The City of Los Angeles came up Wednesday with an unusual weapon--zoning--in its continuing effort to force Burbank Airport to reduce aircraft noise over East San Fernando Valley neighborhoods.
The City Council voted unanimously to require city approval for development of a small part of the airport that extends into Los Angeles. The site is essential to the airport's plans for a new terminal, said Burbank Airport spokesman Victor Gill.
The council's action gives it a bargaining chip to force the airport to shift half its takeoffs away from Los Angeles neighborhoods.
Airport officials called the action illegal and vowed to fight it in court, if necessary.
"Of course, it's leverage," said Councilman Joel Wachs, a longtime critic of Burbank Airport noise. Wachs requested the council action.
The council vote came one day after it issued a scathing review of an environmental impact report for the proposed terminal. Council members said the report failed to account fully for noise and traffic the new terminal would generate.
The attack on the environmental impact report set the stage for a possible lawsuit by Los Angeles to block construction of the terminal, which would greatly increase the airport's capacity.
Shift Half the Takeoffs
Los Angeles not only wants to prevent expansion of the airport, which would increase noise over East Valley communities, but also to force the airport authority to begin a "share-the-noise" program that would shift half of the takeoffs to the east over Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, the cities that own the airport. Most planes now take off to the south and turn west over North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Studio City and Van Nuys.
The council's action, which must be approved by Mayor Tom Bradley and the city Planning Commission, would require the airport to obtain city approval to develop 54 acres extending into the Los Angeles community of Sun Valley at the airport's north end. The land is targeted for use as a taxiway extending from the new terminal to the north-south runway.
Lee Blackman, an attorney for the airport authority, warned the council in a letter that federal law prohibits the city from requiring changes in airport operations as a condition for approval of airport development. Blackman said airport operations are the exclusive domain of the airport operators and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Wachs defended the city's action as a proper exercise of the city's zoning powers.
"What in fact we're doing is regulating land use," Wachs said. "We do that all the time."
Los Angeles officials have repeatedly called for a share-the-noise program at the airport, but the airport authority has contended that, under FAA regulations, it has no power to order pilots to take off to the east. Pilots prefer to take off to the south because that runway is longer and allows them to avoid the nearby Verdugo Mountains.
Wachs argues that more pilots would take off to the east if the program were aggressively pushed.