(April 22, 2007) -- Alongside a fateful April 24 City Council vote on sizing expansion of LB Airport's permanent terminal area facilities, three Councilmembers have agendized an item recommending that the expansion be accompanied by a "Green Airport Program" and a "Neighborhood Protection Program."
Councilmembers Rae Gabelich, Patrick O'Donnell and Tonia Reyes Uranga propose that in conjunction with the enlarged terminal area facilities, the City Manager develop an implementation plan for a Green Airport Program (general Council policies similar to general Harbor Comm' adopted Green Port policies at LB's seaport) and a Neighborhood Protection Program (six specific items).
Councilmembers Gabelich, O'Donnell and Reyes Uranga state in their agendizing memo:
After months of meetings between City staff and the appellants' representative group,
several items have been agreed upon to protect our residents, their neighborhoods and quality of life for all Long Beach citizens.
These points look well into our city's future and offer protection for our citizens, their health, their investment as well as our general fund by protecting future property values to maintain the higher levels of property tax income to the General Fund.
Direct the City Manager to develop an implementation plan for the following programs in
conjunction with the terminal improvements for the Long Beach Airport:
1. A Green Airport Program that includes:
a. A policy to reduce pollution related to aircraft, ground equipment and vehicle
b. A policy that the City shall strive to meet AQMD attainment levels by 2020; and
c. A full air quality monitoring program, similar in nature to the programs enacted at the Port of Long Beach and/or Teterborough Airport.
2. A Neighborhood Protection Program that includes:
a. The addition of six new noise monitors, including areas currently without
monitors, such as Bixby Hill ;
b. Covenants not to challenge the Airport Noise Compatibility Ordinance
incorporated into all airport leases ;
c. Creation of an Airport Noise Compatibility Ordinance legal defense fund;
d. Require that a new Environmental Impact Report be completed if the Long Beach Airport ever exceeds 4.2 million annual passengers;
e. Creation of terminal deed restrictions or covenants prohibiting use changes within the post-security terminal area; and
f. Elimination of Parcel "O" [Willow St/Clark Ave. area] as part of this terminal expansion project.
The coming Council vote on sizing expansion of the Airport's terminal area facilities occurs under a legal cloud: two legal actions have already been filed (one by the LB Unified School District, another by the LB PTA) separately challenging as inadequate a City Hall Environmental Impact Report (EIR) offered to justify the expansion.
In certifying the EIR, the former O'Neill administration and a former Council spurned the advice of then-Mayor-elect Bob Foster [text below].
Three days prior to the Council vote, Mayor-elect Foster commended the outgoing Council for wrestling with the issue but indicated he felt important matters hadn't been properly addressed in the EIR...and favored having those issues better analyzed and resolved before the Council certified a document serving as the basis for future Airport decisions.
Mayor-elect Foster [June 17, 2006]...The deficiency I find in it, it didn't provide the analysis of the connection between gates and aircraft parking spaces and the noise ordinance and capacity. That to me is critical. The EIR assumes the noise ordinance is going to be there. I think that if you build in capacity, excess capacity, at this Airport you actually could threaten the noise ordinance. I wanted to see that analyzed.
I've asked everybody I could think of about this issue, about if you have excess capacity, could we wind up being forced, either by FAA or a potential applicant to have additional flights out of Long Beach, to be able to somehow invalidate the noise ordinance. I have not got a definitive answer.
That is crucial to me. The site plan and everything else is derived from the EIR. It's not independent of the EIR, so doing that analysis is critical.
...I would say you have to do this analysis because the noise ordinance to me is crucial. We need to keep it to protect our neighborhoods and to have a moderately sized Airport...
Three days later, at a June 20, 2006 Council hearing conducted by Mayor Beverly O'Neill (at which EIR appellants were denied an opportunity to respond to what arguably amounted to a city staff rebuttal presentation), the then-Council voted to certify the EIR (motion by Richardson) on a 5-2 vote (Yes: B. Lowenthal, Kell, Richardson, Reyes Uranga, Lerch; No: O'Donnell, Gabelich; Colonna absent, 2d dist. vacant).
Councilwoman Reyes Uranga's vote to certify the EIR led someone [still undisclosed] to launch a web site [since removed] urging her recall. A week later, Councilwoman Reyes Uranga asked City Attorney Bob Shannon if a motion to reconsider the Council's June 20 EIR certification would be in order. City Attorney Shannon said "no" based on a lack of proper notice under CA's Brown (open meetings) Act...but indicated that a properly noticed agendized motion to rescind the Council's EIR certification at a subsequent meeting would be in order.
On July 11, 2006, (the final Council meeting of the O'Neill administration and an outgoing Council) Councilwoman Reyes Uranga agendized an item to rescind Council certification of the EIR. It failed 4-5 (Yes: S. Lowenthal, O'Donnell, Reyes Uranga, Gabelich; No: B. Lowenthal, Colonna, Kell, Richardson, Lerch).
However, the Council voted 7-2 (Richardson & Lerch dissenting) to extend the statute of limitation within which EIR appellants could file suit to challenge EIR...and directed staff to discuss with representative group of appellants size of terminal project and mitigation measures.
The Council seats formerly held by Colonna and Kell are now occupied by Councilmembers Gary DeLong and Gerrie Schipske. The Councilmember for the 6th district, vacated by Laura Richardson's ascension to the Assembly, will be decided by Central City voters on May 1, 2007.
In July 2006, the LB Unified School District filed an action challenging the EIR as deficient.
In March 2007, the LB PTA, represented by Chapman University law professor John Eastman, filed a separate action challenging the EIR as deficient.
On April 17, 2007 Prof. Eastman reminded a Council study session on management's proposed Airport sizing that the coming Council vote will have to be re-visited if as he contends a Court will find City Hall's EIR deficient.
Also at the April 17 Council study session, Terry Jensen, one of the EIR appellants who've met with city representatives since last summer to try and find common ground, indicated that the management consultant's calculations don't square with his own...and he calculates the nearly 90,000 sq. ft proposed is larger than really needed.
Councilwoman Schipske separately expressed frustration that management said its expansion is "designed" to handle 66 daily flights (the legally required 41 + 25), but hasn't said how many million passengers per year the expanded facilities could accommodate...and Councilwoman Schipske pressed management to disclose this in time for the Council's April 24 decision.
Following the Council study session, City Manager Jerry Miller [scheduled to retire at the end of May] sent a memo to the Mayor and Councilmembers stating in pertinent part:
I have personally reviewed these results in depth with City staff and feel very strongly that this figure [89,995 sq. ft] represents a fair, professional and accurate assessment of the terminal size that should be constructed for the airport, while still remaining within the sizing limits established by the adopted EIR Alternative A. It's time to move forward with the essential facility and I would respectfully encourage the Council to approve the recommended sizing of 89,995 square feet and authorize City staff to proceed with the preparation of final plans, specifications, cost estimates and a detailed financing plan for the project.
In an internet posting, LBHUSH2 President Mike Kowal calls the upcoming April 24 Council meeting "the mother of all Airport meetings" and writes in part:
"Your neighborhood is locked in mortal combat with a dangerous airport expansion plan...We are at a critical point in the Airport decision-making process. Long Beach HUSH2 has done everything possible to educate Councilmembers that increasing the size of the existing facilities will jeopardize our noise ordinance; increasing the possibility of many more flights over our homes."
Mr. Kowal urged LB homeowners to attend the April 24 Council hearing (start-time scheduled for 6:00 p.m.), saying the Council decision is a matter of profits for others versus "your health, your safety, your quality of life and...your property values."