A natural gas company is hoping to construct an alternative fuel station in the Los Angeles International Airport area but some residents are not convinced that the facility would be a good fit for their neighborhood.
Go Natural Gas has proposed to build a new compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station with a retail center on an empty lot at the southwest corner of Airport Boulevard and Manchester Avenue in Westchester. The plans have included extending the proposed hours of operation to 24 hours, seven days a week, which would require a conditional use permit.
The San Clemente-based company, which operates a 24-hour natural gas station in San Juan Capistrano, touts the advancements of alternative fuel compared to petroleum, including being cheaper, cleaner and domestically produced. Timothy Nelligan, president of Go Natural Gas, notes that Southern California reportedly has the highest number of vehicles using CNG in the U.S. at approximately 60,000. There is a high concentration of those vehicles driving in the area of LAX, where there is a need for refueling stations with only one CNG station currently open to the public near the airport, Nelligan said.
“We feel that obviously, there is a need for more market competition in the area,” he said.
Nelligan said the facility would be intended to serve both public and commercial vehicles, but residents living near the site argue that most of the vehicles filling up on CNG would be associated with the airport, including buses, vans and trucks. The influx of primarily commercial vehicles serving LAX would cause increased cut-through traffic through the neighborhood and pose potential safety problems, particularly for children who play near the streets, some residents have said.
“To have the noise and traffic of large vehicles driving into the neighborhood to fuel is a major concern,” resident Julian Payne said. “Families with children live very close and the additional traffic would make playing outdoors difficult.”
Residents also took issue with the 24-hour proposal, saying that cut-through traffic and noise could occur throughout the day and night, and some questioned the need for such a project, claiming that most residents would not make use of the CNG station.
The Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa voted April 5 to postpone a recommendation by the planning and land use committee to deny Go Natural Gas’ request for a conditional use permit to operate the 24-hour facility.
After receiving input on the various resident concerns, the planning and land use committee voted March 22 to recommend that the council oppose the company’s proposal.
“Our concern (as a committee) is to make sure that the neighbors are heard,” committee chair Pat Lyon said.
Committee member David Voss said that considering the type of vehicles that would access the facility, he didn’t believe that an alternative fuel station was suitable at a site close to residents.
“I just don’t think it’s necessary in that location,” Voss said.
Voss said that there is a natural gas station for airport use located on LAX property and because the primary customers of the Go Natural Gas project would likely be vehicles servicing LAX, he suggested that the airport consider a plan to accommodate those fleets at its existing facility. As part of its motion, the committee recommended that the city look into the possibility of allowing the airport station to be used for private vehicles.
Voss acknowledged that some upgrades and changes would need to be made to the airport station in order for the proposal to work.
Nelligan noted that his company’s proposal is not affiliated with the airport, and although there is a big market for fleets serving the airport area, the station is also designed for public use. He believes it is doubtful that airport officials would support opening up their station to non-airport vehicles.
“I could see reasons why the airport would not want to open the facility to the public,” he said.
Among other complaints fromresidents was that the company did not initially reach out well to the community on its plans. Denny Schneider, a member of the neighborhood council, said he is supportive of opening another station to address the shift toward CNG fuel, but he was disappointed that the developer did not do a good job of outreach.
“I thought that this was a good idea but from day one we said that they need to make sure to talk to the people who live closest,” Schneider said.
Nelligan said company representatives did hold community meetings with residents to get feedback and they want to be good stewards and neighbors. Based on the opposition to the 24-hour plan, the company has agreed to back off of that schedule, keeping the planned hours of operation from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“We understand their concerns in that regard and it’s something we’re willing to concede,” he said of the all-day proposal.
Nelligan said Go Natural Gas remains committed to creating a CNG fueling station in the area and is evaluating all of its options at this time.