The Los Angeles City Council asked the Airport Commission on Friday to delay a lease at Van Nuys Airport, with Councilwoman Laura Chick saying the eleventh-hour proposal "smacks of back-room, closed-room, dirty deals."
The commission is scheduled to vote June 26--four days before Mayor Richard Riordan leaves office--to approve a lease of 5.8 acres of undeveloped land to be used for a new aviation business.
Among those who have taken out bidding papers is Jerry Perenchio, a businessman who is close to Riordan. The Airport Department released the request for bids on May 7 and asked that they be filed by Monday.
Councilwomen Cindy Miscikowski and Chick objected that leasing the property at 7335-7337 Valjean Ave. was premature because the city has not finalized a master plan that will designate how airport parcels should be used.
Chick wrote a motion calling for the Airport Commission to extend the bidding period from 30 to 90 days.
"It smacks of back-room, closed-room, dirty deals that are meant to go through in a quick, secretive way, disallowing the normal public process and the normal feedback from other stakeholders," Chick said.
Miscikowski and council President Ruth Galanter were also critical of the handling of the deal.
"I think this very, very quick-paced process is an eleventh-hour effort," Miscikowski said, adding "It's very much inappropriate."
Stacy Geere, an Airport Department spokeswoman, said the limited aviation uses proposed to bidders are consistent with language in the proposed master plan, but Miscikowski said there still may be changes to the plan.
"They are leaving the master plan behind, still lingering," Miscikowski said.
Geere said the council action will be considered by the Airport Commission.
"The board has been made aware of the motion and will take it under advisement," she said.
The council can only request that the commission extend the bidding period. However, if the commission approves a lease, the council has the power to disapprove the action and send it back to the commission.
The council action was welcomed by some business and neighborhood leaders who had been concerned about the short period of time for submitting competitive proposals.
"[Ninety days] is appropriate," said James Dunn, president and CEO of the Airtel Plaza Hotel, which had also taken out bidding documents but had protested the early deadline.
The Times reported Friday that a citizens advisory council set up to review all leases has scheduled a special meeting to scrutinize the proposal before the Airport Commission meeting.
Mayor Riordan's office has denied involvement in the matter.
Chick, who next month takes office as city controller, said the deal appeared to be fast-tracked to escape public scrutiny.
"This is really an example of bad business, bad process, ignoring the will and wishes of the public and the City Council," Chick said.