Van Nuys, Calif., Airport Officials Reveal Temporary Development Plan

Thursday, June 3, 2004
Van Nuys, Calif., Airport Officials Reveal Temporary Development Plan
The Los Angeles (CA) Daily News

With the Van Nuys Airport master plan stalled, officials at the nation’s busiest general-aviation airport have unveiled a stopgap proposal that could help guide development until a final blueprint is in place. The proposal sets aside 50 acres for small-piston aircraft that are being squeezed out by lucrative jet business — much like the master plan aimed to do. The plan was approved by the airport’s Citizens Advisory Council late Tuesday and will be taken up on Monday by the city Airport Commission.

“There was a general consensus last night that this leasing policy change is a good interim step which will both protect the presence of props at Van Nuys Airport and allow the orderly development of other parcels,” council Chairman Coby King said Wednesday.

“But the master plan still needs to be finished to lock these protections into place.”

The new proposal comes more than a year after community leaders and, more recently, Councilman Tony Cardenas embraced a compromise version of the master plan.

But action on that compromise, known as Alternative J, has stalled as the city Airport Commissioner puts its effort into Mayor James Hahn’s $9.1 billion plan to modernize Los Angeles International Airport.

Residents and business leaders around Van Nuys Airport are frustrated by the delay and worry that development continues piecemeal.

They have reason to be concerned: The number of corporate jets based there grew 12 percent from 2002 to 2003, and eight entities are competing for a 7.2-acre site at the airport, including an aviation career-training center endorsed by boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya.

The proposal put forward this week, like Alternative J, sets aside vacant land for the smaller planes and frees up space for potential jet operations.

“It gives them a place,” said Van Nuys Homeowners Association President Don Schultz. “It’s more than just saying, gee, we want to keep the propeller aircraft here.”

However, like Alternative J, the new proposal encountered strong opposition from two key Advisory Council members, resident leader Gerald Silver and business leader Robert L. Rodine.

Silver said residents want a guarantee that older jets will be phased out, the number of new jets will be capped and a nighttime curfew on helicopters will be imposed.

“There’s no protection in it,” Silver said. “This is an invitation for more growth. In no way it resolves the problem.”

City Councilman Jack Weiss also supports the various noise-abatement measures.

But Rodine says the land shouldn’t be preserved for a declining industry when lucrative jet operations could be fueling the Valley economy.

“We desperately need a master plan just to reduce the contention in the community. The business owners at the airport also need a master plan so they’ll know if this is a place they can do business.”

Mayor Hahn has not taken a position on the Van Nuys master plan or Alternative J, but supports the airport staff’s new proposal, a spokeswoman said.

“He’s encouraged by the recommendation because it addresses significant community concerns,” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Kaltman.

“It’s a great step in the right direction.”