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Burbank Studying Buyout : Glendale Offers to Quit Airport

January 03, 1988|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 last 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 to keep it operating. Each city appoints three members to the authority 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 field's future, expressing concern over expansion and its effect on Burbank residents.

Burbank City Atty. Douglas C. Holland said he expects to present options to the Burbank City Council this month, including proposed restrictions on development and parking in and around the airport.

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."

Bremberg said she estimates that Glendale's share of the airport is worth $50 million to $100 million. 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 that 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 airport development.

But Burbank Councilwoman Mary Lou Howard said her city's residents 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. . .," she said, adding that she welcomes a takeover as "Burbank is the one with all of the headaches, not Glendale and Pasadena."

However, Pasadena Mayor John C. Crowley said he has "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."

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

But another Pasadena representative, Jo Heckman, said the commission should listen to Burbank's concerns. "Burbank should be involved to some extent since the airport is in their city," Heckman said. "And I'm sure the commissioners feel the same way as the city--they don't want the airport to be an international airport."

Rez said the airport is economically important to all three cities and that "it would be disastrous to lose it." However, he added, "I'm sure that the Glendale council would entertain the idea of entering into negotiations" to sell the airport to Burbank. "We could use the money."

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