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    News With Event Audio

    Appellants Pound City Mgmt-Proferred Airport Facilities Expansion EIR; Council Votes 5-2 To Delay Action For One Week

    Note: has added on-demand extended audio of salient portions of this event. This is must-hear event coverage and will surprise some LB residents who have relied on reports in other media. Substantive audio edits are indicated with a "whoosh" sound. p>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 14, 2006, updated with audio) -- In what history may record as a pivotal vote in the city's history (scheduled one week after the end of the latest LB election cycle), the City Council has voted 5-2 (substitute motion by Councilwoman Laura Richardson, detailed vote below) to delay action until the June 20 Council meeting on whether to certify (or send back to management to rework) an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) justifying expansion of LB Airport's permanent terminal area facilities.

    The substitute motion (Yes: B. Lowenthal, O'Donnell, Richardson, Reyes Uranga & Lerch; No: Gabelich, Colonna; Absent: Kell) stopped a multi-part motion by Councilwoman Rae Gabelich that would have sent the EIR back to city management to address EIR issues cited by appellants in several hours of oral testimony as well as previous written testimony.

    Several appellants said health and pollution impacts were understated by the City Hall-proferred EIR...including failure to evaluate the cumulative impacts of pollution from expansion at the city-operated Port. The LB Unified School District cited detrimental impacts in the educational environment not properly addressed.

    Appellant LBHUSH2, speaking through an attorney with a law firm that prevailed in precedent-setting airport related EIR litigation against the City of Oakland, as well as Chapman University School of Law professor John Eastman (speaking separately) warned city officials that certifying the EIR would invite pressure to increase flights. Airport Advisory Commissioner Doug Haubert, a municipal attorney speaking in his individual private capacity, said certifying the EIR as is would create irreversible consequences and invite future damaging Airport decisions built on flawed EIR findings.

    Several prominent appellants offered to work with city officials to correct flaws they cited on an expedited basis (60-90 days). Terry Jensen, a member of LB's Redevelopment Agency governing board, said he could broker a compromise that he predicted would be acceptable to most parties within sixty days. No Councilmember pursued the offer via a compromise motion.

    In a dramatic moment, testimony on behalf of appellant LBUSD was delivered by School Board president -- and 2d district Councilmember-elect -- Suja Lowenthal. In the presence of Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, Councilwoman-elect Lowenthal cited multiple detrimental impacts of Airport operations affecting LB schools that LBUSD has consistently said are not properly addressed in the EIR.

    The appellants enumerated specific deficiencies in the EIR, some calling them fatal flaws...and some suggested the possibility of court challenges.

    With the exception of noise issues, city management chose not to respond to the cited deficiencies at the hearing. Following appellants' testimony and public testimony, the Council closed the public hearing, effectively preventing further public testimony while allowing management a week to prepare responses that it can present to the Council without reply from the appellants before taking a vote.

    When the issue returns to the Council on June 20, outgoing Councilman Frank Colonna (who voted with Gabelich) will not be present to second a Gabelich motion. Vice Mayor/Councilwoman Jackie Kell wasn't present at the June 13 hearing (as previously reported by to attend a family event in North Dakota. Her office says she advised the Mayor of this in March, but neither the Mayor nor Kell mentioned this when the Council scheduled EIR appeal proceedings for June 13 and possibly June 20. Kell's office indicates that she intends to vote on the EIR matter on June 20 after watching the proceedings on videotape.

    LBHUSH's attorney, Osa Wolff, a partner with Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger, a San Francisco law firm that has litigated airport environmental cases, warned Councilmembers and city management that once built, the permanent Airport facilities could not be reduced in size.

    ELB resident Doug Haubert, a municipal attorney for other cities speaking in his capacity as a private citizen, reminded Councilmembers that unlike other appeals from developers, in this case the Council is the developer...and has the right to make policy decisions affecting the future of the city and its neighborhoods.

