Despite opposition from some residents, a study of possible locations for a county airport in the Santa Clarita Valley to meet a shortage of space in the Los Angeles area for light planes points to the little Agua Dulce Air Park as the solution, unless the county can find an alternative in a widened search.
That is the conclusion of a report by an advisory committee appointed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the area, and a team of hired consultants.
The Board of Supervisors voted in May to spend $150,000 for the study after postponing indefinitely--because of opposition from residents--a vote on expanding Agua Dulce Air Park.
Of four sites studied since last June, the consultants--Walter Gillfillan & Associates and PRC Engineering Inc. of Orange--concluded in a report issued last week that the Agua Dulce facility and a privately owned airstrip at the closed Indian Dunes motorcycle park were the best locations.
"Indian Dunes ranks higher than Agua Dulce," the report said, and "if it were not for the unwillingness of the landowner to sell this property, Indian Dunes would be by far the most desirable of the alternatives studied."
However, the property is not for sale, according to Gloria Casvin, a vice president of Newhall Land & Farming Co., which owns it.
The airstrip on the property is used exclusively by the company, which intends to continue renting out the site for film making in the foreseeable future, Casvin said. Eventually, the property will be developed for homes and businesses as part of a planned community, she said.
"If, in reality, the county cannot obtain the Indian Dunes property, then Agua Dulce becomes the only remaining airport within the prescribed study area," the report said.
The Agua Dulce Air Park and about 200 acres adjacent to it are listed for sale by the owner, Charles Annon, with a local real estate broker. The asking price is $2.9 million.
Others Too Expensive
The two other sites considered--near Castaic Lake and the Cruzan Mesa, south of Vasquez Canyon Road in Saugus--would require a lot of earthmoving and are too expensive to develop, Gillfillan said. The Castaic Lake site would cost $13 million and the Cruzan Mesa site $19 million, the report said.
The estimated cost to convert the Indian Dunes airstrip into an airport is $2 million.
Agua Dulce, which has a 4,500-foot paved runway now, would cost about $2.6 million to develop, according to the report. That figure would be reduced to $1.9 million if the maximum number of aircraft based there were reduced from 300 to 175, a compromise proposed by Antonovich.
Gillfillan emphasized that the report's conclusions are not the final recommendations that the committee and the consultants will submit to the Board of Supervisors.
"We're going to look at some other sites," he said.
The committee will meet on Dec. 17 to decide if the study area should be expanded to include a site near Acton and an existing private airstrip on a ranch in Gorman, Gillfillan said. The committee also will discuss the effect of an airport on Agua Dulce's water supply, other possible uses for the Agua Dulce property and the economics of the Agua Dulce site.
Base for 300 Aircraft
Because of the area's rapidly growing population, the consultants projected that the Santa Clarita Valley will need an airport that can serve as a base for 300 aircraft by the year 2005. The population of the Santa Clarita Valley is expected to more than double from its present 103,000 to about 216,000 by then, according to the report.
The proposed airport would serve as a base for small single- and twin-engine private aircraft and medium twin-engine turboprop jets--the type of aircraft often used by corporations, Gillfillan said.
The Agua Dulce site was proposed as a possible site by county aviation division chief Jack Tippie, the county Airport Commission and pilots' groups after San Fernando Airport closed in 1984, eliminating 250 permanent parking spots for private airplanes.
At that time, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority went on record in support of the Agua Dulce expansion because of "concern about general-aviation capacity," said spokesman Victor Gill. Jack Cole of the Aviation Division said county officials also are concerned that there soon will be no parking places left in the Los Angeles basin for private airplanes. The county-operated Whiteman Airport near the closed San Fernando Airport now is at capacity, with 775 private planes based there, he said.
"There is a long waiting list," there, he said, and, to the south, "Torrance is full."
Expected to Draw Pilots
Gillfillan said the advisory committee expects that some pilots from the San Fernando Valley and nearby areas will use the proposed Santa Clarita Valley airport.