McClellan-Palomar Airport

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McClellan-Palomar Airport is operated by the County of San Diego, not the City of Carlsbad. The airport has in the past operated commercial flights but currently is home to charter and air taxi services only, as well as private plane operators. For information about these operations, please visit the airport webpage.

The city’s role

McClellan-Palomar Airport opened in 1959 in what at the time was an unincorporated part of San Diego County. After the City of Carlsbad expanded its boundaries to the south and east, the airport eventually came to be located in the City of Carlsbad. 

To help protect Carlsbad’s quality of life, the city has over the years 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 (Carlsbad Municipal Code section 21.53.015: Voter authorization required for airport expansion) 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 projects to improve the operations and safety over a 20-year period.

Airport Master Plan

In 2018, the County Board of Supervisors approved an updated master plan for McClellan-Palomar Airport. A group called Citizens for a Friendly Airport then sued the county for not adequately studying and mitigating environmental effects of the projects in the master plan. Of the issues identified in the lawsuit, a judge found that the county needed to do more study of the master plan’s effect on noise. The judge also said that because the master plan changes would allow larger aircraft to take off with more fuel, the county needs to seek an update of the airport’s conditional use permit granted by the City of Carlsbad. View the judgment.

In 2019, the City Council adopted resolutions 2019-178 and 2019-179, which collectively express the city’s position regarding the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan Update. The city is opposed to the D-III Modified Standards Compliance Alternative McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan design classification, allowing a runway extension up to 800 feet. The city supports the B-II Enhanced Alternative McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan design classification, with no runway extension.

County staff completed the additional noise studies and analysis, and the Board of Supervisors approved the revised Environmental Impact Report for the master plan in December 2021.

The Board of Supervisors also selected to implement the B-II Enhanced airport design standard and a runway extension of 200 feet (+/-10%) now and to add future D-III design standards conditioned on addressing the Conditional Use Permit and Runway Protection Zone requirements and returning to the Board to consider D-III design standards and a runway extension option that could potentially be up to 900 feet.

The new master plan will not expand the airport’s existing boundaries. However, it will add 200 feet to the east end of its runway, which will improve safety and reduce noise, according to the standard methodology for measuring cumulative airport noise impacts. The 200-foot runway extension will make the airport safer by giving aircraft more room to land and take off. It would also decrease noise by giving aircraft more room to accelerate and fly higher, faster, which would help to minimize noise over nearby neighborhoods. Safety improvements will also add material to the west end of the runway designed to help stop aircraft in emergencies.

County staff will bring individual projects to the County Board of Supervisors for approval to advertise and award construction contracts as projects are fully designed and funding becomes available. The city will also review these projects to determine if they require amendments to the conditional use permit. The county currently doesn’t have funding allocated to make the improvements in the plan, and there’s no timeline for completing the improvements at this time.

Airport Master Plan website

For more information about the city's role in the airport master plan, please contact Jason Haber at 442-339-2958 or

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