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    News in Depth

    Major LB Airport Terminal Addition Fast Tracked By City Hall In Ways That Avoid Public View & Council Review Until Deal Largely Done

    • City staff using 1997 document for 12,000 sq. ft. addition (41 flights with fewer passengers, never built) for proposed 38,000 sq. ft. addition with record setting passenger levels;
    • No Planning Comm'n or City Council review before moving forward; City Hall plans release of RFP seeking design/build plans within coming days;
    • City Hall sought and got FAA conceptual approval to use design/build fast track; plans to finance terminal additions with bonds paid off by adding "per passenger" tax with FAA approval; City Mgr. will ask City Council to approve this in new budget within weeks;
    • Proposed Airport addition is for more passengers in bigger facility than previously recommended for 41 + 25 daily flights, would boost terminal/passenger hold & bag claim footprint from roughly 23,000 sq. ft. a few yrs. ago to over 60,000 sq. ft.

    (August 11, 2002) -- A major addition to LB Airport's terminal building and holdroom facilities, reported first by among LB media, is being fast tracked by City Hall in ways that avoid discussing its neighborhood and environmental impacts publicly and avoid City Council review until the process is far advanced and unlikely to be stopped.

    To further speed the project, City Hall has sought and obtained FAA conceptual approval to proceed with the project using a "design/build" approach (not separate design and build contracts). City Hall plans to finance the Airport additions by adding a per passenger "head tax" (passenger facility charge, approved by City Council and FAA) that will pay off bonds that will be floated to fund the project quickly.

    The bond funding will, in effect, create a continuing fiscal justification for City Hall to promote the Airport to maintain passenger levels (to generate the passenger tax to pay off the bonds). City management plans to seek Council approval for the per passenger fee in the coming City Council budget on which Councilmembers will be asked to vote by the end of September.

    City Hall's LB Airport terminal addition would be larger than the current terminal building footprint, linked by a corridor to the terminal's south side and extending westward. The footprint of the addition -- roughly 38,000 square feet for passenger hold room, concessions, security screening and baggage claim areas (baggage claim is roughly 19,000 sq. ft.) -- is larger than passenger holding increases City Hall declared necessary in 1997 to handle 41 commercial + 25 commuter flights (details below).

    City staff says the addition is needed to handle the 41 (over 75,000 pounds) + 25 (under 75,000 pounds) noise budgeted daily flight level because larger capacity planes and higher load factors (percentage of filled seats) and new security reasons mean its previous estimates are now undersized.

    However to date, no documents have been made public showing on what basis city staff came up with the dimensions of the addition...and whether it may be larger than necessary to accommodate passengers from the 41 + 25 flights (and might later be used to do so.)

    While using larger passenger levels to justify the additions, City Hall is simultaneously using a document approved by a previous Council over five years ago for a smaller addition (roughly 12,000 sq. ft, never built) assuming smaller passenger levels and impacts. excerpts of that document below: a 1996 Negative Declaration (finding no significant environmental impacts) for the smaller project, issued on Christmas Eve 1996 and receiving Council approval January 1997.

    By using the document for the smaller never built project to justify the new larger proposed one, City Hall has thus far avoided public and Council review of neighborhood and environmental impacts (including traffic, noise and pollution) associated with the new Airport terminal additions.

    Instead of receiving public review, the Airport terminal expansion was given staff Site Plan Review. A Notice of Final Action by City Hall's Site Plan Review Committee was issued for the Airport terminal additions on August 5, 2002.

    Using public record materials has managed to piece together significant parts of what City Hall has planned.

    Fast track FAA approved financing with long term impacts

    In a June 18 memo accompanying a City Council agendized item city management obtained voted Council approval (8-1, Webb dissenting) to release a Request for Proposals/Qualifications to construct the Airport terminal additions. The memo did not disclose the size or scope of the Airport terminal additions, include drawings, photos or representations. It advised in dry fiscal terms:

    SUBJECT:Authorization to Release a Request For Proposals/Qualifications Construct Holdroom Improvements at the Long Beach Airport (District 5)


    To accommodate the realization of authorized flight activity levels at the Airport, staff has been working on plans for the construction of approximately $10 million of holdroom improvements, including expansion of the existing holdroom, security screening area and baggage claim area, various site improvements to accommodate these new facilities and construction of a concession area.

