The Los Angeles City Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) approved a modernization plan for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in a 2-1 vote Wednesday, October 6th, sending the LAX proposal to the City Council Commerce Committee for further review Thursday, October 7th.
City Councilmembers Tony Cardenas and Ed Reyes voted to support the modernization plan.
“It gets off the ground,” said Reyes about the proposed plan.
Councilman Jack Weiss voted against the LAX modernization plan, citing security concerns he said have not been addressed.
“Many officials have no intention of ever building the yellow-light projects and it’s dishonest and irresponsible to include them in the plan,” said Weiss, who wants to eliminate a Manchester Square ground transportation center from the plan.
Los Angeles Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski has proposed a consensus plan that would give a “green light” to noncontroversial parts of the LAX plan and a “yellow light” to controversial portions of the plan — which would require further study.
Weiss had requested a legal analysis on the interconnection between the green-lighted projects and the yellow-lighted projects from the city attorney’s office at the previous week’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee meeting.
Assistant city attorney Claudia Culling said that if the City Council wants to eliminate the yellow-light projects, the council would force the city airport department to begin new environmental studies that could take up to two-and-a-half years to complete.
Weiss asked how Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) — the city agency that operates LAX and other city-owned airports —would implement security issues recommended by RAND.
Phase I of the RAND study, released late last month, identified 11 major classes of possible attacks at LAX.
The RAND study found that “one fact that consistently emerges from our analysis is that it is not the size of the bomb that matters most; it is where it is detonated.”
“All of the most dangerous terrorist attacks involve terrorists placing a bomb in close proximity to a vulnerable crowd of people,” the RAND report said.
“There are two general ways to reduce this vulnerability: move the possible bomb detonation away from the people or move the people away from the possible bomb detonation.”
The RAND study recommends limiting the density of people in unsecured areas where baggage has not been inspected — such as curb-side check-in — or near uninspected vehicles.
Culling told the committee that a 120-day computer model study would provide recommendations to implement the terminal density issue.
A 90-day study on vehicle checkpoints and terminals will involve running scenario simulations and then a review with the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to discuss related issues and the financial situation, said Culling. TSA is responsible for airport safety in the United States.
Results of these two studies would then be presented to the City Council, Culling said.
“The mayor crazy-glued public policy onto the green-light items, and un-crazy-gluing it is much more difficult,” said Weiss.
Councilman Bernard Parks told the committee that concerns for residents of his Eighth Council District included health, environment and traffic issues that aren’t dealt with in the plan.
Parks said both phases of the RAND Corporation study, commissioned by the City Council, needed to be completed and reviewed before the modernization plan is approved.
“A security plan might alter with new RAND information, and the EIR/EIS (environmental impact report/environmental impact statement) are no longer viable because they are outdated,” said Parks.
The number one issue is a ground transportation center at Manchester Square, which is opposed by many residents, said Parks.
Parks claimed that the Green Line and other light rail options have not been properly addressed.
“This is a lifetime decision for many residents and there is a broader area impact,” said Parks.
Attorney Edgar Saenz, a representative of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, said Waters is closely following the situation, and opposes the proposed ground transportation center at Manchester Square.
Waters’ congressional district includes Manchester Square and adjacent neighborhoods.
“Manchester Square would not technically be a ‘check-in’, because there’s no boarding of passengers, no luggage check; it only drops off passengers to be moved by the people mover to the airport,” said Saenz.
“Even the ATA (Air Transport Association) hates the ground transportation center,” Saenz claimed. The ATA represents the majority of domestic airlines that serve LAX.
“This is the world’s first billion-dollar curb and it needs to be eliminated,” said Saenz.
A report on the complete RAND study will be presented to the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday, October 19th.