It's time for a different kind of Pt. Loma pause
by Guest commentary Patricia M. Walsh
Published - 05/21/08 - 12:23 PM | 8867 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Ann Swanson spoke to the Peninsula Community Planning Board (PCPB) on Thursday, May 15 about improvements to the Sunset View Regional Park, board members listened attentively and thanked her for her efforts to beautify the community.

Their moment of civility was a welcome reprieve from the contemptuous posture that area residents received when they voiced their concerns and opposition to the San Diego Airport Authority's expansion plans for Lindbergh Field.

During those public comments, several board members "” including PCPB Airport Committee chair Suhail Khalil and alternate Dee Wiley, the two people who should be most interested in what the community has to say "” literally turned away from speakers to engage in private conversations with other board members, requiring PCPB chair Charles Mellor to reset the three-minute [public comment] clock on more than one occasion.

If a status report from one person on a park project warrants the undivided attention of an organization whose purpose it is to advise the city of San Diego on land use-based community goals and development proposals, concerns raised by a group of citizens about the far-reaching implications of a massive airport expansion including safety, noise, traffic and quality of life deserves the same.

To be fair, behavior on both sides of the lectern at the PCPB meeting was inappropriate and undignified. As much as the board was arrogant and selectively communicative "” Wiley was quick to say she was privy to revisions in the Marriott's Nickelodeon hotel resort project on Harbor Drive, but mute when asked how she knew of the plans "” outbursts from members of the community were disorderly. The barbs were not of malicious intent but more cry of desperation to have a say in the process.

Where, if not at the PCPB, are the residents whose lives are invested under the planes to have a voice? Residents, families and property owners who oppose the 10 new gates and a five-level parking garage outside Terminal 2 on Harbor Drive have been effectively tuned out by a cadre of government agencies led by the Airport Authority.

From the authority's one-note song-and-dance press conference staged with business interests reciting the same line of approval to the advisory committee it formed and convened under the radar and a "public outreach" that will take place in September, four months after its initial expansion proposal, it's transparently clear that Airport Authority chair Alan Bersin and the authority's president/CEO Thella Bowens aren't listening. With what so far appears to be likeminded head-nodding from the city and the PCPB, it's more important than ever for a group like [former PCPB Airport Committee chair] Lance Murphy's to question the Airport Authority, especially if the dissonance creates dialogue, not dictation.

It's time for a Point Loma pause of another kind, one in which communication is fostered and public meetings are accessible. If Wiley would have been candid about her knowledge of the Nickelodeon project "” perhaps her interest is personal, to which she is entitled "” she would not have added to the appearance of secrecy and collusion.

Instead of burying the Airport Committee's report at the end of the night's agenda, the PCPB could easily provide a reasonable time certain and then actually listen when the community speaks.

But the bigger issue of a short-sighted build at Lindberg Field still looms overhead. If the Airport Authority is really concerned about the region's economic viability as it relates to capacity, a long-term strategic plan that allows for maximum profit means air operations throughout the region, not just in Point Loma. Anything else is leaving money on the table.

"” Patricia M. Walsh is a freelance journalist who has lived in Point Loma for 22 years.
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