    To expedite the construction of these needed improvements, staff and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have conceptually agreed that the improvements should be constructed through a design/build contract. This will allow the designer and the contractor to work together during the design process and allow the contractor to proceed with the early acquisition of long lead items, such as baggage handling equipment. Under a design/build approach, the public agency advertises the project for bids through a Request For Proposals/Qualifications (RFP) process after having completed 30 percent drawings. Staff is currently completing that task and will be prepared to issue the necessary RFP in the near future.

    In order to obtain the $10 million funding needed for this project, a Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) will be proposed to the City Council as part of the FY-03 budget. A PFC is a charge imposed on all passengers enplaned at an airport. The charge is established by a public agency and approved by the FAA. Revenue from PFC's must be utilized for specific projects as outlined in Federal Regulations and approved by the FAA.


    The current cost estimate of $10 million for the proposed improvements is based on the completion of 30 percent drawings. When the drawings and the RFP process have been completed, the City Council will be requested to award a design/build contract. Short-term bond financing will be used to cover the contract costs. Revenues from proposed Passenger Facility Charges (PFC) will be used to repay the bonds. PFC revenue collections are expected to begin February 2003, yielding $3,900,000 for Fiscal Year 2003. Estimated PFC revenue projections for Fiscal Years 2004, 2005 and 2006 are $5,900,000, $6,500,000 and $7,300,000 respectively. The PFC rate is pending City Council and FAA approval.

    The proposed Airport terminal addition

    The size and scope of City Hall's proposed Airport addition might not have come to light until later in the process had it not been for an Application for a Certificate of Appropriateness filed with City Hall's Cultural Heritage Commission (the terminal bldg. is a historic landmark). That application triggered a July hearing in front of the Cultural Heritage Commission.

    At that hearing, previously reported by, a city staffer indicated the 38,000 square foot addition would consist of:

    The LB Airport terminal building area has a footprint of roughly 13,700 sq. ft. Its 1980's passenger hold room is variously reckoned at roughly 6,000-8,000 sq. ft and its current south side bag claim area is estimated at roughly 3,000 sq. ft. for a total of approx. 23,000 sq. ft. That was LB Airport's footprint for passenger buildings and facilities just a few years ago.

    With a temporary facility completed in April, 2002 on the north side of the terminal (roughly 8,600 sq. ft. hold room plus temporary bag claim area), the proposed 38,000 sq. ft. south side addition would enlarge LB Airport passenger related buildings and facilities footprint to over 60,000 sq. ft.

    The application, submitted to the Cultural Heritage Commission by City Hall's Engineering Bureau, said the reason for the proposed addition to the south is, "The existing facilities are insufficient for the number of passengers resulting from the number of flights allowed at the Airport (41 commercial and 25 commuter, October 2002)."

    In July 17 testimony to the Cultural Heritage Commission, Rachel Korkos of LB's Airport Bureau noted the total 38,000 sq. ft. addition is bigger than previously recommended for the maximum 41 + 25 flight levels but insisted it remains sized to these flight levels. She said JetBlue's higher load factors and Sept. 11 security requirements showed previously recommended additions were "undersized."

    In response to an inquiry after the hearing by, Ms. Korkos indicated the footprint of the current terminal building (i.e. airline counters, concessions, baggage intake and ticketing) is roughly 13,700 sq. ft. and the main building's 1980's built passenger hold area has roughly 6,000 sq. ft of actual passenger holding capacity. Airport spokeswoman Sharon Diggs-Jackson cites a hold room figure of roughly 8,000 sq. ft. [Note: square footage figures can vary because dimensions are sometimes computed differently (interior vs. exterior, with or without restrooms, etc.)

    The "temporary" passenger holding facility (completed in April '02) to the north of the main building has roughly 8,440 sq. ft. of holding capacity (Korkos) or roughly 8,600 sq. ft. (Diggs-Jackson).

    The roughly 12,000 sq. ft. of proposed additional passenger holding capacity would be in addition to this. We calculate (conservatively) this would mean passenger holding capacity of over 26,000 sq. ft...roughly three and half to four times what LB Airport had just a few years ago and nearly double what it has today. The proposed addition means City Hall seeks to enlarge LB Airport's passenger related buildings and facilities from roughly 23,000 sq. ft. just a few years ago to over 60,000 sq. ft.

    The Cultural Heritage Commissioners were shown construction (line drawing type) plans and a physical model.

