Opponents of a proposed Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) master plan — approved Tuesday, December 14th, by the Los Angeles City Council — say a Community Benefit Agreement that is part of the plan was worked on for months in secret, and that the opponents were excluded from participating.
Denny Schneider of Westchester Neighbors Association and Alliance for a Regional Solution to Air Congestion (ARSAC) and ARSAC president Val Velasco made the allegation of the secret planning of the LAX master plan Community Benefits Agreement.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors earlier approved a lawsuit against the city for approving the LAX master plan, and local community groups such as ARSAC and others also plan to file a suit.
The Community Benefits Agreement is a $500 million program in the LAX master plan designed to lower airport noise and air pollution and to mitigate traffic in specific neighborhoods.
The program would also provide the first opportunity for jobs associated with the master plan construction to local individuals when such construction begins on airport remodeling.
Schneider said he and Velasco had asked to join in the meetings, but their requests were denied.
David Kissinger, LAX deputy to Los Angeles Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, said that the meetings were not in secret, and that Schneider and Velasco had been asked to attend and declined.
Schneider said the only person to approach him was the Rev. William Smart, a member of the LAX Coalition for Economic, Environmental and Educational Justice, before the coalition began talks with city officials.
“Agreeing to be damaged and then asking for reparations is not the best approach,” Schneider said, and he declined the offer from Smart.
Schneider said that was the only contact regarding participation on the planning that he received and that no one else invited him to attend.
Velasco confirmed that no one had approached her to attend the Community Benefits Agreement meetings.
Both Schneider and Velasco say that when they found out that substantive talks had been held for months with the coalition and city officials, they asked to attend and were told they couldn’t.
Velasco said she had later refused to meet with the council office regarding the LAX Specific Plan because “it was obvious no one was listening or cared about input.”
Schneider said that “although reparations are being made to the Lennox and Inglewood School Districts, nothing specific was outlined in the Community Benefits Agreement for the Westchester-Playa del Rey area, local LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) schools, private schools and play areas to the north and south of the airport.”
Kissinger said a recent airport department report shows that Westchester is substantially helped with:
n end-of-the-block soundproofing;
n electrification of gates;
n electrification of cargo operation areas;
n emissions reductions from on-road trucks, buses and shuttles, alternative fuel vehicles;
n public health and air quality studies;
n acceleration of an existing soundproofing program;
n cleaner jet fuels; and
n limits on diesel bus idling.
“These benefits help everyone around the LAX footprint, and air quality does not stop at city limits,” said Kissinger.
Schneider said that many of the items in the Community Benefit Agreement are already in the mitigation plans or have been promised for years.
Another point of contention for Schneider and others is that airport officials appointed a Los Angeles International Airport liaison as directed in the LAX Specific Plan, but assigned someone who is the head of URS Project Management, a consultant to airport officials, said Schneider.
Schneider said that the person assigned is a good person, but that “his undefined dual responsibilities are a conflict of interest.”
The joint consensus LAX modernization plan of Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn and Miscikowski separate master plan projects into “green light projects” that would move forward immediately and “yellow light projects” that would require further planning and consensus building.
“Green light projects” include renovation of Tom Bradley International Terminal, extension of runways, a consolidated rental car facility and the addition of a central taxiway to the southern runways.
Such projects could begin immediately after approval by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Opponents to the plan say the “yellow light projects” should be scrapped entirely.