LONG BEACH — An unconvinced City Council spent two hours this week grilling authors of a study that concludes that noise can actually be reduced at the city's airport if airlines are allowed to more than double the number of daily flights.
The report from the 20-member Airport Noise Compatibility Task Force recommends using the incentive of increased flights to get airlines to use quieter aircraft. With the new aircraft, along with changes in runway usage and other techniques, the task force report said, the number of flights can be gradually increased from the current 18 to a maximum of 41 flights. Those flights would produce less noise, the commission report says, thereby bringing the city into compliance with state noise laws.
Report Termed 'A Sham'
Councilman Edd Tuttle, a long-time critic of the airport, called the report "a sham."
"I think the city needs to draw the line and go toe-to-toe and stand behind a 15-flight maximum," he said.
Other council members joined Tuttle in lobbing questions at task force representatives.
They were especially critical of the task force's plan to add flights in increments of eight. After the meeting, Mayor Ernie Kell singled out that provision as one he "wished were different."
Another recommendation to shift some commercial flights from the airport's longest runway and onto a shorter runway, paralleling the San Diego Freeway, also drew fire from the council. Task Force members defended the plan as a method of reducing noise in Long Beach's residential neighborhoods, but council members expressed concern about whether that would only lead to additional commercial flights.
Council members also questioned whether the report reflected adequate community input. Despite five public hearings, only one suggestion from the community was incorporated into the report, task force chairwoman Karen Hoy told the council.
A city report showed that airport noise exceeded the state maximum during the first three months of this year. That means that even if they adopt the task force report, council members could justify not allowing additional flights until noise levels go down.
Many California airports find the state noise standards impossible to meet, and variances that allow them to be exceeded, are "virtually automatic," Deputy City Atty. Roger Freeman told the City Council. But council members said Tuesday that they would prefer to find ways to reduce the noise level.
The task force report also took flak this week from the Long Beach Unified School District and nearby Signal Hill.
Task force member Elizabeth Wallace, also a member of the Long Beach Board of Education, told the council, "if the present recommendations are adopted, the (Long Beach) educational environment will be irreparably impacted " by noise.
A dozen schools are affected by airport noise now, said Wallace, and 20 to 50 of the districts 79 schools will be affected if flights are increased to 41. Her remarks, which were read from a report unanimously approved by the Long Beach Board of Education, will be included in an environmental report about the effect of increasing flights.
At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Signal Hill City Council adopted a resolution opposing an increase in flights at Long Beach Airport, and agreed to invite city councils and staff members from Lakewood, Seal Beach, Carson and Huntington Beach to join in protesting the task force recommendations.
Signal Hill City Manager Louis Shepard said the council was particularly concerned by the proposed shift in runways, because it would shift more flights--and more noise--toward Signal Hill.
Formed to Decide Limits
The Airport Noise Compatibility Task Force was formed by the Long Beach City Council in 1984 to study noise at Long Beach Airport and decide what permanent limits should be set on commercial flights.
A federal district court required the airport to develop a technically defensible standard for limiting flights after three airlines filed suits challenging the airport's limit on commercial flights. Underlying Tuesday's hearing was a fear by the City Council that, if the city fails to adopt acceptable standards, they may be imposed by the court.
A public hearing on the report will be held by the Planning Commission on May 22. Kell said he will arrange for space at Long Beach Convention Center for a City Council hearing in mid-June. The Council's decision, and the report, will then be forwarded to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval. The FAA paid for most of the $235,000 study.