    The artist rendering to the right was provided to us on request after the meeting by the City of LB, courtesy designer HNTB. HNTB is a prominent engineering, architectural and planning firm which designed the Airport addition City Hall is discussing. The wall in the forefront of the artist rendering will "hide" the existing electrical building and electrical upgrades/improvements. The wall will be roughly 60' long compared to the terminal bldg. which is over 175' long. The holdroom extension is "behind" (westward from) the bag claim area and not seen in this perspective. It will have white panels similar to the bag claim area.

    The Cultural Heritage Commissioners discussed the issue for over an hour before voting -- in a sharply split 8-5 decision -- to approve the Certificate of Appropriateness for City Hall's plans with the notation that the addition does not destroy or remove historic materials from the terminal building and is consistent with Sec'y of the Interior's standards 9 and 10. (Yes: Cofield, Downey, Ibbetson, McGuan, Motschall, Smith, Chartier, Burrous. No: DeGiorgio, Doherty, Johnson, Pressburg, Weaver. Absent: Salas-Rock, Wynne).

    The December 24, 1996 Negative Declaration

    On Christmas eve 1996, City Hall released a proposed "Negative Declaration" (finding no significant environmental impacts) for a plan to build two new hold rooms, each of 5,760 sq. ft. (combined 11,520 sq. ft.) to handle a total capacity of 866 persons. Each building was to be 120'x 48'.

    The Negative Declaration was adopted by the City Council on January 16, 1997 and includes the following excerpted material [bracketed text by us for clarity]:

    Project Title: New Holdrooms Long Beach Airport

    Description of Project: Funding application to construct two new holdrooms, each of 5,760 sq. ft. and with a total capacity of 866 persons. Each building will be 120'x 48' with an interior ceiling height of 8'. A new exterior security exit will also be provided. These facilities are necessary to accommodate the 41 air carrier flights which are projected. [Important footnote in document: "For a review of the environmental impacts of the 41 flights, refer to ND-19-94 [a 1995 adopted Subsequent Negative Declaration pertaining to the Council's enactment of LB's present Airport Noise Compatibility Ordinance containing the current noise budgeted 41 + 25 flights]. The current ND [Negative Declaration] addresses the environmental consequences of the Holdrooms only."]

    Surrounding Land Uses and Settings: The facility is centered upon airport property and use.

    Other agencies whose approval is required: Long Beach City Council

    Would the proposal:

  • Induce substantial growth in an area either directly or indirectly (e.g. through projects in an undeveloped area or extension of major infrastructure? No impact.
  • Violate any air quality standard or contribute to an existing or projected air quality violation? No impact.

    Would the project result in:

  • Increased vehicle trips or traffic congestion? No impact.

    Would the proposal involve:

  • A risk of accidental explosion or release of hazardous substances (including, but not limited to: oil, pesticides, chemicals or radiation)? No impact.

    Would the proposal result in:

  • Increases in existing noise levels? No impact.

    Would the proposal have an effect upon, or result in a need for new or altered government services in any of the following areas?

  • Fire Protection? No impact.
  • Police Protection? No impact.
  • Other government services? No impact.

    Does the project have impacts that are individually limited, but cumulatively considerable? ("Cumulatively considerable" means that the incremental effects of a project are considerable when viewed in connection with the effects of past projects, the effects of other current projects, and the effects of probably future projects). No impact.

    Air Quality: Existing setting: The existing air quality is generally good and is influenced by marine winds. Air pollutant emissions in the project area are generally caused by vehicular traffic...The proposal will...indirectly result in an increase of automobile emissions. Emissions from vehicles are within the jurisdiction of the Air Resources Board and not the Lead Agency [the City of LB]. Further, and from a cumulative basis the proposal conforms to the available growth increment of the Air Quality Management Plan. On an overall basis, it is included that although the project...will likely cause an increase in air pollutants form [typo in original] vehicular trips, these impacts singularly and cumulatively are found to be minor in nature.

    Transportation/Circulation: The traffic impact of the 41 flights were addressed in ND-1994 [the subsequent negative declaration that accompanied adopting the current LB Airport Noise Compatibility ordinance]. The proposed holdrooms will accommodate the passengers and will not generate traffic.

  • Airport spokeswoman Diggs-Jackson told the difference between the 1997 plan and the new larger proposal is attributable to larger planes carrying higher passenger loads plus security considerations. She noted that JetBlue uses new A320 Airbus aircraft (which carry roughly 160 passengers) and fly at roughly 92% load factors (close to being filled).

    "So right there, that's an increase in passengers based on the size of the plane and the load factors alone," she said. Ms. Diggs-Jackson also said post Sept. 11 security measures require larger secured areas which account for a noteworthy part of the additional area.

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