away if the Airport were to become private. The pilots have always ignored the total costs of running this facility. If it were to become private, then they would find that the FAA funding would dry up and tie-down/hanger fees would have to include the $1-$2M in salaries/benefits for the tower operations. There has been upwards of $3M in Federal Grants over the past twenty years (and the tower was built with Federal funds too). These costs would also have to be folded into the tie-down/hanger fees. Without all of the government subsidies, the 300 odd pilots would be looking at fees in the $2,000-$3,000 per month. It's difficult to believe that very many would stay.

This airport is long overdue having a full audit by a competent airport auditor who will look at all of the costs/expenses and revenue streams (including any future rehab/expansion costs over the next twenty years).


Posted by Buck Rogers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 16, 2007 at 12:12 pm

I will run the airport. Here is how you do it sports fans.

Just hand over all the property taxes taken from the taxed folks that own aircraft and other taxable property at this airport. And I will widen and repave the runway, I will repaint all the hangars and with the money left over I will have a BBQ for all the owners and pilots that operate from PAO (Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County). After all they are paying the taxes.

Then in the following years I will refund the owners and pilots with reduced priced fuel, hold quarterly operational safety seminars and still hold that annual BBQ with awards for pilots with outstanding safety records.

Bottom line is the county is stealing all the tax money and NOT reinvesting in the airport like they should.

My proof to this claim - just go look at that polished granite covered parking garage at SJC -(san jose international airport). Who do you think paid for that bit of government waste?

You just can not let the county have (keep, steal, squander) all the money and accept none of the responsibility.

Buck Rogers


Posted by Buck Rogers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 16, 2007 at 1:10 pm

I will go you one better. As to how to make this really work. All you Palo Alto types seem to like lofts and housing over retail.

Extend this concept to housing over hangers. If you start at the north of the airport and build a housing over hangers complex that can accommodate the wishes of the affordable housing crowed and be secure to airport operations, you will have a winner.

Of course you would need the new residents to sign a legal binding CCR clause to not complain, file lawsuits, or bellyache about airport noise or smells for 200 years. Now, you will have a really big tax base.

Think of what you can do now with all that money. Maybe just maybe you people won't throw away the future for some short term gain.


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2007 at 1:18 pm

> Just hand over all the property taxes taken from the
> taxed folks that own aircraft and other taxable
> property at this airport.

This idea pops up frequently. There are many problems with it, however, because this sort of public policy links tax dollars directly to tax generators. The idea does have certain merit, but is fraught with many, many problems.

For starters, the PAUSD gets a lions-share of the property tax generated by the Palo Alto Airport. There isn't a lot of secured property there, but all of the aircraft are considered "un-secured" property; the PAUSD gets a considerable cut of these revenues. No one promoting this idea has ever taken the time to look at how the PAUSD's interests would be impacted by such a move.

The second problem is that the County's tax collections are subject to state law--so the Legislature would have to become involved in order to allow "targeting" of funds from selected tax generation sources.

Then there is the issue of revenue-negative years. Why should any other sub-group be expected to be shorted in order to provide operational dollars for another group which has not generated enough in taxes to pay its expenses -- such as "the pilots"?

> My proof to this claim - just go look at that polished granite
> covered parking garage at SJC -(san jose international airport).

This hardly passes as proof. If one were really interested, the County Assessor's Office contains the data identifying each plane, its owner and its accessed value. It would not be that big a deal to obtain this information and figure out just how much money the aircraft are generating in taxes.

Oh, and if the Airport were to go into Palo Alto city hands, all of these taxes would remain with the County. Palo Alto would receive nothing under current law.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Are you telling us right? Does the school district benefit from the airport in a way that if it was reverted to park it would lose out on.

If this is the case, then the issue is a lot bigger than the average Joe is aware. Our school district, being basic aid, needs every source of funding it gets and to lose it means that the slices will be taken out of a smaller pie. We need to make sure that the schools do not miss out on this one.


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2007 at 2:25 pm

No-PA-Owned-Airport,

I respect your views. However, when you say, "...there are almost 300 acres of prime PA land near Highway 101 and on the water whose worth can not be valueless. The question becomes one of whether valuable assets become worthless in the hands of the Palo Alto political process.", I can only say that wishes are not fishes. The Palo Alto juggernaut of preservation is with us for a long time. As I said before, I think my children will be dead before any wetlands are given up for development.

If I thought there was a snowball's chance in hell that the political situation would change, then I would agree with you that all those acres have significant value. Until then, they are valueless in terms of standard economic thinking.

Without an airport, these acres will revert to park land, in my opinion.

You mention private airports. I am only an outside observer on this situation, but the proposals I have heard make no mention of a private airport. It would remain a public airport, although perhaps with a fixed base operator, and leveraged together with the golf course to provide value added entitites like a hotel/conference center. I am not aware that the FAA would treat PAO differently than any other public airport. Maybe I am wrong about this. If so, please let me know.

