How high can we go?

Airplane San Jose is ready to take on the debate regarding how high its next wave of downtown buildings might go.

In a budget addendum, Mayor Sam Liccardo has asked for a $100,000 study of the economic trade-offs that has downtown development interests squaring off against airlines flying San Jose International Airport.

The two sides started the debate 10 years ago, but put it on hold while recession gripped the country, limiting new development and new flights.

The current city practice of limiting height in the Diridon Station area to 110 feet so airlines can have favorable operations is about 90 feet lower than what the Federal Aviation Administration would allow.

Liccardo thinks that the buildings may be able to go higher this time around because jet technology has improved and the mix of airlines flying in and out of SJC has grown more diverse, making it possible for the busy airport and higher downtown to co-exist.

“Transforming our downtown skyline and maintaining a world-class international airport each constitute important fundamental long-term economic objectives,” Liccardo said. “We’ve had to manage conflicts between the two.”

Liccardo invited stakeholders including the Downtown Association and SPUR to the debate, but made it clear that any changes made need to be “consistent with FAA and airline safety requirements.”

The new study will examine height requirements for buildings with regards to the possibility of one of two engines becoming inoperable at takeoff during the small minority of southern departures from the airport.