Historic agreement shelves plan move it closer to Westchester and Playa del Rey

By Gary Walker
After years of mistrust, animosity and lawsuits, Los Angeles International Airport officials and an airport expansion opposition group came together on Wednesday to announce a tentative agreement not to move LAX’s northernmost runway closer to Westchester and Playa del Rey.

The memorandum of understanding ends litigation brought against LAX by the Westchester-based Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion and halts a 2013 plan by LAX officials to shift the runway 240 feet north.

The agreement was brokered by Los Angeles City Councilmen Mike Bonin and Bill Blumenthal and approved by the Los Angeles World Airports Board of Commissioners earlier this month. The City Council will vote on the new agreement next Wednesday.

“For a very, very long time this airport and folks who live in the neighborhood surrounding this airport have been at war. There have been moments of detenté, but today there is peace and the significant promise of progress ahead,” Bonin, who represents Westchester and Playa del Rey, said during a Wednesday press conference at L.A. City Fire Station 5 in Westchester.

Bonin said his predecessor, the late Councilman Bill Rosendahl, always told him the best formula for LAX was “modernization yes, expansion no.”

“I always said that if we did that, we could have a first-class airport that is also a first-class neighbor. After months of painstaking negotiations, the LAWA Board of Commissioners and the representatives of the community group Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion have reached an agreement that allows us to do that.”

Denny Schneider, the president of Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, called the memorandum more than just the end of a period of litigation and bitterness.

“This is a landmark agreement. It’s a win-win for everybody because it’s not just an agreement, it’s an actual meeting of the minds. This demonstrates a new era of cooperation that hasn’t existed in 40 years,” he said.

Opposing the runway move was part of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 2013 mayoral campaign.

“This is promise made and a promise kept. This is a day in which the community feels like they’re being heard and represented,” Garcetti said.

Because Schneider’s organization has agreed to halt the lawsuit, LAWA Executive Director Deborah Flint said airport officials now have “a path forward to improve the north airfield for efficiency and for enhancing safety.”

The agreement would allow LAWA to revisit moving the runway in the future, but only after conducting new and extensive environmental studies — and only after current and planned modernization projects are completed. Those include connecting LAX to light rail via a people mover and roadway improvements to reduce traffic congestion.