A pro-El Toro Airport group on Wednesday fired the latest salvo in the war over the proposed airfield with a report suggesting that airline traffic overhead wouldn't hurt home values.
That finding came under immediate fire by airport opponents and others, including the Orange County Assn. of Realtors, which initially participated in the study but dropped out last month after reading its conclusions.
"Ninety percent of the clients and sellers I work with are against the airport," said Jan Herkelrath, the association's past director. "This is not a complete picture of what's happening."
The report by the Orange County Business Council was released less than three weeks before Orange County voters will be asked to pass judgment on Measure F, an initiative that would require two-thirds of the voters to approve any projects involving airports, hazardous waste landfills and large jails within half a mile of homes. The airport was approved in 1994 by a slim majority of voters.
Studies of south Orange County real estate values have shown that homes nearest the Marine base have appreciated since El Toro was slated for closure in 1993, but haven't appreciated as fast as homes farther from the base.
The most recent study looked at other reviews of property values around 20 areas in the United States, Canada and England from 1972. It concluded that there are enough people who want to buy homes near airports to make up for those who don't, according to the study.
Airports have both a positive and negative impact on home prices, depending on how close a property is to flight paths, said Wallace Walrod, vice president of research and communications for the business council. As long as homes are outside of the noisiest zones, homeowners have nothing to worry about, Walrod said.
County airport planners say that no Orange County homes or schools will fall within the area expected to be the noisiest zone, where airport noise would average 65 decibels a day.
Living near an airport doesn't automatically mean bad news for home sellers or buyers, said Larry Franzella, a broker with Prudential California Realty in San Mateo County and mayor of San Bruno next to San Francisco International Airport.
"There are homes that are 900 square feet selling for $300,000 in the [high noise zone]," Franzella said Wednesday.
The business council also has sent out 2,000 surveys to new home buyers since September asking about their purchase decisions. About half of the 420 people who responded bought homes in South County, considered the area that would bear the brunt of the noise, traffic and pollution generated by a proposed airport.
The survey showed that buyers said the proposed airport was less of a factor in their decisions than, for instance, the quality of the neighborhood, crime rate, schools and purchase price.
Airport opponents also criticized the report for failing to analyze lost sales or the cost to existing homeowners of putting their houses on the market because they don't want to live next to an airport.
The report will be distributed by the business council to real estate agents across Orange County, council Executive Director Stan Oftelie said.