Vote on Long Beach Airport upgrades delayed

Friday, July 16, 2004
Vote on airport upgrades delayed
Panel wants smaller expansion options to present to council.
By Felix Sanchez
The Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram

LONG BEACH – Repeating a mantra that has been the overriding theme during nearly eight months of public meetings protect the city’s noise ordinance at all costs the Long Beach Airport Advisory Commission Thursday night delayed voting on proposed airport improvements. Panel wants smaller expansion options to present to council. Although one commissioner suggested opponents of airport expansion might be using stalling tactics, by night’s end the group voted 6-2 to have city staff come back to them with two additional improvement proposals, each smaller in size than the one airport staff submitted last month.

Commissioner Douglas Haubert was able to sway the commission to ask for the alternative plans by arguing the city has to craft any improvement plans carefully.

“How much can we expand the airport without enticing someone to expand the number of flights?’ Haubert asked. “We’re all kidding ourselves if we think the noise ordinance is bulletproof.’

The noise ordinance, the result of a court battle in the 1980s, uses measured noise from commercial aircraft to determine the number of daily flights.

Haubert also said it’s important to distinguish “needs’ at the airport from “wants.’

“I want to make this airport more convenient,’ Haubert said. “I’m not convinced that we really are at a point of crisis. I don’t think the case has been made that this (expansion) is a need.’

The city projects 3.3 million passengers will use the airport annually thanks to a full complement of 41 daily commercial flights now in operation. But the airport terminal was built in 1941, to handle 15 daily commercial flights and 1.5 million people, airport manager Chris Kunze said.

City-hired architectural designer HNTB, working with the airport, submitted a proposal on June 18 calling for adding permanent new holding lounges, security areas, concession stands and office space that would increase the terminal to 98,673 square feet.

But the commission now wants the city and HNTB to submit two more proposals so it can decide which one it will submit to the City Council.

Once the commission submits a proposal it would trigger an environmental impact review to evaluate its impact and determine what mitigation would be needed, city staff said.

The city would then be presented with several alternatives and the original proposal so that a final project could be chosen and voted on by the council. Kunze said the staff could need up to 60 days to draw up the alternatives.

Commissioner Bob Luskin voted against any new alternatives, saying the HNTB plan was “excellent. No one on this commission has the technical (background) to design a terminal.’

Member Bruce Alton said big issues like the health impact of expansion and who will pay for the project if the airlines abandon the airport in the future remain.

“We’re oversimplifying the process. These are critical issues we have to discuss,’ Alton said.

In other action, the commission also delayed action on the proposed Douglas Park commercial and residential development until next month so it can consult with Boeing Realty Co. about specific details of the project.

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