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Gillespie Field Airport to Expand, Council Talks 'Santee Aerotropolis'

The airport on the edge of Santee is set to expand by 70 acres starting next year, and the city's getting ready to take advantage of it.

Talk about Gillespie Field is in the air- KPBS recently published a story about the upcoming expansion of the county-run airport and the Santee City Council discussed the "Santee Aerotropolis" at the last meeting, a plan for Santee businesses to better cash in on the nearby airport.

Redevelopment plans for the 70-acre expansion into the site of the old El Cajon Speedway include construction of a new taxiway and businesses related to the aeronautics industry.

The KPBS article quotes a group of East County residents that don't want to see more flight training at the airport because of the noise the low-flying and often circling aircraft make. Director of airports for San Diego County, Peter Drinkwater, told KPBS the county can't deny new flight schools access to the expanded airport.

Santee's airport neighbor saw 184,500 flights last year, about 35,000 fewer than the 40 year average, according to Drinkwater.

The expansion is scheduled to break ground in 2014.

The Santee City Council discussed the concept of the "Santee Aerotropolis" at the January 9 meeting. The idea is to utilize the economic engine of the airport and help surrounding businesses take advantage of a major economic center of East County.

City staff said they are studying transportation linkage- the best strategy to link the airport with businesses around it, specifically those on the Santee side of the fence. This would include creating an entrance to the airport from the Santee side. They are in talks with county to create a safe corridor so planes can taxi in and out of first row of buildings.

According to city staff, there are about 150 acres in Santee, between Magnolia Avenue, Cuyamaca Street and SR-52, that could benefit from this project. They want to set the city up in advance to take advantage of airport and promote the key 150 acres.

City staff said that the East County Economic Development Council is working diligently to obtain grant money for this project.

