• Email
  • Print

McClellan-Palomar Airport

McClellan-Palomar Airport opened in 1959 in what at the time was an unincorporated part of San Diego County. Through a series of annexations, the City of Carlsbad's borders expanded to the south and east to eventually include Palomar Airport, although land in and around the airport has remained under the county's ownership.

McClellan-Palomar Airport website
Noise complaints
Track flight activity

Over the years the city has attempted to influence and condition growth of the airport in a variety of ways, including through annexation, issuance of a Conditional Use Permit (known as CUP 172) governing development on the site, and the City Council adoption in 1980 of a citizen initiative requiring a public vote before the City Council approves a zone change, general plan amendment or other legislative action allowing for an expansion of the airport. Discussions about airport impacts and the legal and jurisdictional authorities intensified in recent years as the county developed a new airport master plan, which provides a blueprint for development of the airport over the next 20 years.

Airport Master Plan

In 2018, the County of San Diego approved the updated airport master plan Watch the county's video about the master plan and get answers to the most common questions about the airport master plan.

Timeline of Recent Airport Actions

On May 7, 2019, the Carlsbad City Council met to 1) receive a report on the settlement agreement approved in closed session March 27, 2) adopt a resolution re-approving the agreement and rescinding Resolution No. 2018-182, a resolution of intention to initiate a zoning amendment to restrict airport uses, in order to cure an alleged Brown Act violation, and 3) discuss additional airport related items and provide any additional council direction. At this meeting the City Council voted to oppose the October 2018 decision made by the County Board of Supervisors to approve the "D-III Alternative" of the master plan (in the master planning process, the county identified and evaluated a number of options to improve the safety and efficiency of the airport. A discussion of the alternatives begins on page 152 of the master plan). The City Council also voted to direct staff to return with a discussion of an advisory vote about the airport master plan to be put on the March 2020 ballot. See a video of this meeting and read the staff report.

On March 27, 2019, the City of Carlsbad and County of San Diego announced a 20-year agreement that will provide a framework to work together on matters related to McClellan-Palomar Airport. The agreement is part of a legal settlement resolving the City of Carlsbad’s lawsuit against the county regarding the environmental impact report for the airport master plan approved last October.  Watch the report out from the closed session meeting and read a summary of the agreement. 

On December 6, 2018, the city filed a CEQA lawsuit challenging the "Program Environmental Impact Report" or PEIR for the Airport Master Plan. CEQA requires the parties to hold a mandatory settlement conference within 45 days after the filing of a lawsuit. City and County staff met and spoke several times in confidential settlement negotiations which ultimately were successful in identifying the terms of a proposed settlement agreement.

On Oct. 23, 2018, City Council met in closed session to discuss potential litigation regarding the airport master plan and environmental impact report. Following the closed session discussion, the City Attorney provided the following report.

“City Council met in closed session this morning with the City Attorney and outside counsel.  Counsel presented a lengthy list of actions that the city could take to ensure that San Diego County respects our residents and the city‘s rights with respect to the McClellan Palomar Airport. Among the options presented, the City Council chose the most aggressive approach and directed the lawyers to pursue a multi-pronged strategy to protect the city’s legal rights. The City Council directed the lawyers to file a legal challenge to the approval of the Master Plan and certification of the Program EIR unless the County agrees to extend the deadline for the city to file suit and also to pursue a creative and forceful strategy to supplement the litigation. Notwithstanding its decision, the City Council made it clear that the door is always open to a negotiated resolution, should the county change its approach to the city and its residents’ interests."

Based on this direction, city staff filed a lawsuit and began working with the county to identify opportunities for enhanced collaboration to address community concerns and interests. The agreement approved March 27, 2019, is the result of this effort.

On Oct. 16, 2018, city staff presented a resolution of intention to change zoning around the airport.

On Oct. 11, 2018, city staff provided a memo to the City Council summarizing the County Board of Supervisors action.

On Oct. 10, 2018, the County Board of Supervisors took the following actions related to the Airport Master Plan for McClellan-Palomar Airport:

  • Certified the final environmental document
  • Approved the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan Update
  • Selected the D-III alternative design, which allows for a runway extension up to 800 feet 
  • Adopted findings for mitigation of significant environmental impacts
  • Adopted a statement of location and custodian of record
  • Adopted a decision and explanation regarding recirculation of the draft environmental document
  • Adopted a program for mitigation monitoring and reporting

The Board of Supervisors also directed County staff to return with an ordinance amending the appointment process for members of the Palomar Airport Advisory Committee to allow the Carlsbad City Council to submit a recommended appointee for consideration by the District 5 Supervisor.

The Board further directed County staff to work with the City of Carlsbad to strengthen the airport’s Voluntary Noise Abatement Program and to actively monitor complaints and enforce noise violations.  Watch a video of the Board of Supervisors hearing.

On Sept. 26, 2018, the County of San Diego provided a response to city comments.

On Sept. 11, 2018, the Carlsbad City Council received a staff report and presentation from the city's law firm Kaplan, Kirsch and Rockwell and directed staff to work with the County of San Diego to identify specific actions that will be taken to improve the working relationship between the county and the city, and to address community concerns regarding McClellan-Palomar Airport.

On Aug.6, 2018, the City of Carlsbad provided comments on recirculated portions of the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan Update and Draft Program Environmental Impact Report.

On June 19, 2018, the City of Carlsbad held a public meeting to discuss with the community issues related to Palomar Airport and potential strategies to ensure local concerns are addressed by the County of San Diego (see the PowerPoint  presentation and a video of the meeting).

In June and July 2018,  the County of San Diego recirculated portions of the environmental document for the Airport Master Plan based on input received during the initial release of the document for public review. 

On April 10, 2018, the City Council discussed the city's goals and objectives concerning the airport, and directed staff to: 1. Enter into discussions with the County of San Diego over future airport operations and facilities; 2. Initiate a stakeholder dialogue to identify and understand community concerns and priorities about airport operations and facilities; and 3. Develop and implement an action plan to guide the city's approach related to the airport in the future.

On March 16, 2018, the City of Carlsbad submitted comments on the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan Update and Draft Program Environmental Impact Report.

On March 13, 2018, city staff made a presentation to the City Council regarding proposed comments on the Airport Master Plan and Draft PEIR.

On February 20, 2018, the City Council received a presentation regarding the proposed Master Plan Update and Draft PEIR (watch the video and read the staff report) and requested that staff return to the City Council to discuss potential strategies to address community concerns.

On Jan. 30, 2018, the County of San Diego held a public meeting regarding the Airport Master Plan (see the PowerPoint presentation and the presentation with narration).

On January 18, 2018, the County of San Diego released the proposed McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan Update (a 20-year blueprint for future development of the airport) and the associated Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (Draft PEIR).

Related information

Questions & Answers

Airport Master Plan web page

1980 conditional use permit

Carlsbad Municipal Code section 21.53.015: Voter authorization required for airport expansion

More information

For more information about the city's role in the airport master plan, please contact Jason Haber at 760-434-2958 or jason.haber@carlsbadca.gov.