Los Angeles World Airports held a public scoping meeting for its Los Angeles International Airport Northside Plan Update at a local school Nov. 15, asking the public to collaborate on ways to accommodate a range of uses for the airport’s northside property to serve the nearby communities.
LAX Northside Project Manager Lisa Trifiletti has been working with local community members for over six weeks, meeting with them in their homes, to gather information on what they are looking for, and opposed to, regarding northside property uses.
“This is an opportunity to transform almost 358 acres of under-utilized land. The updated plan would complement community efforts to revitalize and support local businesses, provide more jobs, meet the needs of the airport and local groups, and address the growing demand for open space for our communities,” Trifiletti said.
The proposed usage north of Westchester Parkway would consist of 460,000 square feet of mixed-use space (retail, hotel and office space); 130,000 square feet of community/civic space; 960,000 square feet of office/education/research space; and 127 acres of open space/recreation buffer. South of Westchester Parkway, approximately 400,000 square feet of space is available for use.
The property was acquired by LAX more than 30 years ago for development between the airport and the adjacent community, with planning beginning in the 1980s. The first proposal was called the LAX Northside Plan, approved in 1984 for over 4.5 million square feet of commercial development.
The property is north of Westchester Parkway, running from Pershing Drive in Playa del Rey to the east, at Sepulveda Boulevard in Westchester.
Other than Los Angeles Fire Station No. 5 on Emerson Avenue, a childcare center for airport employees and the Westchester Golf Course, the land under consideration for development is vacant. Trifiletti said the goal is to provide a mix of retail, office space, open space, research and development, and community and non-profit uses.
In February 2008, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose 11th District includes the airport area, and Los Angeles World Airports co-sponsored an initial public workshop on a planning process to address the creation of the LAX Northside Area Plan. T. Keith Gurnee of RRM Design Group chaired the workshop, highlighted the context of the project and presented a workshop overview. Approximately 150 community members attended, and the two topics that were foremost in importance were open space – environmental restoration and active recreation – and traffic. That plan and design group did not result in further actions.
At the Nov. 15 meeting, open space and the environment remained a key issue for many. Environmentalist Rex Frankel of the Ballona Ecosystem Education Project said he was impressed that the proposed project had been downsized by almost 40 percent from the previous plan.
The Northside Plan is also subject to external regulations and conditions. The LAX Master Plan and LAX Specific Plan, and the city of Los Angeles planning regulations govern permissible development at LAX. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) places limits on types of developments on specific uses, and on fair market value for any future use. The county of Los Angeles requires compatible land uses on properties adjacent to airports.
Regarding environmental laws, the LAX Northside Plan Update must comply with all applicable California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. Many uses have been proposed for this land over the years, and the final proposal must reflect the demands of current and future economic conditions, according to LAWA documentation.
Contractors working on the project with LAWA include Maleman Ink Public Relations, URS, Greer Dailey Communications, Environ, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, Gibson Transportation and Gardner Consulting.
Airport officials said that “as LAWA works with neighbors, business leaders, and other stakeholders in the community, we understand that we share a responsibility to create a plan that balances the needs of neighborhoods and the airport; meets rigorous environmental sustainability standards in design, construction, operation and landscaping; is sensitive to managing vehicle traffic through smart engineering and trip reduction; achieves the best use of the property and recognizes fair market value; complies with all of the applicable zoning, land use, and air traffic regulations; and may serve as a catalyst for other neighborhood improvements and services.”
Early next year, LAWA will launch an independent environmental review of the proposed plan once it has been updated with stakeholder input and the CEQA documents will be prepared over a 12-month period, until December 2012. Required approvals would be sought (six to nine months) from January 2013 to September 2013.
Once the final environmental reports are ready, approvals will be sought from the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners and the FAA.
Residents and businesses are encouraged to learn more about the proposals and to provide constructive input in the planning process, said Trifiletti.
Rosendahl encouraged the meeting attendees to stay updated on the project and to provide their input to make sure the project reflects their needs and concerns.
To stay informed and provide public comment: (424) 646-5072; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to LAX Northside, c/o Lisa Trifiletti/LAWA, 1 World Way, P.O. Box 92216, Los Angeles, CA 90009-2216.