Where Is That Report the Council Requested Over Two Months Ago on LB Airport's Environmental & Other Issues?
(July 27, 2002) -- At the City Council's May 14 meeting, Councilmembers voted 9-0 for three items, jointly agendized by Councilmembers Jackie Kell, Rob Webb, Dennis Carroll and (now Vice Mayor) Frank Colonna.
Two were advocacy resolutions restating City Council support for LB's Airport Noise Compatibility ordinance (41 comm'l + 25 commuter noise budgeted flights/day). A third item requested City Hall action: a report from the City Manager and City Attorney on environmental and other issues surrounding the Airport's operations.
4th district Councilman Dennis Carroll presented the request for the report. What he said was well said and we reproduce its salient passages below.
He was followed by several other Councilmembers who also said some praiseworthy things. We reproduce their comments below as well.
In delivering his request for the report, Councilman Carroll said, "I would like to hear from the City Manager and Mr. Shannon, and I would hope within 30 to 45 days, their opinions with respect to that issue [doing a full EIR], and perhaps include some of these items that we have discussed that may not be directly involved in an Environmental Impact Report, that is the economic dimensions of this problem, and perhaps some of the health issues that could be studied, bring in studies from other cities."
30 days have passed. 45 days have passed. 60 days have passed. The report is not on the July 30 Council agenda. It's been over 75 days and headed toward 90. Where's the report?
Here's what Councilman Carroll said on May 14:
Councilman Carroll: ...We the citizens of Long Beach are on the leading edge of a storm being visited upon us by way of our airport. It has been raging through Los Angeles, the city, the county, Orange County, San Diego County and frankly at the national level as well...
It is my view that we cannot afford to batten down the hatches and hide in the cellar and hope that it passes. We have been through this traumatic incident before. There was about eleven years of litigation involving not only air carriers and the city but our own citizens, 1600 of whom brought suit against the city on the basis that their lives were substantially disrupted. And I hope to present a part of that case this evening.
...One of the critical issues is the location of the airport. Unfortunately, it happens to be in the middle of our city. I do not know how many other cities find themselves in this circumstance but there are neighborhoods that have grown up and developed, and Los Altos is the one I will be speaking on behalf of tonight, that are inordinately impacted.
The problem with an airport from the perspective of the person representing Los Altos is the benefits, to the extent they exist, are widely dispersed throughout the city and principally those are benefits of convenience for our citizens who can take planes in and out of Long Beach as well as the economic dimensions of it, but the burdens are borne by a select few, those immediately under the flight path, either coming in or going out.
It is my belief that those burdens can become so substantial that not only the health of our citizens there can be compromised, but ultimately the economic base which supports those two communities, that is Los Altos and we'll here about Cal Heights from Councilman Webb, can become blighted. That is, the burden can become such that people who have the ability to move, and those people do, will, blight is not something that could be contained and it will spread if it happened, and I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that from happening, not only through Los Altos but up into the 5th district, down into the 3d district.
And it is my hope that this process will begin to educate our citizens that everyone has a stake in this issue. It is a fight that we need to no more move away from but need to actively move into...
[Councilman Carroll discusses Federal Court of Appeal ruling on LB Airport, citing part of the Appeal Court's opinion]...a local airport should be allowed, the court concluded, to enact noise ordinances if it has a rational belief that, number one, the ordinance will reduce the possibility of liability, that is the citizens suing the city because of excessive noise, or enhanced quality of the city's human environment.
And that is the dimension that I would like to explore tonight, and my request by way of this agenda item, concerns itself.
It is my belief that limiting this discussion to noise does a great disservice to the human dimensions of this issue. We know that noise is an important dimension of it but other aspects of it may be at least as important if not more important.
Not the least of which is the nature of the particulates that are spewed out into the atmosphere by the jet fuel. The soot that my neighbors will tell you they hose off their patio furniture in the backyard and their cars and kills their lemon trees. The items, and believe it or not ice even occasionally will fall off a jet plane.
The economic impact, which is argued and used as a justification for our city's airport, I'm sure there are economic benefits, from my perspective has not put into the equation the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods in terms of its effect on property values, on the health of the people that live there, on the safety of the children, and I have two schools in the fourth district, each of them have between 700 and a 1,000 children. Those planes fly over and you can count the rivets when they go over. Class stops when the planes go over. And parents have to make decisions about whether they want to keep their children in those schools when our flights are programmed to increase from 15 up to 41. Do they want to remodel their homes, or get out while the getting's good?
