|(July 12, 2017) -- Prompted by JetBlue flights that have exceeded the LB Airport ordinance's 10 p.m./11 p.m. flight limits, 4th district Councilman Daryl Supernaw has signaled that he plans to introduce a City Council agenda item (date not specified) to examine the issue of the LB Airport ordinance's fine structure in the context of providing a better deterrent.
In his July 7th weekly newsletter, Councilman Supernaw headlines an item "JetBlue Fined Record-Breaking $168,900 for June Noise Violations" and writes:
It has become painfully obvious, especially to those living under the flight path, that our "coveted" noise ordinance is not serving its intended purpose. JetBlue violated the 11:00 pm curfew 31 times (every night on average) and the 10:00 pm curfew 48 times last month. This clearly indicates the fine structure is not an adequate deterrent to violating the curfew. For that reason, I will be introducing a city council agenda item in the very near future to examine this issue.
Councilman Supernaw's newsletter included the following chart:
[Scroll down for further.]
Councilman Supernaw attached a report on JetBlue's June ordinance violations at this link. For months extending back into 2016, Councilman Supernaw has done a slow-burn on the issue, documenting JetBlue operations exceeding the ordinance's late night flight limits and publishing the data in his newsletter for his Airport-impacted constituents but not directly bringing the issue to the City Council...until now.
LB's Airport ordinance, adopted in 1995 in a federal court approved settlement of airline litigation and maintained under a Congressionally-enacted grandfathering provision in a federal law (ANCA), allows the City of LB to regulate the number of daily flights and their hours at its airport, an ability that only handful of U.S. airport operators have.
The LB City Attorney's office has on previous occasions cautioned against tampering with LB's Airport ordinance out of concern that such changes might cause the FAA, or a federal court, or both, to hold that LB had forfeited its federal grandfathering protections. Such an outcome would leave the City of Long Beach legally unable to protect itself and its residents from unlimited daily take-offs and landings at all hours on all runways at its own Airport. The potential downside of unprecedented, likely permanent increased noise and jet aircraft pollution (with property tax revenue impacts citywide) has led LB officials to repeatedly state that the Airport ordinance is an extremely valuable City asset that must be safeguarded and protected.
LB's Airport ordinance includes a "curfew" requiring air carriers to schedule all departures and arrivals between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. However air carrier operations between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. are allowed if the delays result from weather, air traffic, or mechanical issues. Violations between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. caused by unanticipated delays beyond the operator's reasonable control (such as weather, air traffic or mechanical issues) are waived on presentation of evidence satisfactory to the City that the delayed arrival or departure resulted from these circumstances. Air carrier operations after 11 p.m. are automatically deemed violations and fined; after two warnings, a third violation brings an administrative fine of $100; the fourth and subsequent fines are $300.
However there's a second, significantly higher level of fines -- outside the terms of the ordinance itself -- applicable to JetBlue. Under the terms of a "consent decree" negotiated in 2003 by the LB City Prosecutor's office and now renewed annually, JetBlue avoids criminal prosecution for ordinance violations by paying $3,000 for each of the first six times it violates the Airport ordinance in any calendar quarter and the amount increases to $6,000 per violation thereafter in that calendar quarter. JetBlue pays these sums to the non-profit LB Public Library Foundation.
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