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    News in Depth

    Size Matters @ LGB:

  • LB Airport-Hired Firm Recommends Significant Expansion of Airport's Terminal Area Facilities; Firm Also Builds Airports And Other Public Works Projects, Worked on Alameda Corridor

  • LB Chamber Backs Recommendation; JetBlue Seeks Some Add'l Space; LB Convention and Visitors Bureau Wants Permanent Facilities To Replace Temporary Structures And Opposes Having EIR Address Issues Beyond New Facilities

  • LBHUSH2 Urges Health Risk Assessment First, Minimum Expansion in Stages...And Creating Airport Ordinance Litigation Fund -- Paid By Airport Revenues -- To Protect LB From Future Legal Challenges

    Introduction and perspective: We provide below detailed coverage of information regarding a proposed expansion of LB Airport's permanent terminal area facilities. We expect some readers will be surprised at some of the details we report below. We have also included audio coverage in keeping with's goal of being LB's media outlet of record on the Airport issue.

    The proposed expansion of LB Airport's facilities is one of the results of a May, 2001 Council vote (8-1, Carroll dissenting) -- which was not required by any court order or FAA directive -- that changed LB law to make it easier for carriers to hold flight slots before flying them. Council incumbents Carroll and Webb and now-former Councilman Grabinski supported a substitute motion by Carroll to delay action for two weeks. After it failed 3-6, Webb and Grabinski switched sides and voted for the change.

    Immediately after the Council vote, JetBlue Airways took all then-vacant 27 large-aircraft flight slots, maxing them out at 41.

    JetBlue also disclosed what City Hall didn't: the carrier had held discussions with LB city officials prior to the Council vote.

    A number of air carriers subsequently initiated FAA administrative proceedings that could have led to agency and/or court challenges to LB's Airport noise ordinance. The LB City Attorney's office retained expert aviation counsel Mike Gatzke and resolved the dispute in a settlement by which JetBlue gave up five slots as part of an FAA approved agreement that expires in 2008.

    Prior to the May 2001 Council action, LB airport had roughly 650,000 annual passengers with roughly 14-20 daily flights.

    (June 3, 2004, text revised June 4) -- A firm retained by LB Airport has recommended increasing the Airport's current holdroom size by roughly 67%, passenger security screening by roughly 70%, bag security screening between 40%-100%...and increasing concession areas by nearly five times.

    HNTB, a major architectural, engineering and planning firm that has helped design and build big projects nationally -- including airports -- and played a major role in building the Alameda Corridor, described its LB Airport recommendations as a "scaled-back" program that reflects the realities of LGB. It said if its recommendations had been based purely on calculations, the expanded facilities would be even larger.

    HNTB's recommendations, unveiled at a May 20 meeting of a City Council-selected "Airport Advisory Commission," are based on an increased passenger forecast of roughly 4.2 million annual passengers (MAP) instead of 3.8 MAP, the higher number first revealed by Airport management to prospective future concessionaires in May, citing new empirical data and changes in aircraft (first reported in May by

    HNTB said the 4.2 MAP level could result under LB Airport's current noise budgeted flight limit of 41 flights/day for aircraft over 75,000 pounds + 25/day under 75,000 pounds. None of the 25 commuter flight slots are currently filled.

    The firm also engaged veteran LB Airport noise consultant, Vince Mestre, to determine if additional flights might fit into the current noise budgeted limits. Mr. Mestre concluded that 6 to 11 more daily flights could be accommodated if carriers adjust schedules, have fewer nighttime flights, fully comply with LB's noise curfew and use quieter planes. HNTB said that with 6-11 supplemental flights, 5 million annual passengers could result by 2010. The firm said it was directed to provide the supplemental flight scenario for information purposes only and developed its terminal facility recommendations based on the current scenario (66 flights from filling 41 + 25).

    In a May 27 presentation to the Airport Advisory Commission (detailed below), JetBlue (LB airport's largest commercial carrier, holding 22 of 41 available large flight slots) said that although the Airport is handling current flight levels with inconvenience using temporary modular trailer facilities, it could not do so if the 25 commuter slots were filled...and added a stunning hypothetical: if LB carriers began using larger aircraft (like Boeing's 767) -- which JetBlue stressed it was not contemplating -- LB Airport could have 7 million annual passengers within the current noise ordinance. (Burbank airport currently has roughly 4.7 million annual passengers with 5.0 million planned; John Wayne Airport currently has roughly 8.4 million passengers with 10.8 million planned.)

    In a written statement (amplified in its powerpoint presentation detailed below), JetBlue stated, "[W]e request that the construction of the permanent terminal facilities at the Long Beach Airport begin without delay in order to satisfy the existing passenger demand under the current 41/25 ordinance."

