Newport Beach reviews county plan to upgrade John Wayne Airport, with concern over increase in private jet traffic
NEWPORT BEACH — An increase in the number of private jets flying out of John Wayne Airport — and how that could affect the quality of life for people living nearby — was the hot topic in a discussion about a proposed county plan to upgrade general aviation at the airport.
The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday, March 12, reviewed plans to expand operations at the airport. As part of that review, the council offered feedback on the county’s environmental impact report for the infrastructure project, which presented several alternative project plans varying in scope and size.
Proposed upgrades include modernization of airport facilities, terminals and airfield roads.
With a plan to increase private jet traffic, the project would include a terminal for passengers arriving from noncommercial flights. That would require a separate, fee-based screening facility for the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection.
The City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to support one of the alternative plans — one they say appears to have the least impact on nearby residents and the community as a whole. The council voted to direct Mayor Diane Dixon to send a letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors requesting the board adopt that alternative.
In this plan, the county would upgrade the airport’s terminals and facilities to make them compliant under Federal Aviation Administration standards but would not expand the airport’s mix of aircraft.
“I’m most concerned about the impact here on the quality of life in our city,” said Councilman Jeff Herdman, who chairs the city’s Aviation Committee, which reviewed the plan last week. “We’ve dealt with a blight of the airport for 30 years. Just don’t do anything else, we’ve had enough. We’re trying to have council take a position on which alternative has the least impact on quality of life here.”
The EIR’s two other alternatives, city officials said, appear to reduce storage for lighter general aviation — helicopters, single and two-engines planes — and provide more space for private jets, including those that can travel internationally. City staff found that the lighter general aircraft is less intrusive than the private jets because they follow flight patterns that take them away from Newport shortly after takeoff, while jets fly directly over the city.
In a review of the EIR, city staff and consultants found that almost 50 private jets depart from the airport daily. That number would increase under the other two alternatives. An increase in private jets flying internationally, they said, could mean 24/7 fights over the city.
“This is the way the airport is determined to grow — according to them (the county), their stakeholders want this done,” said Nancy Alston, a 32-year resident of Newport Beach who is part of the citizen’s group Stop Polluting Our Newport. “I don’t know why we’re not a stakeholder.”
Maxine Maly, who lives on Balboa Island, asked the council to consider legal action.
“Do not allow the supervisors to pave the way for John Wayne Airport to be turn into LAX,” she said Tuesday. “If private jets are allowed to fly 24/7 over Newport Beach, we won’t be able to sleep at night. Our home values will plummet. Your constituents are depending on you to do the right thing.”
Dixon commended the community’s participation and interest.
“This is something we’re all aligned on,” she said. “We’re spending a lot of money with good consultants.”
Dixon and Supervisor Michelle Steele will hold a Town Hall on the county’s proposed airport upgrades from 10 a.m. to noon April 6 in the Newport Beach Civic Center Community Room, 100 Civic Center Drive. Those interested are asked to RSVP to email@example.com.