Expansion In First Phase Would See Site Square Footage More Than Double

Friday, June 18, 2004
L.B. Airport may grow in phases Expansion In First Phase Would See Site Square Footage More Than Double.
By Felix Sanchez
The Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram LONG BEACH – The city is proposing that permanent improvements and additions at Long Beach Airport to handle skyrocketing passenger growth be done in two phases.

Officials unveiled the plan for phased airport improvements at a Thursday night meeting before the city’s Airport Advisory Commission, which is charged with determining what new permanent facilities are needed and what an environmental study of the proposals should include. Commission recommendations, which could come next month, will likely be reviewed by the City Council in August.

The city and its architect, HNTB, propose 98,673 square feet of new permanent facilities at the airport, including 26,450 square feet of passenger holdrooms and lounges, 20,000 square feet of new concession space and 14,100 square feet of new passenger and baggage security screening space.

Under the proposed plan, the airport would be expanded from its current size of 58,320 square feet of enclosed facilities which includes 19,650 square feet of temporary departure lounges to 122,007 during a first phase of construction.

The new lounges would create 11 passenger gates up from eight to help accommodate a predicted 3.309 million annual passengers who would fly into and out of the airport on 41 daily commercial flights in the coming years.

Another 25 daily commuter flight slots remain unused, but if they were to be used, a second phase of expansion would be triggered, adding more space to bring the airport’s total size to 133,243 square feet.

Among the facilities proposed for the airport are office space for commercial airlines and city airport staff, room for the Transportation Security Administration, new baggage and security screening facilities and new restrooms. Ticket counters would also be expanded.

Temporary departure lounges built in April 2002 and August 2003 would be dismantled once new construction is completed.

The city said the expansion project is needed because the existing terminal, built in 1941, was designed for only 15 daily flights and an annual passenger flow of 1.5 million people.

Last year the airport handled 2.875 million passengers.

The city can’t do construction work on the original terminal because it is designated as a historical landmark, requiring the new facilities.

Airport manager Chris Kunze said the project “reasonably accommodates’ HNTB forecasts for passenger growth, and supports the city’s 2010 Strategic Plan that the airport’s business opportunities be expanded and developed for maximum economic opportunity but within existing noise ordinances that limit daily flights.

Kunze also told a crowd of about 100 people, many of them residents living under the airport’s flight paths, that the recommendations were crafted after listening to their comments and from other civic leaders about their concerns over airport expansion during months of testimony before the commission.

Commission chair Ron Salk said the group likely will vote on the proposal in July. Also proposed is a new enclosed garage that would increase total car spaces from 4,934 which includes a garage and three outdoor lots to 6,286.

The city staff is asking that the commission adopt the phase-in plan for improvements and that it develop a method for determining how many commuter slots are filled before related facility capacity is made available.

Also Thursday, the commission postponed a vote on the proposed Douglas Park residential/commercial development project north of the airport. Commissioners want to craft a specific resolution dealing with whether residences should be included in the project, and what percentage of the development should be devoted to “aviation uses.”