Monday, June 19, 2006
Deal with the airport
It’s time to resolve the fruitless arguments about expansion.
The Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram
After nearly three years of groping with the overheated issue of airport expansion, Long Beach’s City Council tonight will decide between more heat or more light. An angry audience could make the decision harder. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Protesters, after all, are saying the same thing as supporters of the environmental impact report (EIR) that’s up for approval: Give us a plan that is adequate, but won’t invite unwanted additional flights.
Protesters are demanding that the council reject the EIR, which probably would keep pointless confrontations going for many more months. There is a better solution.
Just put the EIR aside for now, and ask for additional planning studies that are to the point: What expansion supports only the number of flights allowed under the city’s noise ordinance (the toughest in the nation)? Don’t get lost in arguments about square footage, but deal with specifics: the number of gates, the amount of overnight parking for jetliners, the types of passenger holding areas, the needs of security workers and baggage handling, and the amount of vehicle parking.
Residents of the airport area are worried that unneeded expansion could stir the uninvited interest of regional politicians and others who would like to impose more flights on Long Beach Airport. We’ve been inclined to dismiss those worries, but some reasonable people (including Mayor-elect Bob Foster) are not.
One of those reasonable persons, probably Foster, should bring the opposing sides together to make sure the studies cover the right issues, get them done, then help make sure the airport expansion is done properly and fairly.
There are two reasons the council should not simply toss out the EIR. For one, as Planning Commissioner Charles Greenberg has wisely pointed out, the EIR is an informational document, not a decisional one, and it’s designed to deal with present law, not hypothetical changes in the law. For another, legal challenges can substantially delay things, but wouldn’t necessarily stop a determined decision-making body.
Should council members delay a decision on the EIR until newly elected members take their places a few weeks from now? It wouldn’t hurt, but it isn’t essential, either. The important thing is that they stick by their guiding principles, and everybody knows what they are.