At the first of a series of public workshops aimed at developing the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) northside property owned by Los Angeles World Airports, audience members said they don’t want “big-box stores” or another hotel, and they do want to be told the truth during the public process.

Officials of Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) — the agency that operates the city’s four airports, including LAX — and Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl coordinated the first of a series of public workshops. RRM Design Group had been hired to help facilitate a community-inspired plan for sensible land use of the airport-owned property to the north of LAX. Rosendahl represents the 11th District, which includes LAX.

A number of attendees said there was no point in spending money on developing the property when no one knows if the northern runway will be reconfigured and moved north, which could include this property.

The property consists of approximately 350 acres, and is bounded by the LAX security fence, Westchester Parkway, Lincoln Boulevard, Sepulveda Westway and Pershing Drive.

Development of this area had been previously discussed by various entities, with all improvements subject to FAA approval, and a general consensus had been to include open space, golf facilities, youth athletic fields and senior citizen housing.

One resident noted that for those who are adamant about the three holes that were taken away on the Westchester Golf Course, they may want to reconsider their request rather than have a “screaming 747” flying overhead.

The EIR (environmental impact report) to study proposed projects at LAX recently approved by the Board of Airport Commissioners will take approximately two years to complete.

Roger Johnson, deputy executive director for environmental affairs at Los Angeles World Airports, discussed the previous entitlements and current FAA guidelines for use of airport property.

“Our goal is to work together to craft a sensible land use plan,” and the FAA restrictions concern basically “heights, lights and birds,” said Johnson.

Rosendahl presented opening remarks to the audience, adding that “moving the northern runway by 340 feet will be done over my dead body.”

RRM Design Group’s T. Keith Gurnee told the audience that right now “everything is open for discussion about what you want to see on this property.”

This was Gurnee’s first encounter with opponents of LAX expansion, but he gracefully handled angry and sometimes accusatory comments by saying, “Hey, this is my first time here.”

Gurnee outlined the process for community input, asking audience members to state in as few words as possible potential development they would like to see.

One response was, “I’d like to see a really good hardware store,” which elicited laughter from the audience. The comment referred to the closing of Gerald’s Hardware on Manchester Avenue near Lincoln Boulevard.

Gurnee said a number of topics were to be listed on large poster sheets on the wall, and as audience members made suggestions under each topic, they were listed on the posters.

PUBLIC COMMENT SUGGESTIONS — Some of the suggestions included a nature habitat, senior housing, a multi- purpose community center, a community garden, a Tongva cultural center, trees, a large playground for children, a community medical center, a wildlife corridor, a police substation, a sound wall along 91st Street, tennis courts, a youth athletic field, sustainable green projects, solar energy use, horse stables and cell phone towers.

Gurnee asked audience members what type of public outreach process and format they wanted during the series of workshops.

The responses included newsletters, e-mails, a Web site and possible night meetings.

On the subject of traffic and circulation, recommendations included redirecting Westchester High School traffic away from residential areas; completion of Lincoln Boulevard, Sepulveda Boulevard and the Interstate 405 (San Diego Freeway) projects; keeping Westchester Parkway open and various other suggestions.

After comments were concluded, Gurnee asked audience members to take the colored stickers they were given and place them on the topic and individual suggestions most important to them.

MOST IMPORTANT TOPICS — Once this process was concluded, Gurnee told the audience that, according to their choices, the most important topics were land use, traffic and open space.

Most important suggestions included more parks, no big developments, a berm to block noise from the airport, no expansion of LAX, no Airbus A380 landing at LAX, saving trees (one speaker said protecting hawks nesting in trees was a priority), a Metro Green Line to LAX, traffic gridlock and a police substation.

The least important topic was the golf course, Gurnee said.

SUBJECTS AUDIENCE

DIDN’T LIKE AT ALL — Gurnee said the things the audience didn’t like at all included walls, residential development, LAX expansion, assisted living, horse stables, retail development, public art, a cell phone tower and a multilevel parking structure.

Controversial topics included senior housing and multipurpose center; public restrooms and a Tongva cultural center.

Gurnee said his group would prepare a detailed report that will later be available on the Los Angeles World Airports Web site with all of the comments made during the meeting.

Plans for the next public meeting will be announced at a future date.

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