By Gary Walker
Disheartened after the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of Los Angeles International Airport’s modernization plans in June, residents of Playa del Rey and Westchester are watching a vote by a county airport commission that perhaps could reopen a conversation regarding a controversial decision to move the northernmost runway.
The county Airport Land Use Commission was scheduled to vote on a staff report recommendation Sept. 11 to uphold what is called an “impasse appeal” based on a number of factors. The cities of Culver City and Ontario and county of San Bernardino have filed the legal action,
Some of the violations that the three abovementioned government entities allege are the failure by Los Angeles World Airports to submit to the county commission and the commission’s failure to consider the entire LAX Specific Plan Amendment Study project when determining its compatibility with the county airport land use commission’s similar plan. Other violations alleged by the entities include the project’s inconsistencies with the county commission’s policies governing items such as structural incursions into the north airfield and LAWA’s failure to mitigate the alleged violations of state law, according to court papers submitted by the law firm of Buchalter Nemer.
While the mandate of the county commission is not as far-reaching as other bodies, a recommendation in favor of upholding the impasse appeal could spark new interest by opponents of the runway move and give them hope that other commissions might follow suit.
According to a Department of Regional Planning administrator, the commission’s task is to ensure that the airport’s actions are in compliance with the state’s Aeronautics Act.
A Westchester-based organization, the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, sent a letter Sept. 5 to the county land use commissioners, asking them to honor the staff report’s recommendation.
“(ARSAC), the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, strongly urges you to uphold the impasse appeal submitted by the city of Culver City, city of Ontario and county of San Bernardino on the LAX Specific Plan as recommended in the (airport land use commission) staff report,” the letter states.
“As we have pointed out in our previous letters to you and in testimony before (the commission) in March 2013, Los Angeles World Airports is trying to piecemeal the approval of a massive expansion plan for LAX through (the commission).
“LAWA’s staff preferred Alternative 1 would move the north runway, 24 Right, 260 feet closer to homes, businesses, schools and churches in South Los Angeles, Inglewood, Westchester and Playa del Rey, newly exposing more than 13,000 residents to increased aircraft noise, vibration, pollution and create safety issues.”
Denny Schneider, president of the airport congestion group, which has filed a lawsuit against the modernization plan’s environmental impact report, views the commission’s vote on the staff recommendation as critical.
“Upholding the impasse can protect people from a bad LAX plan. LAWA’s initial request misled the commissioners by purposely leaving out the runway move in its approval request while promising to bring these projects back for future review,” he said.
“The (airport county land use commission) now understands that there is no requirement for LAWA to update their request with accurate facts,” asserted Schneider, whose group has battled the airport over various matters for decades. “In effect rejecting the Alternative 1 plan, they are giving the city of Los Angeles another opportunity to get it right and not move a runway north.”
Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Westchester, has publicly stated that he would like to see many of the projects that most everyone agrees upon done first, such as enhancing the terminals and ground transportation, and suggests taking on the airport runway matter at a later time. His mentor and predecessor, Bill Rosendahl, presented such a motion in April but it failed 10-3.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, then a city councilman, was one of the three to vote against the modernization plan and in favor of Rosendahl’s motion.
Asked about the staff recommendation on the impasse appeal at an event in Venice, Garcetti responded, “I’ve been very clear that I think that the priorities should first be reducing traffic in our neighborhoods and improving our terminals, and I don’t think that we should be moving our runways.
“In some ways the county commission’s vote is important, but in some ways it throws the problem back on the council.”
The mayor said he feels that there is an opportunity to have the matter of the north runway resolved through the existing legal action against LAWA.