By Helga Gendell
The attorney representing the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC) has charged in a letter to Los Angeles World Airports that the agency is not complying with a 2006 legal settlement related to the modernization of Los Angeles International Airport.
The March 20 letter from attorney Douglas Carstens to Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of LAWA, states that it’s a written notice of default by the airport department, “Notice of Right to Cure,” pursuant to the stipulated settlement agreement. The letter describes three points of interest: providing LAWA with written notice of alleged defaults; offering to meet and confer with LAWA in a good faith effort to resolve the issues; and providing LAWA the required 60 days notice to resolve the alleged defaults.
Airport officials declined to comment regarding ongoing legal matters.
ARSAC is also providing LAWA with a warning pre-notice for what the Westchester group claims is a default by LAWA under the stipulated settlement agreement of Appendix A, Section C, Air Quality Mitigation, Paragraph 1, “Flyaway Service,” according to the letter.
According to the ARSAC attorney, there are seven sections of the agreement in which LAWA is allegedly in default: LAX Specific Plan Amendment Study Process; Regional Airport Working Group; Regional Strategic Planning; Outreach to Neighbors; Air Source Apportionment Study; Aesthetic Mitigation; and Traffic Mitigation.
The letter alleges that consultation requirements regarding significant steps were not met; LAWA did not seek input from the advisory committee before making significant decisions; LAWA failed to consult with the advisory committee about its choices of a preferred alternative; and LAWA failed to consult with the advisory committee about its choice of a security consultant.
ARSAC states that “to its best knowledge,” the airport agency hasn’t formed a regional airport working group as contemplated in the settlement. While LAWA did facilitate the revival of the Southern California Regional Airport Authority (SCRAA) – the group decided to disband on its own – but there didn’t appear to be another effort by LAWA to look into a joint powers authority and supporting legislative efforts to create one.
“We feel that LAWA has not engaged the nearby or broader community as sufficiently as required by the settlement agreement,” said Carstens.
In mid-February, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, whose Fourth District includes LAX, planned to introduce a motion forcing LAWA to comply with the stipulated settlement agreement, based on the fact that William Fujioka, the county’s chief executive officer, had brought up the issue in October because of his concerns over the lack of redistribution of air traffic.
Knabe directed the county counsel to “review the settlement agreement and related documents pertaining to the Los Angeles World Airport’s proposed LAX Master Plan, and provide a report back to the board within 30 days with an assessment and determination on whether LAWA and the city of Los Angeles are in compliance with the settlement agreement; and direct the county’s chief executive officer [Fujioka] to take follow-up action and to provide detailed recommendations which are necessary and appropriate, given the city’s expedited review schedule, to communicate to the city and LAWA, and the county’s Airport Land Use Commission, that Los Angeles County, in no uncertain terms, intends to enforce compliance,” said Cheryl Burnett, Knabe’s communications director.
Denny Schneider, president of ARSAC, said that he hopes LAWA will be persuaded to re-engage with the community due to the threat of legal action. He noted that LAWA has 60 days to “cure the faults” alleged in the letter.
“The purpose of the settlement in 2006 was supposed to create a master plan for LAX that we all could live with so that our airport could be upgraded for third world status. After seven years of waiting, few of the ‘green light’ projects have even been started. We hoped that eventually LAWA would work with us, but years of unresponsiveness demonstrate otherwise,” said Schneider.
“The first step of the analysis, a quantified list of issues to be used to evaluate alternatives, is still incomplete. Most of our questions remain unanswered; even those required to be addressed in the environment report,” Schneider continued. “We’re tired of incomplete truths designed to support expansion. LAWA’s program-level planning is so lacking that their plan is more science fiction than proven feasible.”