Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Supervisors to seek delay federal review of LAX plan
Knabe and Burke want peers’ OK in asking that FAA input be tabled until any legal challenges are resolved.
By David Zahniser and Alison Shackelford
Copley News Service

Two Los Angeles County supervisors called Monday on the federal government to delay any decision on a compromise plan for modernizing Los Angeles International Airport until after any lawsuits and procedural challenges have been resolved. Supervisors Don Knabe and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke will ask their colleagues today to take a position opposing efforts by the Federal Aviation Administration to analyze or approve the LAX “consensus plan” following this week’s vote by the Los Angeles City Council.

Burke said the FAA should stay away until the city has addressed the county’s demand for a firm cap of 78.9 million annual passengers and elimination of a proposed remote passenger check-in facility east of LAX.

“I think that we need at least six months to try and get some of these things together,” said Burke, who represents part of the South Bay.

The Los Angeles City Council will review the compromise LAX plan today, with a vote expected Wednesday. The compromise plan was drafted as a response to Mayor James Hahn’s proposed $11 billion LAX overhaul.

The compromise would impose additional levels of review on controversial elements of Hahn’s plan, such as the remote passenger check-in facility. Meanwhile, it would provide faster approval for $3 billion worth of airport projects that have widespread support, such as a consolidated rental car facility.

If the council approves the LAX plan this week, a final vote will likely be required on Dec. 7. Los Angeles World Airports is hoping to secure final FAA approval, known formally as the Record of Decision, or ROD, as soon as February.

Still, FAA officials said they do not know how long it will take to issue the ROD.

“There’s no such thing as typical when you’re talking about a large federal agency and a massive public works project like this,” said FAA spokesman Donn Walker.

Knabe and Burke voiced fears that the FAA will begin work on the ROD as soon as the council votes this week, saying such a move would be “a needless intrusion into local affairs.”

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski said Los Angeles World Airports and the FAA have been working together closely on the airport plan for years, conferring on the environmental documents. Efforts to slow down the FAA are premature, since the city is still in talks with the county and El Segundo, Miscikowski said.

“The fact is, the FAA has been with us,” she said. “The FAA said under (former Mayor Richard) Riordan that we will agree to do this together, so I don’t think they’re going to reverse course at this time.”

The FAA already has received letters from U.S. Reps. Jane Harman and Maxine Waters asking it to delay any formal action. On Monday, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Van Nuys, said he, too, would be willing to intervene to make sure the FAA does not “ram through its vision of what LAX should look like … without having the support of the local people.”

“An FAA effort to jump into this before the review process is completed would be a terrible mistake,” Berman said.