Councilman Carroll: Thank you Mayor O'Neill. I think it might be helpful to review where we are, how far we've come and the real successes that we have achieved with respect to our Airport, with a view towards protecting our neighborhoods.
JetBlue came to town, two or two and half years ago, and it was determined by the Council that that would be the best interests of the city to fill up the remaining 41 flights of our noise ordinance with what they perceived to be the quietest plane with the most responsible airline that was available to us. Before, we had not been able to get anyone to town.
I voted against it. I did not take the position that we needed to fill up the flights. I had campaigned on if we ever got to 30 flights, there ought to be a six month moratorium before we did anything, and see how the neighbors felt about that and how it worked in our neighborhoods.
Suddenly, the facts and circumstances changed. Suddenly we had 41 flights that were going to be coming at us over a two year period from JetBlue. Last May it was, American Airlines came to town. They wanted to get in on the game. They of course were a party to the lawsuit that we fought in court for about ten years. They indicated to us they were prepared to sue again and put us back through the hoops and challenge our noise ordinance.
I think it's important to remember we sort of backed into the noise ordinance that we do have in the course of the litigation that we were involved in, and the judge sort of set the terms and conditions of blessing that noise ordinance, gave it to us for five years before it was subject to challenge and that period had just ran out when American Airlines indicated they were in fact going to challenge it.
We found ourself in a position at that time of taking a position somewhat similar to Burbank Airport which is "hell no we're not going to have it and we're going to fight you as long and as hard as we can." That can take the form of changing the noise ordinance, reducing the number of flights. That can take the form of restricting the terminal space available to the airlines.
We followed what happened in Burbank and it was very clear that was not the most constructive path to take. Burbank fought for twenty years, spent I don't know how many millions of dollars. The FAA never budged an inch, and they are now and still remain a 24-hour a day airport, the very kind of thing that could happen to us if we lost our Noise Ordinance.
We looked south towards John Wayne Airport. They have a 5,000 foot runway, about 5,900 feet, almost half the size of ours. They just entered into an agreement where they are happy to have 150 flights a day.
Now we decided that it would be prudent for us, we are all adults here on this Council, we have excellent legal staff, we have the resources to hire what turned out to be one of the best airline aviation attorneys in the country, and we decided negotiation seemed to be the better part of playing Russian Roulette with ourselves.
After about a year of intense work through our legal department, hiring Mr. [Michael] Gatzke who actually represented Orange County and was able to bring us a great deal of his experience, going to Washington, D.C., the Vice Mayor [Frank Colonna] travelling, the Councilmembers meeting with the FAA, pleading our case, taking the issues to you, we passed a resolution here [City Council, May, 2002], we brought petitions to Washington, D.C.
We accomplished a remarkable result. We sit here today with our 41 flight ordinance, as unpalatable as it may be to many of us who feel the Airport should not be permitted to expand to the level that it has, but we have that in hand. We have an agreement that the Airlines who signed this proposal for us will not sue for a substantial period of time.
We now have a letter from the FAA that must give pause to any airline that wants to come in now and confront us with the situation that American Airlines tried to do. There is a strong chance, if we go into federal court, the FAA is going to be there by our side. We can at least say to the judge, "Here is what we've done. We have been determined to have treated these airlines reasonably," and that's really the only basis that the FAA is concerned about revoking our ordinance is if we treat another airline in an unreasonable or discriminatory way. It has been determined by the FAA that our ordinance doesn't do that and the way we have implemented that ordinance does not do that.
I think it is time to acknowledge what we have accomplished, and I want to thank, and I hadn't had an opportunity to thank our legal department, Mike Mais and Bob Shannon, Chris Kunze the Airport Manager, our city management staff, Mike Gatzke and the Council, who have persevered with the very criticisms that we hear again this evening. "The Council doesn't know what they're doing. We don't trust them." And on, and on, and on.
In the face of all that, I think it is fair for us to say we have won, to the extent the game was winnable. Now the speech you heard Mr. Sopo read tonight was my speech, and I thought, and believe as I sit here, it was a cogent summary of the circumstances as we find them to be.
Congress determined and made their deal with the airlines, give us quieter planes, we're going to get litigation off your back in every way, shape or form except for noise. That was the deal that was cut in 1991.
We are living with rules that Congress creates for us. Fortunately, the ordinance that we have now is grandfathered into ANCA [Airport Noise and Capacity Act], that is, any other airport, and there are only five of them who are in our situation, finds themself at the mercy of the airlines. The airlines can come in and fly at any time of the day or night that they choose for as often as they choose. The only way out of it is to do what Burbank is about to do, and what John Wayne Airport has done, is strike a deal.
We struck a deal that is basically a dream come true for these other airlines [assumed misspeak, likely means airports] and I think it's something that we should be proud of. We should stand up and congratulate ourselves and our community, most of which understand the realistic circumstances under which we've been operating.
This brings us to what we are here for tonight, which is trying to determine what would be appropriate and reasonable accommodation for the 41 flights that we now have, or we're going to have next month. I'm very happy to discuss this issue. There are federal guidelines about what needs to be provided. We're really talking about so many more or less square feet per holdroom, per parking lot, and I'm sure at the end of the scoping period and the EIR, we're going to come up with something that everyone can be happy with, that will withstand judicial scrutiny, that will meet the FAA requirements and will give some solace to those of you who are concerned that this Airport is going to develop in an unlimited way and that will invite more flights.
I have said before, and I'll simply reiterate again tonight, the number of flights is, was and will be always determined by our noise ordinance. It's 41, it can't be more, other than the [noise] budget process which I think you all understand, and we will revisit that again in October.
But I think it's time for us to say "job well done," and I do say that members of the city staff, the Mayor and the Council and you who have supported us through this process.
I feel one of the most important things I have done for the citizens of Los Altos is to preserve this noise ordinance. The Los Altos general area, the real estate values increased to the tune of $100 million last year, last year, I don't know what it is on the north side, I suspect it's even more, they have more expensive property up there.
That tells me that the people who decided to stay and continue their lives in Los Altos had confidence that this City Council was going to protect them or they would have sold already. There would have been a crash over there. There wasn't.
We're doing fine. I want everyone to understand, I am personally committed to make sure we continue to do fine. We'll resolve the size of the holdrooms and those kinds of issues in due course, but the major battle has been won. And again thank you. Thank you Mayor, and thank you folks for coming out again this evening.