    Mr. Haubert, who concluded the appellants' presentations, repeatedly stressed that a Council decision to certify management's EIR will have legally irreversible consequences...and likened the decision to the Council's 1980's vote inviting damaging "crackerbox" development. He cited "guiding principles" on Airport development, publicly adopted by the Council but not cited and arguably not applied in the EIR. Mr. Haubert also stressed, as he has in previous testimony as a member of City Hall's "Airport Advisory Commission," that City Hall should approach all Airport issues in a coordinated, strategic way to bolster and protect its noise ordinance...a point later reinforced by Councilwoman Gabelich.

    The Mayor then declared -- without taking a Council vote -- that the public hearing was closed...and a high stakes wrestling match took place over how to proceed.

    Councilwoman Councilwoman Gabelich noted that Councilman Colonna (who had been present all evening listening) would not be present next week, and Councilwoman Gabelich urged proceeding without delay:

    Councilwoman Gabelich:: What I would like to recommend is...that we have our discussion and see how far we can take this. So may I begin?"

    Mayor O'Neill: And do you have questions?"

    Councilwoman Gableich: I do. [applause]

    Mayor O'Neill: Just a minute [stammers], I, what, I...

    Councilwoman Gabelich: May I begin?

    Mayor O'Neill: Yes but, what you just suggested, should, you don't want it discussed by the rest of Council about what our evening is?"

    Councilwoman Gabelich: Well, we can take another ten minutes to discuss that. Does anybody have a problem with having this discussion tonight, right now?

    Councilman O'Donnell: I have to go to work in the morning.

    Councilman O'Donnell made his remarks at roughly 10:20 p.m.

    Councilwoman Reyes Uranga noted that the city's noise specialist wouldn't be present next week and she had questions for him, and others might have questions, so she preferred to have Council questions answered first.

    Councilwoman Gabelich pressed on. "It's my turn, correct?" "No...I'm coming back to you," the Mayor said [Gabelich already had the floor] and the Mayor let Councilman O'Donnell speak.

    Councilman O'Donnell: I agree with Councilmember Uranga. She said, hey, if there's an expert here, you want to consult tonight, do it.

    Mayor O'Neill: Otherwise, wait?

    Councilman O'Donnell:: Otherwise wait till next week some time then."

    Mayor O'Neill: OK. Councilmember Gabelich, you had a question for someone here tonight?

    Counciwoman Gabelich: You know, I am going take my opportunity tonight to speak.

    Mayor O'Neill: Please do.

    Councilwoman Gabelich: ...and I believe that I'm entitled to that...

    And Councilwoman Gabelich delivered a detailed address citing specifics for roughly twenty minutes, ending 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.

    Councilman Colonna seconded the motion.

    Councilmembers then responded to Gabelich's motion.

    Councilwoman Reyes Uranga, who previously led the fight to draft "guiding principles" for Airport development -- that aren't cited and arguably aren't applied in the EIR -- was openly angered by the LB Unified School District's citation of negative airport impacts [our note: affecting eastside and Bixby Knolls area schools] after she said LBUSD ignored her complaints about port-related pollution affecting westside schools.

    4th district Councilman Patrick O'Donnell did not vote to support the appellants' compromise or Gabelich and Colonna ...and instead invited city management to address some issues raised by the appellants at the Council's next meeting.

    Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, a former School Boardmember who heard LBUSD's points enumerated by daughter-in-law and soon to be Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, said she could wait until next week.

    The substitute motion by Councilwoman Richardson (whose Assembly district primary win in a district mainly northwest of LB means she will likely leave for Sacramento in November) was silent on points made by the appellants.

    One supporter of city management's Airport EIR, airport-area business leader Kevin McAchren, testified at the hearing in support of management's plan. Multiple supporters had previously testified in support of management's EIR in writing.

    City management's plan to expand the Airport's permanent terminal area facilities was also supported by the LB Press-Telegram...which previously editorialized against construction of an El Toro airport on safety grounds.

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