High Ranking FAA Official Calls Housing @ Douglas Park Incompatible With Airport Uses
(October 12, 2004) -- The office of a high ranking Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official contends that including 1,400 proposed residential units as part of Boeing Realty's mixed-use Douglas Park development (housing is proposed for the northern portion of the former Douglas plant west of Lakewood Blvd.) would represent an incompatible land use.
The FAA DC office adds that as part of LB's Airport Improvement grant assurances, LB City Hall is required "to take action to restrict the use of land next to the airport to uses that are compatible with normal airport operations"...and indicates the FAA will be monitoring the planning process "to ensure the city's compliance with its Federal obligations."
In a September 22 letter replying to a local opponent of plans to include housing in the mixed-use development, the Washington, D.C. office of FAA Associate Administrator for Airports, Woodie Woodward, states in pertinent part:
[FAA] Administrator Blakey has asked me to respond to your letter of August 30 about a proposed development by the Boeing Realty Corporation, entitled Douglas Park, near Long Beach Airport.
A residential development next to the airport with 1,400 residential units represents an incompatible land use. A recipient of Airport Improvement Program grant funding, the city of Long Beach, as the airport sponsor, has an obligation to comply with Grant Assurance 21, Compatible Land Use. This grant assurance requires the city to take action to restrict the use of land next to the airport to uses that are compatible with normal airport operations.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has gone on record as objecting to the proposed development. We provided comments in response to a draft Environmental Impact Report prepared under the California Environmental Quality Act. In addition, the proposed project will be evaluated by various land use agencies. The review should show the proposed residential project is not consistent with the land use plans recommended for this area next to the airport.
The FAA will continue to monitor the planning process to ensure the city's compliance with its Federal obligations...
The FAA letter replied to correspondence from Ms. Candace Robinson, proprietor of the Long Beach Flying Club and Flight Academy. On October 7, Ms. Robinson publicly referenced the FAA letter in testimony to LB's Planning Commission. The Planning Commission (Mayor appointed, Council approved) went on to vote unanimously to approve the Douglas Park proposal with housing, sending the matter to the City Council.
The position taken by FAA DC HQ -- implying that a LB City Hall land use decision to approve housing at the site could run afoul of federal airport obligations -- escalates objections previously raised by FAA west coast personnel as part of the EIR process.
In EIR comments submitted in April, the FAA's Western-Pacific Airway Facilities Division wrote in pertinent part:
The proposal includes low, medium and high-density residential land uses in the northern half of the subject site...Airport noise issues are a controversial and highly contested issue at Long Beach Airport...The introduction of new homes in the immediate proximity of the airport would likely generate noise complaints not only from the aircraft using Runway 12/30, but also Runway 7L/25R...
...[The EIR] is silent on the airport's need to ensure that the approaches to the runways remain clear and their grant-in-aid obligations to ensure that compatible land uses around the airport are maintained...
While the EIR states that homes would be insulated to achieve an interior noise level of 45 CNEL, that does not account for noise impacts outdoors. The FAA has received complaints from people living near an airport, stating that while they can find relief inside their homes, they cannot enjoy their backyards due to the noise of over-flying aircraft.
The EIR evaluates an alternative that does not include residential land use. Based on past history of noise complaints from residents near Long Beach Airport, we recommend the consideration of the non-residential alternative. This alternative would not introduce new non-compatible land uses in the immediate vicinity of an airport...
LB City Hall staff responded to the FAA's April EIR comments in pertinent part:
...The [EIR] analysis concludes that the project will comply with the Airport Layout Plan as well as FAA Part 77 Regulations. In addition, the project will implement the Airport Land Use Plan (ALUP) safety policies through various site planning restrictions. Also...based on a number of factors, including current and expected airport operations, the height zones proposed by the project, the compatibility guidelines set forth by the Caltrans Handbook, and the proposed mitigation measures, the risk exposure of the proposed project will not cause a safety hazard for people residing or working in the proposed project area. Finally, the proposed uses will be consistent with the noise compatibility guidelines set forth by the Caltrans Handbook and the ALUP. Therefore, from a land use perspective, the location of residential homes within the norther portion of the site is compatible with the airport.
...Contrary to what is suggested in [the FAA] comment, a discussion of potential effects from overflight noise (e.g., runway 16R and 16L as well as helicopter operations) was provided on pages 537 and 538 of the Draft EIR. The Draft EIR concluded that the project could result in overflight noise, which may be a source of annoyance to proposed sensitive receptors on the project site.
...In addition, [an included mitigation measure] requires all persons purchasing, leasing or renting residential land or property within the development to sign an Acknowledgement of Notice of Airspace and Aviation Easement as provided in the Development Agreement for the project. The Acknowledgement...shall disclose the fact that the subject property is in the immediate vicinity of the Airport; that there may be noise and other related impacts because of proximity to the Airport; that the proximity to the Airport may affect normal activities on, and the comfortable use and enjoyment of property; and that market value may be adversely affected...[and that the person signing] is waiving legal claims and rights which it might otherwise have with respect to the aviation activities permitted by the Easement.
...The [FAA's] assertion that the Draft EIR is silent on the airport's need to ensure that the approaches to the runways remain clear and their grant-in-aid obligations to ensure that compatible land uses around the airport are maintained is incorrect. As discussed in detail in SEction V.E., Hazards and Hazardous Materials, development within the vicinity of the Airport is regulated by a number of airport planning documents and regulations, including Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 77 Regulations, the Airport Layout Plan for the Long Beach Airport (reviewed and approved by the FAA on April 5, 2000), and the Long Beach Airport Comprehensive Airport Land Use Plan (ALUP). The ALUP was prepared and adopted by the Los Angeles County Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) based on guidelines, recommendations, regulations and/or policies of the FAA, Caltrans Division of Aeronautics, and municipalities within the County. The ALUP provides policies to promote land use compatibility and limit noise and other safety conflicts in areas surrounding airports.
...The Draft EIR contains an analysis of the project relative to potential noise from the airport. In compliance with the policies of the Airport Land Use Plan (ALUP), California Title 21, and FAA Guidelines, the published Airport CNEL contours were used to assess potential noise impacts upon the proposed residential uses and associated outdoor recreational areas within the project development resulting from airport noise...As the analysis concluded and indicated [in the Draft EIR], the residential uses and associated outdoor recreational areas proposed within the project site will be outside of the 65 CNEL contour based upon the maximum expected operating scenario allowed by [the LB Airport Noise Compatibility Ordinance]. However [as also disclosed in the EIR], overflight noise (e.g., runway 16R and 16L as well as helicopter operations) may be a source of annoyance to proposed sensitive receptors (e.g., residential uses and associated outdoor recreational areas) on the project site.
...In accordance with the proposed Development Agreement for the project, all of the residential uses for Douglas Park will be located outside of the 60 CNEL contour.
The City Council is scheduled to hold its first study session on the proposed development at 3 p.m. on October 12.
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