Valeria Velasco has been nominated by Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to serve on the seven-member City of Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners.
Velasco is a Playa del Rey resident, attorney and president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC).
Velasco strongly opposes a $11 billion master plan for LAX redevelopment that had been proposed by former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and former local Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowki and approved by the Los Angeles City Council.
ARSAC is one of several entities that have filed lawsuits against the LAX expansion plan. Other plaintiffs include the Cities of El Segundo and Culver City and the County of Los Angeles.
Villaraigosa announced Velasco as one of seven nominees for a five-year term on the Board of Airport Commissioners at a press conference Monday, July 25th, near LAX at the intersection of Lincoln and Sepulveda Boulevards in Westchester.
The seven-member Board of Airport Commissioners governs Los Angeles World Airports, the City of Los Angeles agency that operates four city-owned airports.
Other new members nominated by Villaraigosa to the airport commission board include:
— Sylvia Patsaouras, an urban and environmental planner;
— Joseph Aredas, labor leader;
— Alan Rothenberg, executive and business leader;
— Fernando Torres-Gil, acting dean at the UCLA School of Public Affairs; and
— Michael Lawson, attorney.
Villaraigosa also chose to reappoint current airport commission member Walter Zifkin, community leader and William Morris Agency executive, who is the only commissioner held over from the Hahn administration.
“In selecting my team, I looked for people who brought with them a passion for public service, the highest ethical standards, a commitment to aviation security and safety and a shared view that we must expand our regional aviation system rather than relying on LAX alone,” Villa-raigosa said.
“I am pleased that the best and the brightest have agreed to serve our city and captain one of our region’s most important economic engines.”
The mayor’s seven nominees require approval by the Los Angeles City Council.
Velasco, who said she did not apply for appointment to the airport commission and instead recommended other candidates, was surprised at Villaraigosa’s decision to nominate her.
“I feel very flattered that the mayor wanted to appoint me and that he has so much confidence in me,” said Velasco, an estate planning attorney who has lived in Playa del Rey since 1988.
While Velasco may not have applied to serve on the airport commission, she said she is prepared for the new position because of her dedication to community service and her role as ARSAC president since 1995.
“I have been an advocate for a regional approach to airport expansion for ten years,” she said.
Velasco’s nomination to the airport commission “sends a loud message” that Villaraigosa also supports a regional approach to air travel in Southern California, she said.
Denny Schneider, member of ARSAC and the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey, agreed that Velasco’s nomination shows that Villaraigosa is in support of a “regionalization of the airports.”
“I am ecstatic that someone of Val’s caliber and understanding will now be on the airport commission,” Schneider said. “It sends a clear and direct message that the community will be represented by someone who will express the interests and concerns of the community.”
A main goal for the new airport commissioners will be to continue to make LAX safe and secure for travelers, Velasco said.
“We need to modernize the airport without expanding it,” she said.
Some City Council members have questioned Velasco’s nomination, saying her dual roles of airport commissioner and ARSAC president may have an effect on the lawsuit against the city regarding the LAX master plan.
Although Velasco has been nominated for the new role of airport commissioner, she said she has not decided whether she will step down as ARSAC president, but would do so if needed. She said she will continue to be a “community voice” on airport issues with her new position on the board.
“Val has spent an enormous amount of time and energy to protect this community and region and she will continue to do so in this capacity,” Schneider said.
Velasco is currently serving as the Westchester Rotary Club vice president, Westchester/LAX-Marina del Rey Chamber of Commerce member and Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Volunteer Panel member.
She has served as a Los Angeles planning commissioner, staff legal counsel and Hispanic liaison to former City Councilman Michael Woo, assembly aid and Hispanic liaison to former Assembly Speaker Mike Roos, a bilingual elementary school teacher and a fee dispute arbitrator for the State Bar of California.