Major Airport Decisions: Council Certifies EIR For Expansion Of Permanent Terminal Area Facilities Incl. 12 Aircraft Parking Positions (5-2 vote); Approves Conceptual Site Plan For 98,000 Sq. Ft. (4-3 Vote)
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(June 20, 2006) -- The City Council has voted 5-2 to certify an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) allowing City Hall to expand LB Airport's permanent terminal area facilities to nearly double their current (temporary + permanent) capacity, including 12 aircraft parking positions...plus a massive new car parking garage.
The Council vote to certify the EIR (motion by Richardson) was: Yes: B. Lowenthal, Kell, Richardson, Reyes Uranga, Lerch; No: O'Donnell, Gabelich; Colonna absent, 2d dist. vacant.
The Council majority effectively spurned the advice of LB Mayor-elect Bob Foster who commented to LBReport.com on June 17 that he felt some important matters weren't properly addressed in the EIR as it stands...and sought to have those issues better analyzed and resolved before the Council voted to certify a document serving as the basis for major Airport decisions.
Five Council votes were required to certify the EIR...meaning any one of the five Councilmembers who voted to certify could have prompted further review by simply voting "no."
The Council's EIR vote was followed by a 4-3 Council vote to approve a conceptual site plan of 98,000 sq. ft. (Yes: B. Lowenthal, Kell, Richardson, Lerch; No: O'Donnell, Reyes Uranga, Gabelich; Colonna absent, 2d dist. vacant).
The votes capped a hearing in which the appellants were not allowed to respond to what amounted to staff responses to their testimony...with Mayor Beverly O'Neill at one point telling law professor/appellant John Eastman to sit down when tried to put an objection on the record (transcript below),
The Council's EIR vote followed Councilmembers' rejection of a motion by Councilman Patrick O'Donnell (summary paraphrase: to continue the hearing for a minimum 60 days, directing further study) and second substitute motion (to Richardson's certification motion) by Councilwoman Rae Gabelich (summary paraphrase: 30 days for additional analysis). (On the O'Donnell/Gabelich motions: Yes: O'Donnell, Reyes Uranga, Gabelich; No: B. Lowenthal, Kell, Richardson, Lerch).
The Council voted for a conceptual site plan of 98,000 sq. ft on a substitute-substitute motion by Vice Mayor/5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell...after Councilwoman Laura Richardson Richardson moved to support 103,000 sq. ft favored by staff and Councilwoman Rae Gabelich made a substitute motion for 79,000 sq. ft. (In passing Kell's motion, the Council didn't reach the Richardson or Gabelich motions).
The June 20 hearing was the continuation of a June 13 hearing at which city staff was permitted to present an opening presentation, after which appellants presented their affirmative case. Following limited responses from city staff/consultants, staff sought and received a week to respond to appellants' points.
At the June 20 proceeding, Mayor O'Neill declared that the public would not be permitted to speak further.
She then proceeded to read a "question" from what appeared to be a prepared text, framed so as to invite city staff to reiterate its previously made arguments (instead of responding to specific points raised by the appellants).
|"Is the proposed project size based on the level of support necessary to handle the number of flights allowed under the city's noise ordinance, or is there [appears to lose her place in text] or base for the future?" the Mayor asked. [The point had been stressed by staff in its June 13 presentation at which the Mayor presided.]|
Screen capture: LBTV 8
City Engineer Mark Cristoffels then proceeded to re-state (as city staff had stated on June 13) its mathematical methods for calculating its proposed sizes for the terminal and parking lot...although the appellants didn't question the mathematics but the potential consequences of the sizes. The city management staffer went on to portray the EIR's 103,000 sq. ft proposed terminal size as a "reduction" from 133,000 sq. ft. (recommended by an Airport-retained firm) but didn't mention that city management had proposed a 93,000-98,000 sq. ft project in Sept. 2003. [Staff has elsewhere said the higher figures reflect updated load factors and new aircraft designs.]
