By Gary Walker
A Westchester-based organization is demanding that officials from Los Angeles World Airports address a series of alleged defaults of a settlement agreement regarding the airport’s future plans, including pursuing regionalization of air traffic.
The Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion sent a letter to LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey March 20 detailing what it claims represents a dearth of good will on the part of airport representatives since a 2006 legal agreement was signed.
The “notice of default,” alleges that LAWA has defaulted on sections of the agreement, which include regional strategic planning, the LAX Specific Plan Amendment Study Process, traffic mitigation and its outreach to neighborhoods, among other things.
The biggest problem, says Denny Schneider, a 40-year Westchester resident who heads the airport group, is that airport officials have been nonresponsive to their needs and questions.
“We have no choice, except to give up protecting regions and communities,” he said. “And we’re not going to.”
The default notice stems from an agreement signed in 2006 involving the airport’s master plan for the area.
The topic of regionalization is a critical area of the notice, according to Schneider.
His organization claims that LAWA has not formed a regional airport working group that was included in the settlement, a topic that was touched on by Los Angeles Councilman-elect Mike Bonin during the recent District 11 City Council race as part of a larger discussion on the airport’s modernization plans.
“To the best of (our) knowledge, LAWA has not formed a regional airport working group as contemplated in the settlement,” the organization’s attorney, Douglas Carstens, wrote in the notice of default.
The legal document notes that airport officials have relinquished financial as well as operational control of Palmdale Regional Airport. “LAWA will also default on this section if Ontario International Airport is transferred to the city of Ontario, (the) county of San Bernardino, (the) Ontario International Airport Authority or anther entity,” the notice states.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who will retire from the City Council in June to concentrate on recovering from cancer, has frequently talked about regionalization and the importance of moving more airport traffic to Ontario and Palmdale airports.
Airport representatives are aware of the notice of default letter.
“LAWA confirms receiving the document. As a matter of policy, we do not comment on legal matters,” said LAWA spokeswoman Mary Grady. “The settlement agreement outlines a specific process for addressing disagreements among parties to the agreement, and we will follow that process.”
In an interview with The Argonaut on Dec. 20, Lindsey offered her thoughts on the topic of regionalization and the airport’s efforts to incorporate it into their future plans.
“We’re completely in support of regionalization. The issue is how you achieve it. In the recent past, we have tried to achieve that by providing wonderful facilities, for example at Ontario where there are two lovely terminals,” the executive director said.
“The reality is there have been some very tough economic times and the parallel reality of airlines changing their business model, so they no longer rely as much on secondary airports… they don’t fly as many seats nationwide as they used to. We’ve seen throughout the country that secondary airports, like Ontario, like Oakland, Manchester and Providence on the East Coast have all had major reductions in airline service.
“Regionalization is a wonderful concept; it is not something that you legislate,” Lindsey added. “Our intent as Los Angeles World Airports is to make LAX the best it can be and to make Ontario the best it can be.”
The letter of default is the latest salvo from critics of the airport, who are enraged with several positions adopted by LAWA, including its recommendation of an alternative that will move its northernmost runway 260 feet towards Westchester and Playa del Rey.
The Board of Airport Commissioners and the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce have embraced this alternative as well, which set in motion an exodus of members from the latter group.
“That is the most glaring example of their arrogance and intransigence in formulating their plans for their safety study and their decision to move the north runway,” Schneider asserted. “It’s really been the lack of committed process with anybody other than themselves on this issue.”
Airport Commissioner Valeria Velasco was one of several prominent local residents to leave the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce after the Westchester-based business organization voted to support the airport’s recommendations on moving the runway.
“Moving the runway north will only result in increasing passenger traffic beyond 78.9 million further negatively burdening the streets of Playa del Rey and especially Westchester. The EIR indicates 39 intersections that already cannot be mitigated and then of course, there is the two-year closure of Lincoln Boulevard and the partial closure of Sepulveda (Boulevard),” wrote Velasco, who lives in Playa del Rey, to LAX Coastal Chamber President and CEO Christina Davis.
“Following the lead of Karen Dial and Drollinger Properties and other chamber members, it is with regret that I will not be renewing my membership in the chamber this year because the chamber supports (Alternative 1) which will further negatively impact the 60,000 men, women and children who live, work, study and play in Playa del Rey and Westchester.”
Schneider looks at the default warning as a last resort to show LAWA that ARSAC is serious about enforcing the agreement.
“We’ve had it,” he said. “This is the shot across the bow saying, ‘We’re not going to take this anymore.”