Read more about the proposed Gillespie Field expansion at KPBS

Bill Howell January 22, 2013 at 11:27 PM
I've lived in Santee since '72. One of the biggest mistakes the city ever made was not incorporating soon enough to annex Gillespie Field to Santee. El Cajon jumped at the chance and snagged it up right away. It was county property up for annexation, but we couldn't move fast enough.....dang!
chbunch January 23, 2013 at 02:11 AM
As someone who decided to purchase a home beneath the takeoff pattern, I can say that the repetitive flights can get old. I know that we bought in a less than ideal location, and was willing to deal with our decision. What I think is unfair is that the airport does not have any operating hours. Jets taking off at 3 am should not be acceptable. Lindbergh Field doesn't have operating hours at that time, neither should a small commuter airport which is near so many residences in Santee and El Cajon. And I admit I have no experience with planes, but it really seems like there are large differences in elevation that a lot of these jets take off with. Some are a reasonable height above the ground, but some seem like they are trying to stay as low as possible to the ground. Not only is it even louder, but it seems unsafe. Just my thoughts...
J Santee January 23, 2013 at 03:56 AM
chbunch: You're not the only one who isn't thrilled with the airport. I'd love to see Gillespie Field closed. That's a lot of land that could be put to much better use.
Jake January 23, 2013 at 03:13 PM
I disagree with he expansion as the current operation is way under regulated with unidentified planes using the strip at any hour of the night. I complained about a jet taking off at 3am and the airport manager responded that he believes it was a jet from Mexico without any identification . I sure hope Gillespie isn't used as drug run fo he Mexican cartel but who knows what's going on when they allow such freedom to use the airport at anytime without approval. On another note an expansion would only create more opportunities for the rich folks that don't even live in east county as commuter airlines are few and far between.
John Lin January 23, 2013 at 04:23 PM
Expansion means more flights. At the current rate of 184,500 per year, this equates to 505 per day or 21 flights an hour which means one flight every 2.5 minutes using a 24 hour cycle. Please tell me how do you expect to expand an airport at these rates without impacting a community? I am opposed.
PwmCwzy January 23, 2013 at 06:50 PM
I would like to know why H.R. 6159 to amend title 49, United States Code, to require that individuals seeking training in the operation of certain aircraft be checked against the terrorist watchlist to ensure that such individuals are non-threats to aviation, has not moved out of committee in the Republican majority Congress. “Rep. Duncan Hunter stated: "Pilots from non-NATO countries should NOT be trained at Gillespie." Why isn’t he pushing H.R. 6159?
ED Blitz January 23, 2013 at 11:09 PM
This really sounds fantastic and a great addition to Santee and El Cajon. If only it were true. The lease rates for hangars paid at Gillespie are quite low, far below fair market value. An appraisal was undertaken in 2010 to determine the fair amount of rent to be charged. The appraiser suggested a fair rate of rent of $1,200 per acre per month for 2010. The Council took this rental rate of $1,200 for 2010 and will phase it in over a nine-year period. Therefore, the 2010 fair market rent of $1,200 will not be reached until 2019 when rates will surely be much higher. (I have a copy of the appraisal and the lease increases) Many leaseholders simply sublet these hangars to others at much higher lease rates. So where’s the economic engine? Do we need to build more? It has also come to light that numerous lessees at Gillespie are storing RV’s (I have photos), boats, equipment, or even running small businesses out of these hangars, which is completely against the rules. The lease rates are much lower than if they rented similar space at another location. When questioned, several of the lessees indicated that they simply put some kind of aviation sign out the front door of the hangar and were in compliance. So where’s the economic engine?
ED Blitz January 23, 2013 at 11:12 PM
As I was saying.... In June the Board of Supervisors agreed to the expansion of 70 acres at Gillespie Field. Supervisor Dianne Jacob noted that Gillespie has a preponderance of flight schools and stipulated that no more flight schools be added. Gillespie currently has between 9 and 11 schools; no one can get a straight answer as to the actual number. This is far more than any at the other airports. In fact, several flight schools have relocated to Gillespie because of the favorable lease rates and lack of rules. One of the larger schools is foreign owned and thus any profits do not stay locally. So where’s the economic engine? In September I attended a workshop that explained the proposal process with respect to this 70- acre development. The only attendees who showed any interest in future development were the flight schools. So where’s the economic engine? Where’s the light industry and other businesses we keep hearing about? Based on my comments above do we really need to build more hangars? The only economic engine going on at Gillespie is the enriching of a select few. Santee and El Cajon will not see any real economic growth from the expansion until and when there is true business development.
Matt Topper January 23, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Funny to read typical Santee residents crowbar race into everything!
BridgetBurns January 24, 2013 at 01:12 AM
Dear Santee City Council Members, Please take into account the wishes of the Santee citizens. Increasing the tax base may not be in the best interest of the people living with the results of those few dollars.
Bill Howell January 24, 2013 at 05:11 PM
I truly feel for the folks who live close to the west end of Gillespie especially. Whenever I depart westbound, I always climb quickly to avoid making too much noise. I suggest that the homeowners get together and make this suggestion to the flight school operators: move touch and go operations to Ramona, or better yet, Brown Field. Brown is huge, underused and pretty much surrounded by industrial areas. It's only a 10 minute flight from Gillespie. I'll bet this would lower the use and noise problems by 25%!
santee1960 January 25, 2013 at 07:32 AM
Santee1960 They ripped out Cajon Speedway to enlarge the Airport & that land sits unused except as a parking lot a few times a year. I have lived in Santee for 53 years, I have seen it change from a decent little town, to a waist land of mini malls & freeway off ramps. I know thing have to change & Santee will grow . But adding a whole new area to the airport doesn't sound like a good idea to me. One last thing.... Aerotropolis ? ? ? You have got to be kidding me. What the Heck is a Aerotropolis. Who thought that up LOL
Robert Germann January 25, 2013 at 02:15 PM
General Aviation is dead. Gillespie is dying and the only way for them to stay alive is to train China's pilots putting American pilots out of work. Just another example of the US not protecting their own. The worse part,it is done with our tax dollars. Santee should stay out of the Aviation besiness. There is no free lunch. When you take money from the Feds, they now have the right to tell you what you can do with the property. Better read the fine print. The county should be BUYING Gillespie Field from the feds, that's the solutions. I'M sure the Feds would love that idea since they are about to fly of the end of the runway.(fiscal Cliff)
Robert Germann January 25, 2013 at 04:41 PM
After reading Mr. Blitz comments I have to agree., Where is the economic engine? The East County Development Council must be blind because what I see when I drive around Gillespie.is: A huge piece of property that says "for lease/rent" signs everywhere. A restaurant that has great food but closes at 3:30 pm ElCajon city that has the highest tax rate in East County(10%) Is this what Santee wants? The 70 vacant acres should not be used for a "State of the Art Aviation Training Center" to train foreign students.(China) Gillespie Re-Development Council and the FAA have taken away the park on Marshall St. The park was to memorilze Mr. Bob Denis.Mr. Dennis maintained the property across from his business at his own expense for the benefit of the public to use as a park. Now whats going to be built there? Dormatories for the China student pilots? The Swedish school where pilots train is across the street from this property. Citizens need to start connecting the dots and start asking questions..Say no to the Power Plant and to the Expansion at Gillespie Field..
Sue Strom January 25, 2013 at 05:35 PM
Gillespie Field operates with impunity. There are NO rules -- no curfews, no noise controls, no emissions monitoring and no one in the tower after 9 pm. The proliferation of flight schools, most of them from foreign countries, and the expansion of Gillespie, will only serve to make the situation worse. It's time to take a stand. Join 400 of your neighbors and sign up with ASAP-Gillespie.com. (Advocates for Safe Airport Policies) It's time to stop the bully on the playground.
Susan Blitz January 25, 2013 at 05:49 PM
The East County Economic Development Council (ECEDC) is promoting the Aerotropolis. What sounds like a bad dream will become a living nightmare with the expansion and addition of even more flight schools. Gillespie has more flight schools than any other county airport. Why? Because they get sweet deals and have no rules to abide by. It's outrageous. Santee, don't be duped!!!
Doug Curlee January 25, 2013 at 06:59 PM
before we all go thinkng there's a huge groundswell of opposition here, i need to point out , at the risk of offending people i know and consider friends, the fact that i believe susan blitz and sue strom are in fact the same person..i know sue strom and ed blitz are married.. which leads me to wonder what rheir interest in all this is.. doug
Susan Blitz January 25, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Doug!!! Cathy and I were just thinking about you and how to get a hold of you. Yes, Sue Strom and Sue Blitz are the same person, and neither of them knows how to use the computer very well. I was just as surprised as you to see both names. Ed and I are both on the steering committee for ASAP, Advocates for Safe Airport Policies. On another note, please contact me through ASAP-Gillespie Field. We keep the names and email addresses on our database (yes, really, 400 people) private. Or you may still have my email from the Channel 39 reunion. It's good to "see" you again. Best, Sue
Susan Blitz January 25, 2013 at 11:00 PM
See, I did it again.
Doug Curlee January 26, 2013 at 12:28 AM
i will, kid.. it'd be good to see you again.. doug

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