Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006 | In early January 2003, members of the airport authority’s executive committee showed up for their first day of work at the newly created government agency.
The transition of the airport’s power from the Unified Port of San Diego to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority had been in the works for two years. During that time, new offices for the authority board’s high-ranking members had been carved out on the third floor of Lindbergh Field’s commuter terminal. About $6.5 million was spent in the transition process, including about $3.1 million on improvements to the authority’s facilities.
But when the authority board’s executive board members came to work on Jan. 2 – to a job that then paid $139,500 annually – not all of the details were ironed out.
They had new desks. But they didn’t have chairs.
The not-so-seamless transition was an inauspicious start for a fledgling organization given a major charge: Answer San Diego’s long-standing airport question. It is also symbolic of the political miscues that befell the airport authority during the next three years.
As the authority moved through a three-and-a-half year site selection process – designed to answer projections that Lindbergh Field would hit capacity between 2015 and 2022 – the authority endured several costly blunders. Its boosters say they were given a politically impossible task. Its critics say politically naive decisions ultimately doomed the process to failure, eroding the authority’s credibility along the way.