(Nov. 27, 2007) -- LBReport.com has learned that long-time Long Beach Airport Manager Chris Kunze is retiring.
Mr. Kunze's retirement, which had been quietly mentioned by City Hall sources for some time, was confirmed by LBReport.com via an invitation to a retirement reception scheduled for mid-December..
When Mr. Kunze began as LB Airport Manager 25 years ago, LB City Hall sought to minimize flight activity and maximize neighborhood protection...but in the mid-1990s, the O'Neill administration reversed this policy and affirmatively sought to fill LB Airport's vacant flight slots (not required by any court order or other federal rule).
In a May 2001 Council agenda item, management proposed changing how LB Airport allocated its existing flight slots (letting carriers hold slots longer before flying them). Shortly after Council approval (8-1, Carroll dissenting), JetBlue Airways took all of LB Airport's then vacant large aircraft slots...instantly maxing them out.
The fateful Council action increased pressure to expand LB Airport's facilities. City management initially indicated a project of roughly 75,000 sq. ft., then proposed a roughly 93,000 sq. ft facility. When the City Council delayed a vote on the matter by handing the issue first to an "advisory" body, Mr. Kunze used the intervening period to retain HNTB (a firm that builds major public works projects including airports) which advocated a 133,000 sq. ft. project.
The issue eventually reached the City Council...which approved an Airport terminal area project of roughly 98,000 sq. ft (nearly twice as big as the current 58,000 sq. ft permanent + temporary facilities) which Manager Kunze publicly acknowledged is reasonable and went forward to support.
Incoming Mayor Bob Foster urged the Council to withhold certifying the project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) until certain remaining issues were resolved, but outgoing Mayor Beverly O'Neill urged approving the EIR as it stood, which her outgoing Council did. This left LB's new Mayor, new Council, management and appellants to try and find ways (in discussions now taking place) to try and avoid a court challenge on the matter. The next steps will apparently now take place after Mr. Kunze's departure.
Mr. Kunze was in charge of implementing LB's Airport Noise Compatibility Ordinance, considered one of the most progressive in the country for using a noise budgeted system that rewards quieter cumulative operations with increased flight activity.
In late 2002, he applied the ordinance to recurring late-night flights by JetBlue Airways and American Airways, referring the cases to the City Prosecutor's office. (The result brought misdemeanor charges handled with a 2003 consent decree in which late night flights produce civil penalties, exceeding ordinance fines, payable to a non-profit LB Library support foundation.)
When Councilmembers asked Airport Manager Kunze to present his routine monthly reports on Airport operations to the full Council (not just the "Airport Advisory Commission"), he provided detailed data and virtually always made himself available to field Council questions.
His reports to the public (and answers for us) were detailed. He was a stickler for accuracy, and we politely heard from him if he spotted a mangled or spinning factoid.
His Department's responses to Public Records requests from us were businesslike and professional...and during his tenture LB Airport's website (something unknown when he began as Airport Manager) has been significantly upgraded for the public.