City Att'y Office Will Now Confer With FAA Over Agency's Contention That Douglas Park's Proposed 1,400 Housing Units Is Incompatible Land Use; City Staff Backs Project, Says It Meets Legal Req'ts.
(October 12, 2004) -- Following a story reported in detail by LBReport.com, LB City Hall staff has acknowledged that a high ranking Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official has said 1,400 residential units proposed as part of Boeing Realty's Douglas Park mixed-use development would be a land use incompatible with nearby LB Airport.
At a midafternoon study session (no vote), City Hall Community Development Director Melanie Fallon said the Sept. 22 FAA letter [addressed to Candace Robinson, proprietor of the LB Flying Club & Flight Academy, who opposes the housing component] was given to the Boeing team and city staff late last week. "FAA is saying that a residential development next to an airport with 1,400 residential units represents an incompatible land use...We [at LB City Hall] do believe that this issue has been adequately addressed in the EIR and has been mitigated," Ms. Fallon said.
Deputy City Attorney Mike Mais amplified the point:
Mr. Mais: What Melanie is referring to, I believe, is the letter that was presented to the Planning Commission last Thursday [Oct. 7] from the FAA directed to one of the speakers at the Planning Commission meeting...
...I think each of you have a copy, but basically it indicates that the FAA has taken a position in opposition to the project. And quite frankly, I was a little surprised about the letter.
Staff had not seen that letter prior to Thursday, but more importantly...the project itself was specifically designed to comply with all applicable state and federal regulations, and there are numerous regulations that control the airport at both the state and federal level.
And all of those regulations have been met or exceeded.
In addition, the FAA did have the opportunity to provide comments to the draft EIR...They in fact did supply comments to the EIR, which have been responded to. And none of the comments that they made to the EIR in any way came close to indicating that they had an objection to the project.
And finally...the project includes a number of mitigation measures, not the least of which is an avigation easement [to protect city from lawsuits from those who move into project, acknowledging aircraft overflights, noise, and other things associated with an airport].
So as far as we're concerned, the project does meet all of the applicable standards. The FAA has not at this point communicated directly with the city that they are in opposition to the project.
So we're going to have to have further discussions with FAA to sort of sort out their position.
Asked by Councilman Val Lerch what the consequences would be if City Hall proceeded with the project despite the FAA's objections:
Mr. Mais: ...Typically, what the FAA's responsibility is, if they felt that we were incorrect and we chose to move forward with the project, what they would do is bring an administrative proceeding against the city and make a contention that we had violated our grant assurances when we take grant money from them.
And really the remedy for that, the only remedy that's ever been used in any jurisdiction, is to ask that the city involved return all grant monies that have been given to the airport or the municipality and that the city not be allowed to accept further grant money.
Councilman Lerch: Now how much is that grant money?
Mr. Mais: It dates back to the 60s or the 50s...It's a lot.
Community Development Director Melanie Fallon voiced strong support for the proposed development, declaring "We believe that these 260 acres, if they are developed as we are suggesting, that Long Beach will have one of the finest, newest, well planned jobs and residential neighborhoods in Los Angeles County."
She added, "Without this residential component of 1,400 housing units, Boeing may not have the resources to complete the commercial infrastructure and we could risk not adding jobs to our economy for a number of years."
The FAA letter from the office of Woodie Woodward, FAA Associate Administrator for Airports, states in pertinent part:
...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...
Further on the Douglas Park study session to follow in separate coverage.
Previous related coverage:
High Ranking FAA Official Calls Housing @ Douglas Park Incompatible With Airport Uses
Planning Comm'n OK's Douglas Park Project, Sends It To Council
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