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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

New Flights OKd for Oxnard Airport

Despite Neighbors' Complaints, Supervisors Unanimously Back Service to Phoenix

September 13, 2000|CATHERINE BLAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two new flights will leave the Oxnard Airport, bound for Phoenix, the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday, despite complaints from residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the airport about noise and safety issues.

Supervisors also agreed to work toward a voluntary curfew--no flights after 11 p.m. or before 6 a.m.--for the Mesa Airlines service that is set to start Nov. 17.

The unanimous decisions came after Supervisor John Flynn said the airport has come to dominate the Oxnard landscape, hamstringing a city in desperate need of new school sites. There are strong regulations against school sites within about two miles of the airport.

He tried to persuade other supervisors not to approve the lease, saying the denial would be an incentive to work out an agreement for commercial flights at Point Mugu's military base.

"Approving this lease today is a mistake," Flynn said. "If we deny it, that will put pressure on us to act . . . to find a place for us at Point Mugu."

Flynn capitulated, and voted with the others, when it became clear that his amendment to work for a voluntary curfew might pass.

The first flight by a 37-passenger, turboprop aircraft will leave Oxnard at 6:40 a.m. The last arrival of the day will land at 8:57 p.m. The Oxnard Airport currently has six round-trip daily flights to Los Angeles International Airport.

About 20 public speakers addressed the board, both for and against the proposal. Some complained about pollution and congestion, while others mentioned the difficulty of building enough schools for the estimated 700 students crowded onto local campuses.

"Conditions today are such that the airport and the city are incompatible . . . and we need to relocate the airport," said Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez. "I am greatly concerned about our children."

He said potential school sites are increasingly difficult to locate, especially coupled with restrictions on schools near agricultural operations because of pesticide dangers.

Oxnard Airport is located in the middle of what used to be vegetable fields, but city officials have allowed development to encroach around it in the last decade.

Now many residents live under or near the flight path and worry that the new flights to Phoenix are just the beginning of more commercial operations.

Christine Becker, 54, a lifelong Oxnard resident, said her home, built in 1925, lies directly in the flight path. She said the proposed restrictions on flight times are virtually worthless.

"I would like these people to come live where I live," Becker said. "It's like putting your face in a bowl of lighter fluid and breathing. A curfew doesn't satisfy me in the least."

Some residents, however, spoke in favor of the airport and the added flights.

"It is impossible to go to LAX and not spend three or four hours getting there," said John R. Hatcher III, president of the local chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. "We need that airport, and I will go out and campaign for it."

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