    Meanwhile, LBHUSH2, a grassroots airport monitoring group founded by Rae Gabelich which has criticized City Hall policies for encouraging airport expansion, unveiled a plan at the May 27 Airport Advisory Commission meeting. LBHUSH2's plan insists on completion of a health risk assessment prior to any airport facilities expansion, performing any airport upgrades in two phases, prohibiting use of enlarged concession areas for holdroom or gate areas...and establishing a LB Airport Ordinance Litigation Fund -- paid by airport revenues -- to fund defense of LB's Airport ordinance.

    The Airport recommendations, and responses to them, took place at recent meetings of a City Council-appointed Airport Advisory Commission.

    At the May 20 meeting of the Airport Advisory Commission, HNTB's recommendations (dated May 14) were unveiled. They include increasing the airport's current holdroom space from 19,650 sq. ft to 32,950 sq. ft., increasing passenger security screening (in existing facilities including temporary modular buildings) from 5,900 sq. ft to 10,000 sq. ft., increasing bag screening from 5,000 to 7,000-10,000 sq. ft., increasing aircraft parking pads by 60% from 10 to 16...and increasing by nearly five times concession space from 5,460 sq. ft (including temporary modular buildings) to 25,460 sq. ft.

    In a written "Passenger Activity Forecast, Facility Requirement Analysis and Consultant Recommendations" prepared in support of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for LB Airport Terminal Area improvements, HNTB stated in part (bracketed material by us for clarity):

    [G]rowth in passenger traffic could occur within the parameters of the [LB Airport Noise Compatibility] Ordinance. This growth in passenger activity will require specific improvements to the existing facilities to provide a reasonable level of service to the public using LGB.

    In order to understand and plan for this inevitable growth, a forecast and facility requirements studies were undertaken to estimate future passenger traffic and quantify needed facility improvements...

    Forecasts were developed for two scenarios. Scenario 1 assumes that LGB continues to operate with current set restrictions, and at the existing allowable minimum daily level of 41 commercial and 25 commuter flights. Passenger projections based on average day peak and peak month activity resulted in an annual enplanement projection of 2.1 million (4.2 million annual passengers or MAP). Scenario 2, based upon optimization of the aircraft fleet mix and reductions in nighttime operations, assumes that an additional six to eleven daily commercial flights could operate without exceeding the airport's noise budget yielding 2.5 million annual enplanements (5.0 MAP).

    Consultants were directed to provide the Scenario 2 forecast for information purposes only, and to only develop terminal facility recommendations to accommodate the lesser activity of Scenario 1.

    The reports represent the consultant's best judgment of future passenger traffic and required facilities at LGB. Actual growth and facility needs could vary from those anticipated due to unforeseen circumstances or changes in the aviation industry.

    In its "Facility Requirements Analysis," HNTB states in pertinent part:

    Facility requirements for the Long Beach Airport (LGB) passenger terminal were analyzed by applying industry-based facility planning factors to forecast future passenger levels...

    Calculated facility requirements...were estimated based on the industry planning factors and assumptions described in this section. The planning factors include both calculated factors as well as industry standard planning factors, such as those found in the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Planning and Design Guidelines for Airport Terminal Facilities, Advisory Circular (AC 150/5360-13)....

    Actual building areas would be lower or higher than the calculated requirements due to the building's final geometric layout, existing constraints and conditions, owner and tenant operational preferences, construction phasing requirements, and other unique circumstances that planning factors cannot fully anticipate...

    While the calculated facility requirements indicate the relative size of a new terminal based on industry standards, the realities of LGB require a scaled back program that is customized to the unique circumstances of LGB. First of all, the main terminal building is an historic structure and is not easy to expand while maintaining its integrity. Secondly, the site is very constrained form landside to airside, requiring facilities to be squeezed into the available land area. Thirdly, the airport must remain operational during any improvements program...Fourthly, limited financial resources require the most efficient and economical construction. For these reasons, a limited improvements program for LGB is recommended...

    ...[conclusion] LGB...has existing site constraints and unique circumstances that limit the size of the facility; therefore, the recommended building program is considerable less than the calculated requirements, resulting in a smaller development program, but still adequate to process the anticipated passenger throughout under passenger activity forecast Scenario 1 at a reasonable level of service.

    JetBlue Airways (which holds 22 of LGB's 41 large aircraft flight slots) advanced its own proposal, seeking 30,000 sq. ft. for post-security concession areas (instead of 25,460 sq. ft in concession areas recommended by HNTB). LB's Airport's current facilities (including temporary modular buildings) provide 5,460 sq. ft. for concessions. JetBlue proposed 41,334 sq. ft for holdrooms (the full HNTB scenario 1, not scaled back), while HNTB's recommended facility holdroom facility is 32,950 sq. ft. posts extended audio coverage of JetBlue's presentation below as well as a reference pdf copy of its power point slides (below).

    In a written statement, amplified in a powerpoint presentation (details below), JetBlue said in pertinent part:

    JetBlue has seen over 1 million customers utilize the Long Beach Airport since our launch. Simultaneously, property values throughout the city have risen, many direct and indirect jobs have been created, and JetBlue has had an overall positive impact on the local economy. We have proven that our business plan has been mutually beneficially to the economic development of Long Beach, the airport, while still maintaining the integrity of one of the nation's strictest noise ordinances...

