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Airport Manager Says LB Airport Doesn't Impact Residents, Including Lower Socio-Economic Groups, As LAX Does; Says Doing New EIR Could Backfire

(August 2, 2002) -- In response to increasing public complaints about pollution impacts -- including cumulative and environmental justice issues -- resulting from City Hall policies that encouraged more LB Airport flights and related activities, Airport Manager Chris Kunze has said LB Airport doesn't impact residents, especially lower socio-economic groups, as LAX does.

Mr. Kunze also said he believes doing a fullblown new EIR could backfire because it could prompt tampering with LB Airport's existing noise ordinance.

Speaking before an audience of roughly 125 LB residents at ELB's Marshall Middle School on August 1, Mr. Kunze gave his extemporaneous response during an audience Q & A session. We provide a transcript excerpt below.

Mr. Kunze's comments come as City Hall has still not publicly presented a report, requested by a unanimous City Council vote on May 14, that would provide something less than a full EIR. The report sought a review of the Airport's environmental, homeowner and resident effects, including property values, flight risks and human impacts.

The Council voted to request the report after these issues repeatedly arose in public meetings, convened by City Hall in May 2002 shortly before the Mayoral runoff election, in Bixby Knolls and ELB.

In presenting the request for the report, Councilman Dennis Carroll said he hoped to receive it within 30-45 days. [For's editorial on City Hall's conduct, click here.]

The report is not on the Council's August 6 agenda, approaching three months since the Council voted to request it.

Our tape of Mr. Kunze's extemporaneous comment at the July 31 Marshall Middle School meeting begins in mid-sentense:

...[E]nvironmental justice is becoming more and more important. If you look at the impacts on residents, especially lower socio economic group residents around LAX versus here, you're going to find out something that's going to make us a huge target. And number two, in terms of if you found out something through an initial environmental review, what are you going to do about it? If we had to change the ordinance, and again, you're wide open again [to risks from tampering with the Airport Noise ordinance], you can't [safely] do that. I just don't see that it leads to anything. We did a full EIR based on 41 flights [in the past]

Q; [shouted from floor]: Was that on the airplanes or...[overridden by questioner on mike]

Mr. Kunze: Well, the EIR looked at...the aircraft, people, traffic generated, all of that.

Q: And traffic, signals and stop signs?

Mr. Kunze: Yeah, the city, the Airport has contributed mostly to this, has spent I think about $10 million over the past five years widening Lakewood [Blvd.], the intersections at Spring and Carson [St.] to address those traffic issues.

Q [questioner on mike]: So what you're basically telling me is you do not have any tonnage figures [on air craft engine pollution], no increase in pollutants, nitric oxides, no carcinogens, anything along those lines, you do not have...

Mr. Kunze: No, that's all available in the original EIR. We met state law when we implemented the ordinance [in 1995]. It was all looked at.

Q: You're talking about then. What about with the increased flights?

Mr. Kunze; You mean over 41?

Q: Yes.

Mr. Kunze: No, we haven't looked at more than 41.

Q: So you have no idea what that's going to actually produce for the community

Mr. Kunze; We don't know if we're going over 41 flights.

Audience reaction was notably less sympathetic to City Hall's presentation than in past meetings. Speakers who objected to LB Airport policies drew applause, the loudest coming when a speaker said it seemed to him that the purpose of the meeting was to tell the public all the things City Hall couldn't do.

The meeting in ELB's 5th Council district was opened by 5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell, who said she was part of a July 31 meeting with FAA officials. She indicated she hoped the FAA would ultimately let Long Beach keep its current flight limits. She did not elaborate.

Mr. Kunze then followed with a presentation that including additional references to federal laws and FAA edicts he said prevented City Hall from taking further actions.

One speaker responded to the presentation by saying City Hall appeared to be telling taxpayers they were powerless. He drew applause by urging residents to organize themselves independently. When he referred to a possible "class action" by residents impacted by City Hall's airport policies, he drew more applause.

His remark follows an announcement (previously reported by that HUSH, a group once numbering over a thousand residents that fought LB airport expansion in the 1980's, is now being reorganized. (For coverage, click here.)

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