The FAA has, as part of its mission, an obligation to support general aviation. Unless that changes, I think it is fair to assume that major funds will continue to flow from the FAA to PAO. Again, correct me if I am wrong.

Regards,

Jerry


Posted by Alyssa, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2007 at 3:02 pm

The only people who looked hard at this issue - the council-appointed Working Group, composed mostly of aviation advocates - could identify no plan whereby the airport would be a revenue generator. Their modest goal of "sustainability" was hedged so much that it is clear that the risk of the city suffering losses as the airport's operator is substantial.

All this talk of golf-course/hotel/airport synergy is pure pie-in-the-sky fantasy. The prospect of this kind of thing coming to fruition in a way that generates revenue for the city, even if the environmental opposition to it were overcome, is nil. The area is in a flooding area protected by levies, is under the SFO flight path, and is in an area near where the Four Seasons Hotel is having difficulties with occupancy rates.

We're only talking about this because a few rich people - mostly from out of town - want to find a way to have us contunue to support their expensive flying hobbies with our tax money. We're already spending too much staff time "studying" this. Ground this turkey of an idea now before it damages our frail budget more than it has already.


Posted by Jake, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2007 at 3:22 pm

How many new auto dealerships would we need to
make up for the deficit of a City run airport?


Posted by Peter Westerbrook, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2007 at 3:28 pm

I don't get Jerry's logic. He says that without an airport, the preservationist pressure would be so great that there would be nothing to do but let the airport land convert to parkland.

But WITH the airport, suddenly the preservationists are going to allow hotels, conference centers, golf courses and who knows what else on the land...

Maybe I'm missing something about the "Palo Alto Process". But this seems nutty to me.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Don't forget the most important reason for having an airport: ego. Even if the airport loses tons of money and is a nuisance for every non-pilot in town (not to mention the neighbors), it's still the Palo Alto Municipal Airport. There's no Mountain View Municipal Airport, no Menlo Park Municipal Airport, no Redwood City Municipal Airport, no Sunnyvale... no Cupertino... no Woodside... you get the picture. Only a diehard naysayer would object to investing a few hundred thousand or million dollars in our civic pride each year.

In the ego world you score with flashy and superfluous, not useful and necessary. And, since it is mostly a playground for the privileged few that fly airplanes, the airport is a bona fide luxury, good for double points. Way to go, city council.


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2007 at 3:42 pm

Alyssa,

You might be right about the potential of a coordinated deal involving our airport, our golf course and land south of Embarcadero. I see some potential, but everything has risks. My view is to leave it up to the private market to take the risks. In my opinion, there is no play possible without our airport.

If our airport goes back to wetlands, there will be zero tax returns from it. I think we can both agree on this.

I think there is merit in the argument that amenities that upper income people use enhance overall valuations of a town like Palo Alto. Someone said that the yaught harbor should be re-opened. As unlikely as that would be, it might generate an increased tax base for the entire city. I can imagine a very vibrant combination of yaught harbor, airport, golf course, playing fields, restaurants, as well as significant preserved open space and hiking trails.

I never thought the Four Seasons was a sound deal, but I did think it was possible. A combination of resources out near our airport, would be more reasonable, in my view. However, the intensity of economic growth is hard to predict, even in this area. If the economy lights up, there will not be enough supply for the demand. It is up to the private sector to decide if they want to take the chance. If they do not, then our airport is probably doomed to become wetlands.


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2007 at 4:24 pm

> There's no Mountain View Municipal Airport, or Sunnyvale Airport.

Actually, there was an airstrip in Mountain View near the Middlefield/San Antonio intersection until the Eichlers showed up and took over the land. There also was a private airstip in Los Altos at one time, but it disappeared a long time ago. It's clear that people in this area need housing more than airstrips. Also, Moffitt Field was a fairly large Airbase for most of this century. While it was not used for civil aviation, it did provide a lot of jobs and civic pride in helping to defend our country -- until that became unfashionable.

> Don't forget the most important reason for having an airport: ego.

TAKING OFF -
FORBES PUBLISHER FLIES TO SMALLTOWN USA TO SEE WHY SO MANY PEOPLE ARE MOVING THERE
CATCHING UP WITH RICH KARLGAARD
San Jose Mercury News (CA)
June 5, 2005
Author: CHRIS O'BRIEN, Mercury News
---
..