This brought Prof. John Eastman from Chapman University's School of Law to the podium...and the following ensued [not an official transcript, prepared by us from the Council telecast.]
Prof. Eastman: No, you said the public hearing was closed.
Screen capture: LBTV 8
|Prof. Eastman [politely]: We need to note an objection right now.
Mayor O'Neill: [curtly, sternly] Sir, thank you....
Prof. Eastman: [cross talk] I want it noted for the record...
Mayor O'Neill: [cross talk]...I'll call on you later. [She never does]
Mayor O'Neill: That's right, it is closed.
Prof. Eastman: This is a statement that is a rebuttal, he specifically noted it was a rebuttal...
City Attorney Shannon: Counsel...
Prof. Eastman: The agenda said, the agenda said [applause]
Mayor O'Neill: Sir...
Prof. Eastman: Wait a minute
Mayor O'Neill: No no...[cross talk]
Prof. Eastman: The agenda said that there would be an opportunity for appellants to rebut and he made it specific.
Mayor O'Neill: Mr. Shannon, is there any place for an appellant to rebut?
City Att'y Shannon: Well first of all, counsel's out of order. If you want to make a statement for the record, you can make it for the record.
Prof. Eastman: [off mike] I did.
City Att'y Shannon: Don't interrupt the Council, you know better than that. Alright? Now there are rules that we need to follow here. I think that it's perfectly appropriate for staff to respond to questions directed to them by the City Council. We need to be careful though that if it assumes the appearance of a full rebuttal, then the appellants will have a brief opportunity to respond, so we're going to have to play this by ear. I don't know what questions they're going to be asked if any at all, but I think we need to be very careful.
In the proceedings that followed, the appellants were not given even one opportunity to be heard.
City staff's truncated history of the proceedings -- which portrayed 103,000 sq. ft as a reduction when it was actually an increase over what city staff initially sought -- was cited by at least one of the key votes to certify, Councilmembers Val Lerch.
When pressed by Councilwoman Rae Gabelich, city staff indicated it could operate with a project of between 79,000 to 103,000 sq. ft, but preferred 103,000 sq. ft. The Airport's current facilities (permanent + temporary) are just over 50,000 sq. ft.; City Hall says the permanent facilities will replace the temporary ones.
City Councilmembers did not take action to establish a litigation defense fund or take any other measures to protect or defend the City of LB's Airport ordinance -- which Councilmembers claimed to support.
In May 2001, a previous City Council -- which included now-incumbent Councilmembers Lowenthal, Kell and Richardson voting to certify now -- put the Airport ordinance at risk by voting (motion by Kell, 8-1 vote, Carroll dissenting) to change LB's flight slot allocation rules so carriers could hold flight slots longer before flying them. Within days, JetBlue took all of LB Airport's then vacant flight slots...and it later became known that LB city officials and JetBlue had contacts prior to the management-sought, Council approved action. JetBlue's entry helped provide pressure to expand the Airport's permanent terminal facilities. (An FAA administrative proceeding into LB City Hall's 2001 action was resolved by, among other things, the Council returning its flight slot allocation rules to what they were before its 2001 vote.)
In June 2006, Councilwoman Laura Richardson, who made the motions to certify the Airport EIR, won the Democrat primary in the 55th Assembly district; she will likely be in Sacramento by year's end.
Councilmembers Bonnie Lowenthal, Tonia Reyes Uranga and Val Lerch recently won reelection and begin new four year terms in mid-July 2006.
5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell is the apparent but not conclusive loser in her write-in bid to remain in office for a third term. She now trails Gerrie Schipske, who has declared victory and expects to become LB's new 5th district Councilwoman in mid-July. Schipske leads Kell by 166 votes in the City Clerk's June 20, 2006 tally of all remaining provisional and absentee ballots. Kell has not conceded defeat and is mullling possible legal challenges to the City Clerk's exclusion of what may be some quantum of incompletely filled-out write-in ballots (unknown until a formal hand recount). Kell wasn't present at last week's hearing but indicated she'd watched it on videotape.
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