The Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa organized a town hall meeting to provide an opportunity for the public to offer comments and questions regarding the Specific Plan Amendment Study (SPAS) and draft environmental impact report for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
The Sept. 27 meeting at the Westchester Enriched Science Magnets School was moderated by former state Assembly Speaker Richard Katz and titled, “LAX: Modernize or Expand?”
Released by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) officials on July 27, the report includes several proposed alternatives that recommend relocating the LAX northern runways closer toward the residential and business areas of Westchester and Playa del Rey.
The meeting began with an overview of the SPAS provided by Diego Alvarez, the program director for LAWA. Alvarez noted that there are nine alternatives, with mix-and-match components. He invited community members to view the entire SPAS documentation online at www.LAXSPAS.org.
Terry Marcellus, a member of the neighborhood council’s Airport Relations Committee, told the audience that his and Alvarez’s roles differ.
“His job is with LAWA and presenting the SPAS, and my job is to represent the neighborhood council and its position,” Marcellus said.
Marcellus said the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa strongly supports Alternatives 2 and 9, and stressed that they are not anti-airport but want what is good for the city.
“We have worked through the costs. You have to live and breathe reality, and what happens on the ground if these alternatives are instituted?” he said.
“Go to In-N-Out, go to the Goodyear store [on Sepulveda Boulevard]. The light standard on the curb in front of the Goodyear would be part of the runway approach if it takes off 350 feet north to Manchester (Avenue). See where the northernmost Alternative 5 takes you, where the planes would come in,” said Marcellus.
A map of Sepulveda Boulevard and the business district that could be affected by a potential northern runway reconfiguration is available online at https://maps.google.com, under “Westchester.”
Marcellus said that by combining Alternatives 2 and 9, the capacity needs for LAX would be met with airfield and transportation improvements.
“The neighborhood council is opposed to spending money on moving runways, or digging up Sepulveda and Lincoln boulevards, or rerouting or tunneling under Lincoln Boulevard,” he said. “We’ve made it crystal clear to the SEIU (Service Employees International Union), other unions and downtown [Los Angeles] business that long-term jobs are to be found in facility improvements, not building runways. We need safety lights, improved taxiways, and improvements on the ground, terminals and the airfield.”
Rep. Maxine Waters, who represents LAX, Westchester and Playa del Rey in the 35th District, addressed the audience and said she strongly opposes any plan to move the runways.
“I join the neighborhood council and community members in supporting Alternatives 2 and 9, the only alternatives proposed by Los Angeles World Airports that don’t call for relocation of the northern runways,” she said.
“LAX is an important economic engine in Los Angeles, but it’s also responsible for noise, pollution and traffic. The 2010 safety study by NASA and an academic panel of experts said the current configuration is ‘extremely safe,’ and the first priority should be to ensure the quality of life in these communities.”
Waters recounted her history of opposition to LAX expansion over the years and said she has worked on several pieces of legislation that oppose LAX runway expansion.
Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s chief of staff, Mike Bonin, said that for the past eight years, Rosendahl has fought for the community and the city, and that they have worked together to stop and start many important plans.
“He’s in the toughest battle of his life since he was diagnosed with cancer at the end of July, and he wanted to come to the meeting tonight, but he wants everyone to know that he still believes in ‘LAX modernize, yes. LAX expansion, no,’” said Bonin.
Bonin addressed the issue of claims that the community is anti-LAX.
“The community loves LAX and is proud to be the gateway to Southern California. We’re proud of modernization, adding 40,000 jobs and $6 to $7 billion to the economy. We’re in favor of the Green Line, the people mover, and the consolidated rental car facility,” Bonin noted.
“The community stands up clearly for good jobs, but we don’t support carving up the community, and we support Alternatives 2 and 9. The community supports 95 percent of the modernization plan. Experts have said the airport is safe, and Alternative 2 is an environmentally superior plan with rational science and operational efficiency,” said Bonin.
Other community members who spoke in favor of Alternatives 2 and 9 included an airline pilot of a 747, who claimed there is no safety problem with the northern runways and what was needed were improvements in taxiways and other ground improvements.
One Venice resident suggested that Ontario International Airport should be utilized more for air traffic.
Local resident David Voss, a former member of the Board of Airport Commissioners, spoke on behalf of the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce, of which he is an executive director and the chair of the Public Policy Committee. Voss said that he and other volunteers have thoroughly analyzed the thousands of SPAS documents and their attachments, with only 75 days in the process in which to review and comment.
“We have identified deficiencies and there are misleading conclusions,” he claimed. “There was a failure to review source materials or check facts. It was not summarized correctly. There was a claim that it could be 55 percent safer, or ‘having blood on our hands’ [this comment was made by former BOAC commissioner Alan Rothenberg at the Aug. 29  public meeting of the SPAS draft EIR], and that safety was the very essence of the core reason the runways should be moved.
“The draft EIR is flawed, and the final NASA study was the gold standard. When the final NASA/academic panel study was days away from release, some individuals who had asked to have the runways moved said this would be the final study, and after its release, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised the study, saying ‘we are not moving the runway.’”
Denny Schneider, president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC), told The Argonaut, “Not designating Alternative 2 with a side order of Alternative 9 as ‘preferred’ is irrational because it meets the objectives of fixing LAX landside, improves airside safety by moving and improving taxiways, is the least expensive and quickest to implement, does the least damage to surrounding communities, and is the least risky in terms of construction problems.
“It avoids the lawsuits that could ensnare the master plan once again and do what no one wants: delay fixing a crumbling infrastructure and delay adding the good-paying, long-term jobs in a fragile economy.”
For those unable to attend the public meetings, a virtual meeting is available to explore meeting boards online and to submit comments from now until Oct. 10 by visiting www.LAXSPASVirtualMeeting.com.
Written comments should be submitted by Oct. 10 to Diego Alvarez, SPAS program director, Los Angeles World Airports, 1 World Way, Room 218, Los Angeles, CA 90045, or online at www.LAXSPAS.org.

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