    JetBlue is proud to have become an integral part of the local economy via direct tax support, flight certificate donations, crewmember volunteer work, and support of numerous local community events. JetBlue has been recognized by various organizations as a good corporate citizen, and will continue to work within the community to support a variety of outreach efforts, and maximize endeavors to maintain the balance of airport operations.

    In order for JetBlue to continue to be successful, we request that the construction of the permanent terminal facilities at the Long Beach Airport begin without delay in order to satisfy the existing passenger demand under the current 41/25 ordinance.

    In a power-point presentation delivered by JetBlue VP for Government Affairs, Robert Land, JetBlue said its mission is "to develop new permanent airport facilities that support the Long Beach [airport noise ordinance] and reflect well upon the community and the city."

    The carrier cited steps it has taken to increase its compliance with LB Airport's curfew hours, including basing a costly aircraft and crew in LB. The company said its noise violations have decreased since fall 2003 and property values (sorted by zip codes) have increased since August 2000 (JetBlue's inaugural LB flight was in August 2001).

    Mr. Land said the firm's goal of providing superior customer service is being hindered by their passengers' experience at LB Airport's temporary facilities...which he said generates the largest number of complaints of any airport served by JetBlue.

    JetBlue also presented a reality-styled video showing JetBlue customers voicing their displeasure with LB Airport's temporary facilities.

    Mr. Land said LB Airport's temporary facilities would be inadequate to handle passengers that could result if all 25 commuter slots (currently unfilled) were filled...and ended its presentation by hypothesizing that LB Airport could have 7 million annual passengers within the current noise ordinance (41 large + 25 commuter) if LB carriers began using larger aircraft like the Boeing 767 -- which JetBlue stressed it was not contemplating. Burbank airport currently has roughly 4.7 million annual passengers with 5.0 million planned; John Wayne Airport currently has roughly 8.4 million passengers with 10.8 million planned.

    Two newsworthy exchanges took place involving Mr. Land and Airport Advisory Commission member Doug Haubert (a lawyer, although not serving in that capacity on the Commission.). We also post audio coverage of these below.

    LB Area Chamber of Commerce board chair Dave Neary backed HNTB's recommendations.

    LB Convention and Visitors Bureau president/CEO Steve Goodling said CVB's governing board voted to support new permanent airport facilities...but hasn't endorsed specific figures. The LBCVB Board includes JetBlue's Kristy Ardizzone and LB Area Chamber of Commerce board chair Dave well as City Manager Jerry Miller in an ex officio (non-voting) capacity. With Council approval, the LBCVB receives roughly $4 million per year (roughly 75% of its operating budget) from LB's hotel room tax ("transient occupancy tax") with the remainder from member dues.

    We post audio coverage of LBCVB president/CEO Goodling's presentation below.

    The grassroots monitoring group LBHUSH2 (LB Homes Under Stress and Hazard) founded by Rae Gabelich also presented a plan. LBHUSH2 urged completing a health risk assessment prior to any airport facilities expansion, performing any airport upgrades in two phases, prohibiting use of enlarged concession areas for holdroom or gate uses...and establishing a LB Airport Ordinance legal defense fund -- paid by airport avoid having future City Councils claim they can't pay to defend challenges to LB's Airport ordinance.

    In a powerpoint presentation, Ms. Gabelich noted that City Hall's "2010 Strategic Plan" calls for a land use policy that "maximizes the economic return to the community" and simultaneously calls for development of "a plan for business development that ensures the quality of life in the neighborhoods."

    Ms. Gabelich said both need to be supported and addressed in the EIR, which she described as a balanced approach. She noted that while the term "airport" appeared four times in a City Hall adopted "Strategic Plan," the term "quality of life" appears twice as often (8)...and "neighborhood" appears 77 times.

    The nine-member"Airport Advisory Commission" (roughly half its members are current or former private pilots or have some aviation industry ties; one member belongs to BHUSH2) has no substantive power beyond making recommendations to the City Council (which appointed them). Their recommendations are expected in late June or early July.

    The Council had been scheduled to vote in December 2003 on what issues to address within an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that will be used to proceed with the expanded terminal facilities. However, after sometimes acrimonious public comment at EIR scoping meetings, the Council sent the issue first to its Airport Advisory body...effectively delaying a Council vote on the hot button issue past the April and June Council elections.

    In the April 2004 election, 4th district Councilman Dennis Carroll was defeated by challenger Patrick O'Donnell...and Ms. Gabelich came within less than 300 votes of 8th district incumbent Webb, forcing him into a June 8 runoff.

    Councilman-elect O'Donnell -- and Ms. Gabelich if she beats incumbent Webb on June 8 -- will take office on July 15.

    The Council has not yet publicly discussed the permanent expanded facilities proposed by HNTB or responses to them.

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