Why are we arguing about public safety when the federal agency for air transportation declares the Sunroad Centrum 12 office building a hazard to air navigation?

Pilots have to fly by the FAA rules to ensure safety. Shouldn’t developers be required to follow city, state and federal rules to ensure safety?

Instead, Sunroad Enterprises has wiggled out of a Stop Work Order issued by the city of San Diego, has denigrated the Caltrans Division of Aeronautics attempts to enforce state law that prohibits constructing hazards to air navigation, and flouted the FAA obstacle evaluation process that declared their first of three buildings too tall for flight safety.

Did you realize that Sunroad was late in telling the FAA that they were building a tall building? Instead of notifying the FAA 30 days before grading began, it was a pilot who called the FAA and asked what’s going on. The FAA called the architect, the architect called the city, nobody seemed to know what was going on, eventually the FAA helped Sunroad figure out their obligations to file a notice of proposed construction with the FAA — late! In due course, Sunroad got an FAA determination of presumed hazard — anything built over 160 feet would be a hazard.

Then the FAA had to remind Sunroad that if they didn’t resolve the hazard within 60 days, the determination would be final.

Sunroad immediately notice for 160 feet and got a determination of no hazard at that height. Phew! Safety showdown averted.


A month later, Sunroad sends the FAA two notices, one proposing a building height of 180 feet and the second disclosing that they had reached the maximum height of 180 feet — on the very same day! The FAA was upset! This was not the way their process was supposed to work. They need time to analyze things and recommend ways to keep pilots from tangling with hazards. How did Sunroad justify building anyway without advance notice? “Additional height required to accommodate planned structure dictated by land availability and location.”

Oh, by the way. Sunroad did not appeal the FAA determination, choosing not to pursue a hearing and present their evidence to change the determination. They ignored it and continued building anyway.

Rogue pilots would lose their license. Rogue developers, like Sunroad Enterprises, have legions of defenders that are now attacking the Montgomery Field airport itself.

But that gets into how the city of San Diego considers airports to be real estate assets rather than transportation assets, the long history of faulty land use planning around airports, more recently Senator Kehoe’s senate bill SB10 to revamp the airport authority and give back land use planning to elected officials, and of course, how developers influence all of these things.

Blog away!


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