Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006 | Alan Bersin, Bruce Boland and possible changes in the long-term plans for Lindbergh Field are in. Paul Peterson and at least four other airport authority board members are out.

Monday was a busy day for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

Its members, many meeting for their final time Monday morning, voted to include an analysis of several potential construction projects north of Lindbergh Field’s existing runway in an ongoing study, signaling a willingness to re-examine the airport’s long-term prospects.

Minutes after that meeting ended, the San Diego City Council confirmed former school’s chief Alan Bersin’s appointment to the authority’s board by a 6-2 vote, with council members Jim Madaffer and Donna Frye dissenting.

Mayor Jerry Sanders also announced the appointment of former Navy Mayor Bruce Boland to replace attorney Paul Peterson, who resigned Monday from the authority. Boland, a leader of the fight against November’s failed Miramar ballot initiative, will fill the remaining two years on Peterson’s term. Sanders did not ask Peterson to resign, mayoral spokesman Fred Sainz said.

“The mayor considers [Peterson] a friend and it was a surprise to us that it happened,” Sainz said.

Four council members – Frye, Madaffer, Brian Maienschein and Toni Atkins – wrote in a memo to Sanders sent Monday that they wanted Boland, not Bersin, on the authority’s executive committee. A position on the three-person executive committee pays $150,000 a year and is considered full time, whereas the remaining board members are paid a $100 stipend per meeting.

“With the recent failure of Proposition A,” the four wrote, “it is imperative that leadership emerges with the intent to carry out the will of the voters who have overwhelmingly decided to maintain Lindbergh Field as San Diego’s foremost airport.”

The four could have kept Bersin from being appointed to the authority. Instead, they voted on a proposal to put Boland on the executive committee and Bersin on the lower-paid tier, though it failed 5-3, with Atkins defecting.

Boland said Sanders called him Monday afternoon to offer the authority appointment. “I did not politick for the position,” he said.

Bersin, a former U.S. attorney and superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, replaces outgoing authority Chairman Joe Craver. Bersin will join Bob Watkins on the authority’s executive committee, pending Watkins’ confirmation by county supervisors. A decision about the authority’s future chairman could be made Thursday afternoon, when authority members are sworn in.

Boland will join the authority board’s other tier. He’ll be accompanied by newly appointed Jim Panknin, a Santee resident and former Marine who worked with Boland on the fight against the Miramar proposal. Panknin replaces Mary Teresa Sessom, Lemon Grove’s mayor and a vocal Miramar critic. Ramona Finnila, a former Carlsbad City councilwoman, will also join the authority, replacing Oceanside resident Robert Maxwell.

Peterson’s resignation – he said he wants to spend more time with his family – leaves four current board members in place: San Diego City Councilman Tony Young, Paul Nieto and Vista Mayor Morris Vance. The fourth, executive committee member, Xema Jacobson, is at the end of her term but wants to stay on the authority. The Democrat’s prospects for reappointment by a Republican governor are uncertain.

The new appointments bring a fresh face to the authority, which saw its major charge – the three-year, $17.2-million site-selection process – fail with voters’ rejection of a commercial Miramar airport. Four of the seven airport board members who supported the Miramar initiative are now gone.

Before departing Monday, they signaled a new interest in plans to develop airport facilities north of Lindbergh Field’s existing runway. At Nieto’s suggestion, the authority unanimously voted to study the traffic impacts of building a consolidated rental car facility and a transit center with possible bus or trolley connections on the airport’s northeast side.

The studies will be done as part of the authority’s master planning process, which currently envisions a $600 million expansion of terminal gates and parking facilities. The car facility, which would move Hertz, Avis, National and potentially a fourth company, would free up bayfront land owned by the Unified Port of San Diego across Harbor Drive from the airport.

The facilities’ inclusion signals a fresh look at Lindbergh’s potential long-term options. The current master plan was designed to keep Lindbergh viable until 2015 – about the time the airport authority once expected to be moving into a new Miramar commercial airport. But Nieto said the authority needed “a better defined framework” for examining Lindbergh’s options.

The facilities are not part of the current plan, but could be included in a second phase of the master plan.

Please contact Rob Davis directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.

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