Livermore Airport Expansion Up Against Opposition

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It's a classic, if sad, tale of airports in America: Livermore Municipal Airport in northern California, about an hour east of San Francisco, was built in the wide-open spaces of the valley back in 1965. Popular with pilots, the airport today is bursting at the seams, with 180 names on a waiting list for hangar space. But the once-open spaces now are packed full with housing developments, and the neighbors not only oppose expansion, they want the airport and its noise gone altogether. The debate has reached the status of a "feud," according to the Oakland Tribune, which reported Tuesday that the two camps respond with distrust and derision to each other's comments at public hearings. At a recent meeting, Craig Sjoberg said he's been flying out of the Livermore airport for 18 years. "The airport has been there a long time," he said. "It's a safe airport." But a Pleasanton planning commissioner said that "not all of the pilots who fly out of Livermore are nice guys." Another official who lives near the field said some airplanes fly too low: "There are times when I think I can see the eyes of the pilots ... when they come in." Two years ago, jet pilots were asked to honor a voluntary curfew that prohibits use of the airport between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Hundreds of residents have crowded recent meetings about an expansion proposal that would lengthen runways and add hangar space. A planning commission meeting on the issue held last night was expected to draw so many people that the venue had to be changed from the City Council chambers to an auditorium.