NOVEMBER 27, 2001
The Port of Oakland must postpone most of its $1.38 billion airport expansion plan following Tuesday's refusal by the California Supreme Court to review an appellate court's decision that the environmental impact report on the expansion plan is insufficient.
In August a panel of the First District Court of Appeal ruled that the airport's environmental report did not cover all the issues, particularly regarding noise effects. (See Oakland Airport Development Plan Halted by Court of Appeals.)
The Supreme Court's denial of review means that the Port must comply with the appellate court's order to conduct new studies of how airport expansion will affect noise levels, toxic air emissions, and endangered species.
The Supreme Court decision does not affect an agreement signed Wednesday between the Port, the City of Alameda, and two nonprofit organizations -- Berkeley Keep Jets Over the Bay and Alameda-based Citizens League for Airport Safety and Serenity (CLASS). That agreement permits the airport to move forward with selected projects -- expanding security checkpoints, improving vehicle access, relocating rental car facilities, and building a garage, an overnight airplane parking area, and more gates.
The agreement calls for a second round of discussions on the more contentious issues of noise and air pollution. "I think phase-two discussions should be very productive because of [the court decision]," said Barbara Tuleja, president of CLASS. It also prohibits increased use of North Field and limits the length of the airport's main commercial runway at South Field, two causes that CLASS has fought hard over.
Port officials minimized the significance of the appellate court's directive to conduct further studies of noise and air pollution and put a positive spin on the decision. "It seems like everyone got something," said Port spokesman Harold Jones. The appeals court won't require a completely new environmental report, just studies of specific issues, Jones said.
CLASS doesn't see it that way. "The (environmental report) is, in fundamental ways, defective," said CLASS attorney Clem Shute. "The document is a number of years old. In our opinion it is outdated."
The appellate court decision may have a broader effect on how noise is studied, Tuleja said. Currently the federal government accepts studies that average the decibels of the quiet moments with the attention-grabbing roar of low-flying aircraft. "Single events should be used, rather than average noise," she said. "That's something we've been fighting for."
The City of San Leandro and the school districts of San Leandro and San Lorenzo were also parties to the original suit but settled before the appeal was decided.
Source: Based in part on a Contra Costa Times article