City Council reverses stance on airport runway length
by Joel Danoy
Oct 18, 2013 | 4125 views | 6 6 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The Tracy City Council took steps Tuesday, Oct. 15, toward solidifying the Tracy Municipal Airport’s runway length at 4,002 feet and overriding a county advisory commission’s recommendation to stop the construction of homes in the airport’s departure and takeoff zone.

During their June 18 meeting, council members voted to have the city staff begin finalizing an update to the Tracy Municipal Airport Layout Plan with the runway designated at 3,997 feet.

The runway’s length, as established in the 2001 Airport Layout Plan on file with the Federal Aviation Administration, is 4,002 feet, the city staff told council members Tuesday.

Ed Lovell, management analyst for the Tracy Public Works Department, told the council that since the June 18 meeting, the city has received an email from the Federal Aviation Administration advising the city of Tracy that the runway length needed to be maintained at 4,002 feet.

During his report to the council, Lovell relayed the FAA’s warning that shortening the runway could jeopardize federal funding to have the runway repaved. The project is slated to cost $15.5 million, $13.2 million of which is FAA grant money. Tracy contributes $2.3 million.

City Manager Leon Churchill Jr. told the council that the FAA email was "definitive feedback that the runway length needs to be as it is currently."

The council’s 5-0 vote to maintain the runway at 4,002 feet was made in time for the FAA funding cycle application process that ends in October 2014.

The second — and more controversial vote — regarded the override of a 10-0 vote earlier on Tuesday by the San Joaquin Council of Governments that declared that a development amendment to the Ellis project by The Surland Cos. was inconsistent with the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan. The compatibility plan restricts housing in the safety zone around the airport to one house per five acres — a total of four or five houses.

The council voted 4-1 to begin a three-step process toward an override. Councilman Robert Rickman voted against the motion. Mayor Brent Ives voted in favor after voting against the motion as a SJCOG member earlier in the day.

The amendment requests a higher-density zoning that allows four to nine houses per acre. The size of the safety zone is unclear.

Dave Anderson, president of Tracy Airport Association, showed the council 45 slides — many containing pictures and reports of aircraft crashing into homes built in the safety zones of various airports.

Anderson contested that a proposed aquatics center is planned in an area near the airport where 23 percent of aircraft crashes occur during departure and landing. He said planes would be "turning at low altitude and speeds" just 260 feet above Ellis homes.

"If something happens, they won’t have any room to recover," Anderson said.

Les Serpa of The Surland Cos. attended the meeting with three lawyers and two airport consultants, each of whom claimed that the amendment complied with the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan.

Anderson, an airport advocate, presented his familiar argument that the airport will lose its economic viability if safety zones aren’t strictly enforced.

However, Ives was skeptical that such crashes would occur. He also spoke directly to the airport advocates and claimed that the airport had not shown its worth. About 20 airport supporters attended the meeting.

"Twenty years and Ellis hasn’t been there," he said. "It’s still a loser, it’s not a winner. Y’all keep talking about how great the airport is, but I’m not seeing it. You’ve had a lot of time to prove that."

Councilman Charles Manne, who later voted to override the SJCOG vote, said he questioned whether residents in the safety zone would be safe.

"I question whether or not I can live comfortably with myself … and say, "Yeah, I approved a housing development there and a plane may never crash there," he said. "Lord willing, I hope that never happens. Even 30 years from now, am I going to feel comfortable with that? No."

Contact Joel Danoy at 830-4229 or

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October 23, 2013
Amazon wants to fly small jets out of the airport and surland wants to build houses at the end of the runway. The city council has agreed to both. Hows that going to work
November 06, 2013
Small jet aircraft can fly out of a 4002 ft. airfield, even a 737 can use it. The real determining factor is V1. V1 has variables that would refine the size and load of aircraft to take-off from that 4002 ft. runway.

More importantly is the emergency use, a commercial aircraft needing a place to land will find that better than ditching. The F-16 only needs as little as 2000 ft., so 4002 ft. is a very important size understanding the economic future of the geographical area.

November 06, 2013
Small jet aircraft can fly out of a 4002 ft. airfield, even a 737 can use it, on the other hand a F-16 only needs as little as 2000 ft. The real determining factor is V1, V1 has variables that would refine the size and load of aircraft to take-off from that 4002 ft. runway.

More importantly is the emergency use, a commercial aircraft needing a place to land will find it is better than ditching (into houses) so yes 4002 ft. is very important when considering an in-flight emergency.

The size will also correlate to future growth, understanding the economic future of the geographical area when it will be more advantages to fly from Tracy to SFO or elsewhere.

Now about the money, if Tracy repaves the runway on their own it will cost approximately 10 million for let's say 3000 ft. and Tracy loses its chance to attract future air travel business. If Tracy uses the fed grant money Tracy will save 7.5 million and get 4002 ft. of runway with hopes of growth.

Tracy heads need to sharpen their pencils and do the math, instead of procrastinating about no money get proactive and use the money available via grants and save the citizens increased taxes.

October 22, 2013
I'm surprised no one read the deed dated May 27, 1947 whereby the Feds transferred the airport to the City. One of the conditions was that when the City accepted the airport, the City agreed not do anything on any of the land in or around the airport that could impact he safe operation of the airport which would constitute a hazard. The mayor of Tracy at the time, J.W. Stocking, signed off on behalf of the City agreeing to terms of the deed. Sounds like the City has a contract with the Feds that they can't do anything to mess with the airport unless Uncle Sam agrees to it, in writing. Why wasn't that mentioned by our City Attorney? Why risk getting sued by the Feds for breaching the terms of the transfer the City agreed to in 1947 to benefit just one person, i.e. Les? A contract is a contract. End of discussion. Les, just build the project respecting that 66 year old contract.
October 18, 2013
I don't know anyone in their right mind who would want to purchase a home at the end of a runway or anywhere near an airport, especially when airplanes are flying 260' over their house. Building a water park in the vicinity where Tracy Airport Association president Dave Anderson said 23% of crashes occur during take-off or landing is a ridiculous idea also. (I noticed that statement has been removed by TP) Caveat emptor ... Let The Buyer Beware!
October 18, 2013
I did not see wat dey removed, but maybe they removed it because that guy was showing pictures of jumbo jet crashes. We dont hav jumbo jets in Tracy, so I thought the guy downloaded the power point slideshow from's website and probably never even bothered to put any thought into it. Another thing. Twenty three percent of airplanes dont crash.

It was a scare tactic if u ever saw one. They dont have jumbo jets going at low speed at an airport az small az the one here. Small planes fly slower than jumbo jets. In fact the airport operator was in the audience claiming there would be an insurance problem if they land a jet that big. He told everybody he would bring his insurance agent next month to prove the runway is too short for jumbo jets, as per his insurance company.

Then the developers lawyer got up and said they would pay for the fuel costs and the insurance, if they were asked again, but then the guy with the power point polled the audience and asked them if they wanted to continue asking the developer for money and they all said to shut the airport down if u cant move the basalite factory. They all agreed instead to work for free as volunteer docents and turn it into a museum.

Then some guy stood up who sounded like the Swedish Chef, from the Muppet Show, and he offered a Jack Kavorkien style suide service in a European sports car with as much Vodka as you can drink. They promise you a back seat ride to no suicide attempt you ever saw.

They promise you will go directly into the aquaduct and since your body will end up in southern california as farm fertilizer you will save money on burial coats..quite an attractive deal of thats the sorta thing u R lookin for. And unfortunately the only viable business plan they could come up with.

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