After a short drive in his Lexus to the Palo Alto Airport, Karlgaard heads toward his new Cessna Skylane -- a single-engine, propeller-driven plane with 235 horsepower. He takes off effortlessly, climbs quickly and circles over the bay. There's a clear view below to Silicon Valley, which has grown thick with office buildings since Karlgaard arrived more than three decades ago.
...
As Forbes publisher, Karlgaard spends more time flying commercially than piloting his own plane, he laments. In 2004, he logged 200,000 miles as a passenger to give speeches at 49 conferences or panels.
...
----

Certainly being the Editor of Forbes will get you a lot of ink .. not clear that that cost of subsidizing the Palo Alto Airport for the Editor of Forbes by the Palo Alto taxpayers will be worth it, however.
---


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2007 at 4:41 pm

> All this talk of golf-course/hotel/airport synergy
> is pure pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

At this moment in time, yes. Anyone who has reviewed Silicon Valley history knows that there have been more deals proposed than stars in the sky. However, as our general success demonstrates, sooner or later, some of these deals become real projects.

The City of Palo Alto has over 4,000 acres of parkland and open space and dedicated space--all of which requires maintenance from the general fund and some of which could be sold to provide revenue to provide for the future of the city as a whole. It's long past time that people begin to realize that when someone says "it's free--provided by the city government" all they mean is that the users of the service of facility is not being charged directly. Users and non-users are charged in some other way--through higher fees, or property taxes that are often forgotten after being paid.

> The FAA has, as part of its mission, an obligation to
> support general
> aviation. Unless that changes, I think it is fair to assume that
> major funds will continue to flow from the FAA to PAO.

The link posted earlier by one of the "pilots":

Web Link

provides some interesting reading. The article reports on a number of much larger airports being such down--even though they were being supported by the FAA. Yes, the FAA does have a mission to support General Aviation, but this mission is really a reflection of the mood of the Congress. As cities grow ever larger, there will be less call for small, underutilized airports in large/regional cities (like the greater Silicon Valley) and it's very likely that these dollars will become fewer. Keep in mind that there are about 1M people in Santa Clara County, and only about 1,000 aircraft currently housed in Santa Clara County airports. Even with the waiting lists considered, we are talking about 1/1,000th of the population owning an aircraft.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2007 at 5:06 pm

The Editor of Forbes only flys a Skylane? Not even a Citation? My, my, my. Well, he may not have the best privilege, but he's privileged. The vast majority of Palo Altans who will have to subsidize this Toyland in the Baylands will never even ride a Skylane, let alone fly left seat.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2007 at 5:08 pm

"At this moment in time, yes. Anyone who has reviewed Silicon Valley history knows that there have been more deals proposed than stars in the sky. However, as our general success demonstrates, sooner or later, some of these deals become real projects."

No-PA-Owned-Airport, I'm not quite sure what you are getting at here. If our current land at our airport is to have any value, then I can only see it as a reality by supporting our airport. Your fantasy about $500M belongs in the outer edges of the galaxy. I think we could get to a serious understanding of the issue by recognizing that that land has zero value, unless there is an airport there.


Posted by Natalie, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 16, 2007 at 5:31 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by WilliamR, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2007 at 5:39 pm

I'd like to support Jerry's concept here. A combined golf course, airport, yacht harbor/marina, hotel/conference center in that part of town, with a frequent, free, shuttle to Stanford and Downtown, might be a package some developer would look at. Nothing is going to happen overnight anyway, so why not take the time to do some creative thinking? If nobody is interested, then we can work on Plan B, whatever that might be.


Posted by The Real Anna, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2007 at 6:02 pm

"Nothing is going to happen overnight anyway, so why not take the time to do some creative thinking? If nobody is interested, then we can work on Plan B, whatever that might be."

Now we're talking! Most of the naysayers need to start thinking like a developer, and brainstorm possibilities.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2007 at 6:23 pm

> I'm not quite sure what you are getting at here.

What I am trying to say is that there are many possibilities for this land. Just because one idea today might not be all that exciting, another will come along one of these days that will make more sense and may very well be put into execution. The fact that one person sees no value in the property under its current management and restraints does not mean that another will not have a different opinion. Your opinion has been noted. Your dismissal of others (such as calling my opinion a fantasy) seems to demonstrate, however, that respect for open discussion does not run very deep in some people.

For instance, suppose this property were developed into an R&D center for medical, or Biotechnical purposes? Even though there is an outside entertainment complex in nearby Mountain View, would there be any possibility for another such complex? (Stanford is talking about a performing arts center, so it would seem that the answer might be "Yes"). And then there is the oft-discussed Auto Row--certainly this land would support parking lots with cars on them--just as it now supports parking lots with aircraft parked most of the time.

The airport has been subsidized from a number of different sources over the years. When the Stanford Airstrip was moved to the Baylands the land was not very valuable (nor did if have the myriad of restrictions that currently encumber it). Now, this property has the potential for any number of uses. The pilots have not been asked to pay for the use of land, and its now time to re-evaluate that decision. Adding in some return to the city for the use of the land will make the cost of running this airport far too expensive for the pilots who are already complaining that they are paying too much in terms of use fees. If the value of the land is zero, then how can the city ever expect to obtain any revenue for operating an airport primarily for non-residents? (By the way, the Golf Course, sitting on 180 acres of public land, also caters to a non-resident primarily.) This means that almost 300 prime acres are servicing non-residents recreational needs, providing virtually no revenue to the city. Given how badly the city accounts for such expenses, it's likely that these facilities cost considerably more to run than they bring in in direct, or indirect, revenues.

