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    Avoiding A Trainwreck At The Airport

    (July 11, 2006) -- The Press-Telegram, which editorialized in support of OC residents seeking to stop an El Toro Airport, and in favor of a LB City Hall-proferred Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to nearly double LB Airport's permanent terminal area facilities before hearing the appellants at the EIR hearing, and against appellants when they offered ways to protect the City and its residents from flaws in the EIR, and in favor of building the Airport on a cracked EIR foundation and basically told appellants to sue if they didn't like it, at dawn today (July 11) again smears the appellants (twice labelling them as "angry," a falsehood in describing in their hearing presentation) but offers a moment of sanity in the midst of its mainly mudslinging advice.

    The PT suggests the Council approve a tolling agreement, one of the options suggested by the appellants and agendized for consideration tonight by Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga. That mechanism would avoid throttling into the trainwreck that the PT and others likeminded invited with their ad hominem-style response to real EIR flaws. The Council should agree to this 9-0 and should not agree to anything less.

    For the record, Mayor-elect Bob Foster told us and we reported as news (and apparently told the PT although it didn't report it as news, apparently mentioning it in a June 18 editorial) that he believes the EIR has flaws in not addressing some substantive matters that he wants to see dealt with in the EIR to better protect the city. Read what Mayor-elect Foster said. What a breath of fresh air, approaching points on their merits.

    Although PT readers wouldn't know it from that paper's coverage, the appellants hearing presentation wasn't angry. It was statesmanlike, businesslike, persuasive advocacy. We posted sound clips of salient portions. Hear what the appellants said for yourself.

    The appellants' presentations were so powerful that Mayor O'Neill made sure the appellants wouldn't have any chance to be heard again. She prevented them from collapsing rebuttal claims offered by staff, an afront to basic fairness disserving the appellants, the Council, the general public and the process.

    Second, the angriest presentation at the hearing came from 9th district Councilman Val Lerch, who lost his cool by trying to respond to the appellants' substantive points by citing what some student-aged chum recommended. Just imagine the laughter if the appellants had justified their position offering such advice.

    There was also unfortunate fatuity from Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, who portrayed the roughly 103,000 sq. ft size now favored by city staff as a reduction from over 130,000 sq. ft. That's half true...but doesn't mention that Airport management sought roughly 98,000 sq. ft in its original 2003 Notice of EIR preparation. Councilwoman Lowenthal should have recalled that because she (and the Council on a 9-0 vote in late 2003) delayed facing this issue (as the city approached the 2004 election cycle) by diverting it to an Airport-tilted (Mayor chosen, Council approved) advisory group. City staff then used the intervening period to retain a firm that builds public works projects (including airports). That firm came up with the approx. 133,000 sq. ft. size, in large part for concessions, based on what the firm called "industry standards" [and also cited newer aircraft designs and higher load factors]. The net effect was bad advice for the LB's boutique Airport whose main selling point is it's small and compact unlike barn-style facilities elsewhere. For the record, LB Airport recently ranked near the top in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power & Associations...although there's consensus in LB that the Airport deserves sensible upgrades.

    There's also real consensus on the need to protect and defend this city's Airport noise ordinance. That's exactly why Airport upgrades should be done as part of an overall, coordinated approach to protecting and strengthening that ordinance. This shouldn't be dilatory or obstructionist and must be smart...because blunders here could have permanent damaging consequences.

    We urge the Council to give Mayor-elect Foster the opportunity he favors and common sense dictates to avoid building on a cracked EIR foundation.

    If the Council can't find the wisdom to do that, the appellants and residents should be angry.

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