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Burbank May Buy : Mayor Offers to Sell City's Airport Share

December 31, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Piqued by what she regards as a high-handed attempt by Burbank officials to exert greater control over Burbank Airport, Glendale Mayor Ginger Bremberg this week offered to sell Glendale's one-third share of the airport to the neighboring city.

Burbank officials said they might take her up on it.

"If the Burbank City Council wants to control the airport, then they better buy the right to do it," Bremberg said. "We are more than willing to negotiate the sale of our interest."

Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena jointly purchased the airport from Lockheed Corp. in 1978 in order to keep it operating. Each city appoints three members to the authority board that sets airport policy.

The airport, which serves 3 million passengers a year, has announced plans to build a terminal capable of handling more than twice that number.

For the first time since the airport authority was formed, Burbank officials said in December that they want to increase their influence over the airport's future, expressing concern over airport expansion and its effect on Burbank residents. Burbank City Atty. Douglas C. Holland said he expects to present options to the Burbank City Council next month, including proposed restrictions on development and parking in and around the airport.

'Surprised' by the Move

Glendale City Manager James Rez said he and council members "were surprised" by the move.

"The irony is that Burbank asked this city to help them save the airport," he said. "It was probably only because Glendale and Pasadena helped them that they were able to save that airport. Obviously, the way for them to get control now is to buy us out."

William B. Rudell, a former Burbank councilman who led the campaign to form the airport authority, said Burbank tried unsuccessfully for years to gain support from Los Angeles city and county officials to buy the airport before Glendale and Pasadena agreed to share the cost of operation and liability.

"Burbank came to us on bended knee and groveled for our help," Bremberg said. "Now they want to get terribly involved and try to control it. We would like to suggest that we are more than willing to negotiate the sale of our one-third interest back" to Burbank.

Bremberg said she estimates that Glendale's share of the airport is worth $50 million to $100 million. "We could use the money to do a lot of things for the people in Glendale," she said. Rez estimated that the airport, which cost $51 million to purchase, is now worth more than $200 million.

But Burbank officials said they doubt that a sale by Glendale would bring that city any windfall revenue. Much of the purchase price was paid from federal grants, Holland said, and none of the cities earn money from the airport, which uses income to pay off bonds issued to finance improvements.

However, he said, Burbank may be willing to consider full acquisition.

Holland said that the three cities are reviewing their joint powers agreement governing airport operations and that "there could be discussion between various agencies about future ownership." However, he added, sale of Glendale's share "certainly hasn't been thrown out on the table yet."

Carl Meseck, one of Glendale's three representatives on the airport authority, said he does not expect the three cities to haggle over development at the airport.

"Control is not a factor. We're trying to serve the public," he said, adding that "supply and demand" will dictate development at the airport.

But Burbank Councilwoman Mary Lou Howard said residents of her city fear that the airport will continue growing as demand increases.

"If we are going to have an airport that meets the demand, then that airport is going to become like Los Angeles International. It's time our council did take a leadership position. The airport is not in Glendale's backyard or in Pasadena's backyard, it's in ours," Howard said.

She said she welcomes the idea of Burbank taking over the airport. "Burbank is the one with all of the headaches, not Glendale and Pasadena," Howard said.

Pasadena Mayor John C. Crowley questioned whether Burbank city officials have the power to deal with the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority. Burbank in the past has appointed commissioners opposed to airport expansion and others who have said the city should not suffer inconvenience from added development. But those members have always been a minority on the nine-member board.

"I have some serious doubts if the City of Burbank has direct power to control any details of zoning and development, inasmuch as the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority is a separate government entity," Crowley said, adding he opposes attempts to curb airport development.

J. C. Schwarzenbach, a Pasadena appointee to the authority, also said the Burbank council "does not control the airport." He said he believes that the three cities that operate it "would not want to upset the apple cart."

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