Friday, January 9, 2009

Where will the planes land? …

   What’s the biggest and most potentially controversial public land use in metro areas?  Airports, of course.  They are essential to a city, need to be fairly close to downtowns, but use enormous tracts of land and are not welcome neighbors.  As a result, in our contentious age few big airports are built (consider, for example, Denver’s newish airport, which is almost half way to Nebraska –- well, it just seems that way –- or the controversy over plans to expand at London’s Heathrow). 
Sandiefoairport    In San Diego, the venerable Lindbergh Airport is directly adjacent to downtown at the top of the arched San Diego Bay.  Because of its location, airliners come screaming in over the bills of the city –- seemingly close enough to touch.  Combine this with a contrast rush of naval aircraft over the area, and we have a situation for potential disasters.  But because the city is hemmed in by mountains and development and Mexico, there appears to be no good location for a new commercial airport.  A potential solution?  Build a large airport in the middle of the San Diego Bay, as reported today in the Union-Tribune.  The benefits?  It would allow planes to approach mostly over water, and would be conveniently located near the poor areas of town, on the south bay.  Indeed, similarly hemmed-in cities such as Hong Kong have built airports by filling in water.  The drawbacks?  Such built land-moving projects are almost impossible to do in the United States anymore, considering the environmental considerations (even though the bay has been in effect a naval and pollution dump for decades) and other land use roadblocks.  It seems impossibly difficult politically, but there may be no other choice, other than continue to put up with planes scrapping the trees of Balboa Park …

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