Letter of Support for JWA General Aviation Plan Postponed, Staff Requests More Information

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A plane takes off from John Wayne Airport, flying over Newport Beach homes and the Upper Newport Bay.
— NB Indy file photo by Lawrence Sherwin ©

Newport Beach City Council unanimously voted this week to postpone sending a letter in support of any proposed alternatives for the General Aviation Improvement Program at John Wayne Airport.

City staff want more specific information from the county before moving forward and pulled the item from consent calendar on Tuesday.

City Manager Grace Leung explained that staff needs more details about the revised GAIP alternative plan that will likely be considered by the Orange County Board of Supervisors on June 25 before the city officially takes a position.

Depending on when they get the information, staff may bring it back to Council as a special meeting or on the agenda at the next regular meeting, Leung noted.

The proposed JWA General Aviation Improvement Program would provide a framework for updating the airport’s general aviation facilities.

At its March 12 meeting, the City Council heard an overview of the proposed John Wayne Airport GAIP and authorized the mayor to send a letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors stating the city of Newport Beach’s support for project Alternative 3.

As presented in the draft Environmental Impact Report, Alternative 3 would bring the airport’s GA facilities up to current Federal Aviation Administration design standards, but it would not expand the airport’s Fixed Base Operators or significantly alter the airport’s current GA aircraft mix. Alternative 3 would also have the least amount of GA jet operations by the year 2026.

City Council determined that this project alternative, if implemented, would be the least impactful on Newport Beach neighborhoods.

At the OC Board of Supervisors meeting on May 7, a motion to approve Alternative 3 failed and a compromise solution, a “modified Alternative 1,” was proposed.

Local leaders spoke at the county meeting in favor of Alternative 3. Dozens of community members also provided public comment, but there wasn’t a clear consensus behind one alternative or concept. No one spoke in favor of Alternative 1, which includes provisions for bringing JWA’s GA facilities up to current FAA design standards, but it also calls for three FBOs, a new GA terminal, and adding an international GA facility.

Supervisor Andrew Do proposed a compromise solution, a “modified Alternative 1,” which combines some elements of Alternatives 1 and 3.

After further discussion, the Board continued the item to give airport staff time to analyze the proposal and determine if it is aligned with the GAIP’s environmental document. The Board was initially scheduled to hear the item again on May 21, but it has since been rescheduled to the Board’s June 25 meeting.

The county has not yet finished its evaluation of the proposal or publicly provided its findings. Thus, the city has not yet had the opportunity to review the findings, determine if any modifications were necessary, and fully analyze the proposed compromise.

Before pulling the item on Tuesday, city staff recommended the city change its position to supporting the proposed compromise alternative or “one that best protects the Newport Beach community from additional noise and air quality impacts related to the airport’s operations,” and to authorize the mayor to send a letter to the board stating the city’s position.

But due to the apparent lack of Board support for Alternative 3, staff is returning to the Council for further direction.

“The proposed compromise appears promising, as elements – such as limiting the number of FBOs to two, eliminating the GAF, and providing for a lower number of based turbo jets than proposed in Alternative 1 – are similar to Alternative 3,” the staff report reads. “The city would have to make some concessions, however, because the proposal does call for seven more based turbo jets than Alternative 3 contains.”

For more information, visit newportbeachca.gov/government/departments/city-manager/john-wayne-airport/jwa-general-aviation-improvement-program

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