It makes far more sense for the city to put this project on hold, look to the possibility of moving the Airport to the NASA Ames site, and begin to consider all possibilities for this site that involve revenue generation.

> I think we could get to a serious understanding of the issue by
> recognizing that that land has zero value, unless there is
> an airport there.

On this point, we disagree. You would really need to put together some sort of business idea that would explain yourself better than you have to this point in order to explain yourself with clarity.

> A combined golf course, airport, yacht harbor/marina,
> hotel/conference
> center in that part of town, with a frequent, free,
> shuttle to Stanford and
> Downtown, might be a package some developer would look at.

Well .. there already is a Golf Course and Airport here. The Yacht Harbor could be reopened with a vote of the City Council. Unless the Developer were to take all of this real estate off the city's hands (ie -- give the city money for these properties and take over the various obligations of Baylands maintenance), what exactly are we talking about?
---


Posted by No-PA-Owned-Airport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2007 at 6:25 pm

> We have Serge Brin, Carver Mead, or Walter Hewlett.

And how many of these men were the products of direct government subsidies -- like the users of the current county airport system?


Posted by Anna, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 16, 2007 at 6:42 pm

And I don't see Brin, Mead, Hewlett,VC's or similar locals who have money and know how to invest it stepping up to try to deal with Palo Alto on the airport.

It's only Real Anna, Jerry and other folks with no money of their own in the deal urging Palo Alto taxpayers to take a flyer on schemes even the fly-boys at the Airport Working Group couldn't justify, at a facility that the County (who knows something about running airports) wants no part of, and in which there isn't a whiff of private investment interest.

As an aside, since Real Anna brought it up, Brin et. al. do deal with NASA-Ames, and with Mt. View. Perhaps that says something about the Palo Alto process and also about the air of unrealism seen on this forum about the great business deals to be had on our precious baylands at our special airport.


Posted by Another Pilot, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2007 at 8:18 pm

Ahhhh, the 'noise' complainers. They surface ever so often in times like these. I wonder if these people knew that there was an airport nearby when they moved in? I wonder if they wondered why they were getting such a bargain price for their home? I wonder if they complain as much about noise from the Caltrain, 101, Embarcadero, the approach path into SFO? If they do, maybe they should move somewhere very remote to get away from the cacophony - but of couse, then they'd need a plane...........


Posted by The Real Anna, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2007 at 9:22 pm

Anna..."the air of unrealism seen on this forum about the great business deals"

Did you mean to say "the air of unrealism seen on this forum about the LACK OF great business deals?"

Honestly, if people here can't see the possibilities (some have been mentioned - there are others) that could materialize down the road for 100 ACRES in PRIME urban space (this region is still growing, and will continue to grow - and, we're near the epicenter of that growth. *If* we can get a clue about how to manage growth [we need help badly in this]), our possibilities are virtually unlimited.

Go talk to a few visionary developers about this land, get some ideas, and come back to this thread enlightened.

Here are a few beginning ideas:
Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2007 at 9:54 pm

I know that the airport means a lot to the pilots, it is their passion and their hobby, but most of us average citizens in Palo Alto cannot afford this luxury.

We looked into hiring a pilot to take us to Reno and back, and basically it would have cost the same as a round trip discount flight to London. Flying lessons are phenomenally expensive!

The next three years look secure so the pilots can breathe easy until then.

HP flies their old commuter plane out of San Jose Airport.

There is always the possibility that the Army Corp of Engineers may do additional flood control work which could cut right through this area.

I don't think that any developers could use this land based on this
the possibility of this happening in the future.

The golf course and airport are sitting on what should be estuary.
It will flood again. There are little dykes holding back the water.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2007 at 11:17 pm

Amsterdam


Posted by Buck Rogers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 23, 2007 at 10:52 am


If you want to advance society and be apart of the future as I do and I am sure most of you do as well you need to think outside of the box.

We have an airport in Palo Alto a gift from our past that point to the future. I say keep this airport, grow this airport and gain from this airport. Every aircraft generates money for the county and city. Build yet another park and all you will have is a negative cash-flow. Keep and grow the airport you will experience funding growth.

I know there are nay sayers but with them all you will have is losses and more city expenses.

Here is an airport that is an Airport Free Zone read of this success and wonder why we can not compete.
The answer is simple - a lack of city and county leadership.

Web Link

Web Link

Looks like someone knows how to make money!


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