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    A Fire Bell In The Night At The Airport

    Note: Audio segments are in the streaming "real audio" format which many people already have on their computer. If necessary, the player can be downloaded free (BUT CAVEAT USE "FREE REAL PLAYER" small link in upper right of page NOT "14 day trial") at: RealOne player download]

    (June 15, 2006) -- On June 13, 2006, City Hall self-deceptions were stripped away as part of a legally required public hearing on perhaps the largest number of appeals of a proposed City Hall action in Long Beach history.

    The appellants -- ranging from informed homeowners to distinguished legal experts -- cited needless, irreversible, permanent damages that they said could result if five of nine Councilmembers vote to approve a City Hall-spun "Environmental Impact Report" (EIR) that doesn't tell the whole truth about the consequences of expanding LB Airport's permanent terminal area facilities in the way city management proposes. That crucial vote could come on Tuesday June 20.

    The sworn hearing testimony was a fire bell in the night. It raised issues we do not believe have been fairly reported by much of LB's print media. Accordingly, is posting salient portions in streaming audio form on links below. We consider it a must-hear for intelligent, informed LB homeowners and taxpayers. Speakers included the following [click on hyperlinks to hear them; we inserted a "whoosh" sound to indicate any edits]:

    • Attorney Osa Wolff with the SF law firm of Shulte, Mihaly & Weinberger, who won a precedent-setting case on behalf of residents impacted by Oakland Airport, and successfully represented El Segundo among L.A-southbay cities in stopping wild expansion plans for LAX. Ms. Wolff was retained by LBHUSH2...and explained the harmful -- and permanent -- consequences of what LB city management is proposing.

    • Chapman University Law Professor John Eastman, a LB resident, who collapsed multiple pillars propping-up city management's EIR. In an elegant scholarly metaphor, Prof. Eastman referenced the Federalist writings of James Madison who advised placing greater confidence in "structural barriers" (in this case, keeping the Airport's physical size to a minimum) instead of "parchment [paper] barriers" (like LB's Airport ordinance, which others might try to undermine).

    • Attorney Doug Haubert, an ELB resident and member of LB's Airport Advisory Commission, who likened the Council's coming decision to its 1980's vote (also supported by city management at the time) to invite "crackerbox" density. The decision then, like the Airport decision now, involved irreversible consequences, Mr. Haubert noted. His testimony, which concluded appellants' affirmative presentation, was described by many of those who heard it as brilliant. We agree.

    • Redevelopment Agency boardmember (speaking in his individual capacity) Terry Jensen, who set a positive tone near the opening of appellants' presentation in offering to help City Hall fix cited EIR flaws on an expedited basis (within 60 days) and forge a compromise. Other appellants reiterated this. Their offer was not accepted.

    • 2nd district Councilwoman-elect Suja Lowenthal, who spoke in her capacity as LBUSD School Board president (and emphasized LBUSD wasn't opposed to Airport improvements) and cited multiple impacts of Airport operations on LB schoolchildren understated in the EIR.

    Following this and other devastating testimony, Eighth district Councilwoman Rae Gabelich asked to speak...and had to duel with Mayor Beverly O'Neill to hold the floor. "What I would like to recommend is...that we have our discussion and see how far we can take this. So may I begin?" Gabelich asked. Mayor O'Neill tried to divert substantive discussion into questions for city staff, prompting Gabelich to ask bluntly, "Does anybody have a problem with having this discussion tonight, right now?"

    Incredibly, 4th district Councilman Patrick O'Donnell (who represents the Los Altos area) replied, "I have to go to work in the morning." [It was roughly 10:20 p.m.]

    Councilwoman Gabelich was eventually allowed to speak...and citing specifics for roughly twenty minutes, culminating with a motion to sustain the appeals, deny certification of the EIR, direct staff to meet with all parties to reach consensus, a collaboration effort and direct staff to supplement the EIR with several mitigation measures and conditions of approval and deny the conceptual site plan.

    Councilwoman Gabelich's motion sparked Council discussion. Councilwoman Reyes Uranga, who led the fight to adopt neighborhood-protective Airport "guiding principles" that weren't cited and arguably aren't applied in the EIR, was nevertheless angered by LBUSD's citation of negative airport impacts [affecting eastside and Bixby Knolls area schools] after (she said) LBUSD ignored her complaints about port-related pollution affecting westside schools.

    Councilwoman Laura Richardson made a substitute motion to continue the hearing (blocking Gabelich's motion) until June 20. The substitute motion passed 5-2...with Councilman O'Donnell voting against Gabelich's motion.

    What happens at that June 20 Council meeting -- two weeks after the end of LB's most recent election cycle -- will be among the most important decisions the LB Council will ever make. It could affect the future quality of life of much of LB...permanently.

    When you hear the appellants' testimony on the links above, delivered under oath, ask yourself if other LB media outlets have properly conveyed their positions and its importance to LB homeowners and the future of the city.

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