Bill Lynch, the former airport authority member who was one of the most ardent supporters of the plan to move the region’s international airport to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, just called me out of the blue with an appraisal of the newly developed plan to maximize Lindbergh Field.
“This thing is a joke,” he said.
Building tunnels under Lindbergh’s runway to move luggage won’t work, he said, because the water table is too high. Loading passengers on one side of the runway and moving them to gates on the other side isn’t a good idea either, he said. Lindbergh’s sole runway will eventually limit its ability to handle passenger demand, he said, so there’s little point spending money on it.
“It’s such a bad idea that it could’ve been thought up in Washington or Sacramento,” Lynch said.
Lynch asked how the airport authority and its $180 million budget could possibly finance an expansion project that could range as high as $10 billion.
Well, I asked, when he was sitting on the authority’s board, how did he expect that same $180 million budget to finance a $7 billion airport construction project at Miramar?
He said, in effect: Don’t you think the underlying land at Lindbergh Field would be worth something?
That’s an interesting revelation. During the three-year-long effort to close Lindbergh and open a two-runway airport at Miramar, the airport authority staff and appointees always stayed mum about Lindbergh’s future. They deflected criticism that they were trying to clear the way for bay-front developers. If the airport closed, they often said, its lease would revert to the Unified Port District of San Diego, which ran the airport before the authority’s creation in January 2003.
In other words, the land’s future was out of their hands.
Lynch’s suggestion isn’t a shock. If Lindbergh closed, no one would simply let the bay-front land sit vacant. But, even three years after the Miramar ballot initiative failed, it’s the first time I’ve heard any Miramar supporters publicly admit that Lindbergh’s land had any development value.
Correction: The original version of this post said that Lynch believed the water table was too low. We regret the error.