The East County Economic Development Council’s “strategic aerotropolis roadmap” for land surrounding Gillespie Field airport could include proposals for hotels and a facility for veterans to certify for civilian employment, development council president Jo Marie Diamond said in a July 15 interview.
“We want to create jobs" so people aren't getting in their cars and "going west to work," she said.
The plan for an economic hub around the airport won't include two uses proposed by Lakeside resident Robert Germann.
“There are so many empty buildings around Gillespie Field,” said Germann in a July 12 interview. “I favor a Chargers stadium. It gets a little warm; we have a water park.”
Germann, a retired truck driver, said he became concerned about airport issues in 2011 and joined the Advocates for Safe Airport Policies residents’ group before forming Citizens Against Gillespie Field Existence Low Flying Aircraft six months ago. There are about a dozen Lakeside residents in his group. Among the groups' concerns are that more flight schools will open.
Diamond said that the FAA requires aviation use on the land. Furthermore, the Gillespie Field Development Council (a group that advises the county) makes land-use recommendations for airport land.
The airport property served as the Marine Corps' Camp Gillespie parachutist facility from 1942 until 1944, when the Marines phased out parachute units. In 1946, the county leased the field and converted it to a public airport. Eight years later, the federal government transferred the land to the county.
Gillespie Field encompasses 852 acres, according to the FAA. Among the issues concerning Germann is the use of 70 acres where cars raced at the Cajon Speedway from 1961 through 2004. The county leased that land for 50 years. The policy is now for 55-year leases with aviation use.
Germann showed me a form that officials — in this case, the county — would submit to apply for non-aviation use of Gillespie Field. The government "gave 70 acres to San Diego County, so we can decide," he said.
The East County Economic Development Council in April announced that it received a $50,000 grant from the San Diego Foundation Malin Burnham Center for Civic Engagement to develop the plan. Diamond said that the council expects to soon hear about a $300,000 Caltrans aeronautics grant. She added that the South County Economic Development Council is looking into the aerotropolis concept at Brown Field. Both councils applied for and would share a $40,000 Federal Economic Development Administration grant.
Diamond said issues for both include what kinds of jobs they want to attract. At Gillespie, uses could include research and development, museums, and a transit center. The council website cited 55 acres of aviation use at Cajon Air Center and 37 acres at Forrester Creek Road and Marshall Avenue zoned for industrial use.
The council does not yet have a schedule for when public meetings on the aerotropolis will be held.
At some point during our interview, Germann looked east, envisioning a stadium hosting the Super Bowl.
"There could be a landing strip for private planes," he said and suggested a name for the stadium. "We could call it Gillespie Field."