These economic and basic fundamental life decisions that all families have to make are under a terrific cloud at this time. And I urge that we do several things...With respect to my part of it, I'm asking for a preliminary report. I'm not asking for an Environmental Impact Report yet. This is the first step. That preliminary report would address several things.
Number one: with respect to a full on Environmental Impact Report, what is the cost of it? The last time we did one on our airport case it was $500,000. We have an update from 1997 that is very helpful to us but doesn't contain everything that I think is germane and relevant to this conversation.
Number two, how long would it take to prepare one?
Number three, who are the persons who are most qualified, who are expert in providing that information to us?
I would like to hear from the City Manager and Mr. Shannon, and I would hope within 30 to 45 days, their opinions with respect to that issue, and perhaps include some of these items that we have discussed that may not be directly involved in an Environmental Impact Report, that is the economic dimensions of this problem, and perhaps some of the health issues that could be studied, bring in studies from other cities.
So my request at this time is to get this preliminary report, to put everyone no notice that we are taking an aggressive, proactive stance here. We are not simply going to sit and hope for the best. There's no reason we should.
We have what I judge to be strong, equitable arguments to not only preserve our current noise ordinance but to bring within that current ordinance as suggested by the court [of appeal] that final paragraph with respect to enhancing the quality of the city's human environment.
What I would like to see, and what the law has not fully cognized at this point is a Human Impact Report, and that's what we're really dealing with here...We are working night and day on this issue and will continue to do so until it's resolved on human terms.
8th district Councilman Rob Webb said, "[T]here have been a lot of studies that the AQMD has done, studies about Multiple Airborne Toxic Exposure, that was not brought up in the original EIR...I think it's good that these items are being addressed..."
[LBReport.com has posted AQMD's MATES-2 report, including its cancer risk map, on our front page. It's among our more heavily visited pages. To view it, click AQMD Study Estimates Air in Much of LB Carries Higher Cancer Risk Than Refinery-Adjacent Areas]
3d district Councilman (now Vice Mayor) Frank Colonna stressed, "I think it's important as Councilmember Carroll pointed out that we deal not only with the noise issues but also the other factors that come into play when you deal with a significant amount of airline traffic that's coming into a community."
2d district Councilman Dan Baker said, "[T]he 2d district isn't really impacted by the airport, but we have a very similar issue with noise and pollution and the many health risks coming from our Port. That's something that my residents in the downtown area and those on the west side of the city have been dealing with for a number of years, and they really are very similar issues. So I appreciate Councilmember Carroll and the rest of them looking for the information on what really is the result of that airport, what's happening to our residents."
And then came public testimony. Among the speakers was John Deats:
...And if you'll look at the backup material that I have given you that's titled "EPA Environmental Justice links," you might be surprised to find that President Clinton issued an Executive Order talking about Environmental Justice which lo and behold, surprising to me, was recently validated and upheld by the Bush administration...
Quite candidly, there's a very good study that was mentioned last week when our appeal hearing [on separate land use issue re container storage] was heard called MATES-2 performed by AQMD [referenced supra]...I was not previously aware of that. You saw [ECO-link chair] Diana Mann carry a map down here to the podium, and that was a result of that MATES-2 study [showing] graphically our air quality makes us look like the Black Hole of Calcutta. Don't exacerbate it...
When 8th district Councilman Rob Webb sought to add verbiage to the resolutions dealing with environmental justice, City Attorney Shannon counseled against doing so because he hadn't seen the language beforehand. That's fair. The Mayor told Councilman Webb he could raise the issues at a subsequent meeting. That's also fair.
But it's been over two months. Not arming LB with the facts does not seem smart.
A few weeks ago, the mayor of a small southbay city -- considerably smaller than LB -- delivered powerful, brilliantly constructed testimony in Sacramento about LAX's impacts on his city. He repeatedly stressed the issue of environmental justice for his community.
What would happen if tomorrow, some state legislator, Congressmember or federal bureaucrat asked a LB official about the environmental justice impacts of more pollution from more flights at LB Airport? Would LB have the facts and arguments prepared, polished and at hand as the mayor of that smaller southbay city did?
Yes, LB has a progressive Airport Noise Compatibility Ordinance based on budgeted buckets of noise, not just flights. LB was ahead of its time on that.
But other cities have shown LB needs to catch up and would benefit by asserting the facts, the merits and the equities that we honestly have on our side to advance our interests concerning environmental justice.
It's time to uncover the ammo. Where is that report?