(February 18, 2003) -- In the past two years, LB's City Council has taken a number of Airport actions not required by the FAA or any court. These are city policy matters on which the City Council had the power to say yes or no.
City Hall pursued air carriers. It sought to fill LB's then-vacant commercial flight slots (for aircraft over 75,000 lbs.). It is now expanding Airport facilities. The City was not legally required to do any of these.
On February 18, the Council is poised to take another Airport action not required by the FAA or a court... but carrying potential long term consequences.
City Hall wants to extend Airport-related parking eastward nearly half a mile beyond the Airport itself to an area fronting Clark Ave. This would mark the furthest eastward expansion of Airport uses in roughly half a century.
City Hall has not told the public the full truth about it. LBReport.com was first to disclose the facts in detail.
Officials first claimed they wanted parking for rental car companies and airport employees for temporary use...but when the issue surfaced at the Planning Commission, City Hall's "temporary" use turned out to be for up to eight years (a five year lease plus three annual extensions).
For public consumption, officials have tried to portray the deal as a way to give LBCC a city owned parcel on campus in exchange for leasing part of the Veterans Stadium lot...but if it were that benign, they would not have taken extraordinary efforts to apply the "mushroom treatment" -- keeping people in the dark and fed manure.
Fortunately, a savvy reader spotted a tiny legal notice in a local paper, alerted us, and we reported the stealth missile cruising below the public's radar.
As LBReport.com first reported days ago, the Long Beach Community College Board of Trustees convened a "special meeting" in early February to approve the proposed parking deal and one other item. It agendized the significant Airport related item with a deliberately opaque title, "Resolution, Authorizing Lease and Sale Agreements with the City of Long Beach."
That concealed what the Board really did: approve leasing a swath of the Veterans Stadium lot to City Hall "for the purpose of parking motor vehicles and for such other purposes as are associated with the parking of motor vehicles." Not limited to "rental cars" or "airport employees." Parking, almost certainly airport parking. Period.
We believe camouflaging this on the College Board's agenda clearly violated the Brown "open meetings" Act. The remedy for this requires re-agendizing the item and re-casting the vote. That would be a good outcome, because the deal requires unanimous support of all members of the Community College Board, and recasting the vote will give members a chance to reconsider what they're really facilitating next door to LBCC.
The compliant College Trustees gave City Hall a virtual blank check to park what it pleases when it pleases. Yes, City Hall is promising to limit its use -- for the moment -- via a City Hall issued conditional use permit. But what City Hall issues, it can also change. Armed with the College's unrestricted lease (unbreakable for five years), City Hall can use that Clark Ave. strip for Airport parking, period.
Officials have yet to provide a good answer to a major question in this. LB Airport, a public entity, is offering to use public money to benefit private businesses. The Airport doesn't give the public free parking. It shouldn't be giving Airport businesses free parking. If they need it, let them rent it themselves not abutting a residential area. In our view, what City Hall has proposed is too close to a prohibited gift of public money. That Airport revenue -- public money -- should be used to pay for more security, not rental car spaces.
Fortunately, 8th district homeowner and LBHUSH2 president Rae Gabelich has chosen to appeal what the City Council is trying to do. LB City Hall has responded predictably.
The agenda item lists the "suggested action" as overruling her appeal. That's like walking into court and learning the "suggesting ruling" is to convict you. Well run cities don't do that. They act fairly, accurately listing the alternatives which legally include sustaining the appeal.
We have no illusions about what the current Council will do. At the Feb. 11 Council meeting, Councilman Rob Webb tried to locate his political testicles but ran out of time when Vice Mayor Frank Colonna and Councilmembers Dennis Carroll and Jackie Kell sliced them off. Mr. Webb is now a political eunuch, unable even to get information -- information! -- on what City Hall has in mind at the Airport. His best friends will soon tell him what many have been saying privately: he needs to resign gracefully to avoid a recall.
The Feb. 11 conduct of Colonna, Carroll and Kell (transcript forthcoming) -- unleashing a fog of obstructionist bogus issues -- has clarified what LB homeowners and businesses need to do now to protect themselves.
We must use the successful strategy that Orange County residents used:
(1) A ballot measure giving the people -- not politicians -- ultimate control over major land use decisions...and in LB, citywide...not just at the Airport. LB's City Council has earned this after paving over LB's once lengthy namesake downtown beach, erasing city park land, and now expanding the Airport.
(2) Gaining a Council majority. Incumbents who resist the land use ballot measure will be handed their walking papers by voters.
Our rough (very rough) first draft: "No environmental impact report (for any project over XXXX sq. ft), General Plan Element or Master Plan shall be effective for any purpose unless approved by a 2/3 vote of the city's electors." Yes, we've taken the 2/3 vote requirement from Prop 13.
At today's Council hearing, Ms. Gabelich will walk to the Council podium. She will likely say what her incumbent Councilmember has not. She will exercise legal rights this City Hall is required to grant her.
Then the Council will vote.
Their vote will show why a ballot measure is necessary.
Related LBReport.com coverage (in reverse chronological order):