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    News

    Councilmembers Colonna & Gabelich Ask City Mgr. For Details On City Staff Presented Alternative For More Modest Airport Terminal Facilities Expansion Than Favored By Staff


    (January 12, 2005) -- LBReport.com has learned that 3d district Councilman Frank Colonna and 8th district Councilwoman Rae Gabelich have sent a joint memo to City Manager Jerry Miller, asking that city staff provide more detailed information regarding a more modest expansion of LB Airport's permanent terminal area facilities.

    The Councilmembers specifically request more detailed information on "Alternative #2," presented by city staff at a January 4th City Council study session on the proposed terminal area facilities expansion.

    "The purpose is to evaluate this alternative as the maximum building proposal and to review the feasibility of two additional build alternatives between the "no build" proposal and the #2 Alternative that could reduce building 10% or more," the Councilmembers write.

    Noting that city staff indicated during the study session that block drawings provided to date do not accurately depict the proposals, the Councilmembers also ask staff to prepare rough elevations (overhead and ground views) of what Alternative #2 and the lesser sizes alternatives. "We believe these visuals could help the Council and community better understand the suggested proposals," the Councilmembers write.

    LBReport.com posts the Councilmembers' memo text verbatim below.

    [memo text follows]

    To: Gerald Miller, City Manager
    From: Rae Gabelich, Council Member, Eighth District Frank A. Colonna, Council Member, Third District
    Subject: Airport Terminal Improvements

    In consideration of terminal improvements that benefit the local community as well as the traveling public, we would like to request staff to provide more detailed information to Alternative #2, as presented to the City Council on January 4. The purpose is to evaluate this alternative as the maximum building proposal and to review the feasibility of two additional build alternatives between the "no build" proposal and the #2 Alternative that could reduce building 10% or more.

    Additionally, since staff indicated at the January 4 study session that the design drawings were not an accurate depiction of the proposals, we request staff to prepare rough elevations (overhead and ground views) of what Alternative #2 and the lesser sized alternatives would conceptually look like. We believe these visuals could help the Council and community better understand the suggested proposals.

    We would request the following components be included:

    • 1. Maintaining the historical significance and preservation of the exiting terminal while still evaluating the utilization of this facility.

    • 2. The design opportunities that would enhance and show more efficient utilization of what we have today.

    • 3. Suggested alternative of off-site locations to provide office space within reasonable proximity to any newly modified terminal.

    • 4. Funding considerations for the proposed terminal improvements.

    Responding to the above in advance of the scheduled February EIR presentation will allow Council Members to evaluate this information prior to selecting the proposed project to be considered in the scope of the EIR.

    Cc: Honorable Mayor O'Neill and City Council Members

    [end text]

    Background

    The scope of the airport facilities EIR had been scheduled to come before the City Council over a year ago in December 2003 with smaller facility sizes than Airport management now proposes. However in October 2003 (with Council elections in airport-impacted Council districts 4 and 8 looming in Spring 2004) the Council voted to send the hot potato Airport issue to the "Airport Advisory Commission" (a move virtually certain to delay a vote until after the Council elections).

    During the interim period, Airport management retained HNTB, a firm which does planning and also builds major public works projects...including airports. HNTB, which helped construct the Alameda Corridor, said its recommended sizes were based in part on FAA recommendations and "industry standards" and was downsized by HNTB in some respects to reflect LB Airport's constricted area.

    HNTB's recommendation, favored by Airport management, is significantly larger than what city management described in its September 2003 Notice of Preparation for the Airport terminal EIR.

    (LBReport.com June 2004: Details Of City Mgt's Proposed LB Airport Permanent Terminal Facilities Expansion; Parts Are Larger Than City Hall's Notice of EIR Preparation For Project In Sept. 03)

    The increase in Airport management's proposal is sufficiently significant that city management plans to issue a new Notice of Preparation for the EIR, effectively restarting the EIR process.

    The larger proposed terminal facilities reflect higher passenger levels based on empirical (real world) load levels (percentage of filled seat) and new aircraft, LB Airport management says. LB Airport, which until early 2004 said it expected roughly 3.8 million annual passengers (with all 25 commuter slots filled, not currently flying), now says passenger levels will be roughly 4.2-4.3 million annually. That's roughly 40% higher than the 3.0 million figure adopted in 2001 by the Southern California Association of Governments for LB Airport by 2025.

    Meanwhile, voters in Council districts 4 and 8 removed incumbents whose re-election had been favored by LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill. During her January 11, 2005 "State of the City" address, Mayor O'Neill said in part, "In many cases visitors get their initial look and impression of our community at the Airport. Our Airport was never designed to handle over 3 million travelers -- that is a 300% increase since 2001 thanks in large part to JetBlue. We need an airport that is consistent with our image as a tourist and business center. Itís time for us to reach consensus to solve our situation, the sooner the better..."

    JetBlue became LB Airport's major commercial tenant as a result of a May 2001 Council vote (motion by Councilwoman Jackie Kell, with city staff support) which ended up putting LB's Airport ordinance at risk. The Council vote (8-1, Carroll dissenting) changed LB Airport's flight slot allocation rules by letting carriers hold slots longer before flying them.

    The public wasn't told that prior to the Council vote, City Hall had engaged in contacts with JetBlue, facilitated in part by then-Airport Advisory Commission chair Kristy Ardizzone. Following the Council vote, JetBlue took all then-vacant LB Airport large aircraft flight slots, maxing them out at 41. (Ms. Ardizzone subsequently became a consultant to JetBlue while continuing on the Airport Advisory Commission without Council objection; JetBlue later offered Ms. Ardizzone a fulltime position, which she accepted, and exited the Airport Advisory Commission.)

    In response to the Council's May 2001 action, some LB Airport carriers instituted an FAA administrative proceeding that could have led to FAA enforcement action or a federal lawsuit.

    JetBlue Airways ultimately assisted City Hall by relinquishing some of its flight slots, which helped enable negotiation of an FAA-approved settlement. However, the FAA stated that it viewed the Council's May 2001 action (letting a carrier hold a flight slot for a lengthy period before flying it) as an unreasonable restriction...and told City Hall to reverse its May 2001 flight slot allocation rule change...which the Council recently did.

    Mr. Kunze said that on February 1, 2005, Airport Management intends to return to the Council and seek permission to proceed with an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The same theme, stressing a need for prompt Council action, was reiterated in similar forms by City Manager Jerry Miller and Public Works Director Christine Andersen.

    Meanwhile, the City Council's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m. to develop "Guiding Principles for LB Airport Marketing and User Responsibilities." The public meeting, with Councilmembers Tonia Reyes Uranga (chair), Vice Mayor Jackie Kell and Councilwoman Rae Gabelich presiding, will be held at the Miller Family Health Education Center, 3820 Cherry Ave.

    The "Guiding Principles" are expected to be drafted before the February 1 Council meeting on the scope of the permanent Airport terminal facilities EIR.


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