(April 12, 2001) -- LB Councilmembers Ray Grabinski and Rob Webb, LB's representatives to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), both failed to attend the April 12 SCAG meeting which (in their absence) adopted a major Regional Transportation Plan with an airport scenario that assumes LB Airport could handle 3 million pasengers per year by 2025.
This is nearly five times more than the number of passengers handled at LB Airport in 2000.
Although SCAG's vote is not technically binding, it carries significant fiscal and practical consequences because it invites federal and state funding, and government=approved development projects consistent with its terms.
It also gives pro-Airport interests ammunition that can be used to press the LB City Council (or future Councils) to raise LB flight caps above current limits.
SCAG's publicly agendized meeting in downtown Los Angeles was scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. After public comment and debate, the vote took place shortly after 2:00 p.m.
LBReport.com reached Councilman Grabinski at his LB City Hall office at 3:00 p.m. When asked why he didn't attend and vote at today's SCAG meeting, Councilman Grabinski told LBReport.com, "I had a conflict with my real work, my job with the University of California. Sometimes you can make meetings and sometimes you can't."
A staffer in Councilman Webb's told LBReport.com a family emergency made it impossible for Mr. Webb to attend.
The vote by SCAG's Regional Council to adopt the Regional Transportation Plan follows a March 1 vote by Councilman Grabinski (as a member of SCAG's Transportation Committee) to recommend approval of the airport component.
Councilmembers Grabinski and Webb are LB's two appointed representatives to SCAG's governing Regional Council and LB had a significant interest in the outcome of the SCAG proceeding that neither of them attended. A significant number of Grabinski's and Webb's own constituents in Bixby Knolls and California Heights are airport impacted, as are residents in parts of ELB's 4th and 5th Council districts.
Moreover, LB Airport (unlike a number of others) is in the middle of an urbanized populated center. Nearly quintupling its current passenger level would almost certainly worsen traffic, pollution and involve some quantum of increased flight risks for LB residents.
At the April 12 SCAG meeting, elected officials from the cities of Burbank and Laguna Niguel, whose residents are impacted by airports in their area, did attend and openly dissented from SCAG's plan. Ultimately, SCAG's plan was adopted by a vote of 38-2.
The 3 million annual passenger figure for LB Airport is part of a SCAG regional aviation planning scenario that assumes LAX is constrained to 78 million annual passengers and a proposed El Toro airport will handle roughly 38 million annual air passengers.
Last month, LB Airport administrative analyst Mark Echmalian told LBReport.com that LB Airport handled 637,853 air passengers in 2000. On that basis, LBReport.com estimates that roughly 3 million air passengers per year at LB Airport could involve nearly five times more air passengers in 25 years than at present.
Mr. Echmalian said LB Airport then had 14 of 41 available daily commercial flight slots filled; the figure hovered around 20 filled flight slots during part of 2000.
SCAG's aviation scenario assumes LB neighborhoods will continue to be protected (SCAG's phrase is LB Airport will be "constrained") by Council ordinance limiting LB Airport noise and flights. Large commercial flights at LB Airport were capped by the City Council at 41 per day. The current flight caps could be changed at any time by City Council action.
In comments last month to LBReport.com after casting his SCAG Committee vote, Mr. Grabinski said:
"The proposal here is for regional growth for 25 years, so I didn't support anything for doing anything right now. This plan is for 2025.
When you're at SCAG, you're voting for regions, you're not saying there's going to be no flights at this one, there's going to be no flights at that one but there'll be a bunch of flights someplace else.
All of the scenarios are talking about growth over 25 years and many of these places might not have any new flights, including Long Beach, because it's a local airport and the local airports determine what happens to them...
[SCAG is] not quadrupling the flights at Long Beach airport. They're projecting that in 25 years, if steps aren't taken, that's what's going to be spread over the region. So, that's how you do this kind of planning...
This is not raising any flight levels at Long Beach airport. This is a projection for the region over 25 years. If it said that we were going to add any more flights in Long Beach, this would have been brought back to the City of Long Beach. This is a regional plan for millions of people, and the plan is put into place so that we can determine where airports will be expanded if they are, where new airports will be...
Long Beach might not get any more flights than the 41 it already has, because high speed rail is going to come in, to take people to the L.A. area, the Ontario area, to other places and back...
This has no impact whatsoever on any local airport in terms of how many flights they have. We control [our] local airport, L.A. controls their airport and so do these other folks, you know, the folks who will have the new airport. And what this does is it puts out a planning document to let people know that if growth continues east of us, that they're going to have to take more flights.
And that with the growth that's projected for the Los Angeles area, LAX and Long Beach will likely have more flights 20 years from now, if the two cities choose to have them. But we own our airport, so this is not saying we're going to have any additional flights..."
Regarding LB's current 41 flight daily limit on large commercial flights, Councilman Grabinski said, "I've always supported that and I continue to."
[LBReport.com comment: As pointed out above, although SCAG's vote is not technically binding, it carries significant fiscal and practical consequences. Among other things, it invites government funding and government-approved development projects consistent with its terms.
It also hands pro-Airport interests ammunition they can use to press the LB City Council (or future Councils) to raise LB flight caps, which could be done with a majority Council vote, regardless of what Mr. Grabinski insists he opposes.]