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Airport a Key Issue in 10th District

October 29, 2002|George Ramos | Times Staff Writer

Glenn Bailey, a candidate for the proposed San Fernando Valley city council, was touting the 2,100-acre Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area as a jewel in the 10th District when a jet taking off from Van Nuys Airport drowned him out.

"That's pretty loud," said Bailey, 47, a program coordinator at Cal State Northridge, as he looked up at the offending aircraft. Later, Bailey said the airport is important to the Valley's economy, but "we do need changes to reduce noise."

The future of the airport, the nation's busiest general-aviation airfield, is one of the few talking points among the eight candidates seeking the 10th District seat. The winning candidate will take office only if voters approve Valley secession on Nov. 5.

The sprawling 10th District is in the heart of the Valley and includes the airport, which averages about 1,500 takeoffs and landings a day. The district also includes million-dollar homes in Northridge, Reseda's struggling business district, the Anheuser-Busch brewery in North Hills, Balboa Lake, as well as portions of Van Nuys and Encino.

Although most of the campaigning has centered on secession itself, some candidates have accused the presumed front-runner, Van Nuys activist Terry Stone, of wanting to shut down the airport because of the noise. Stone denies that.

She said she would work to phase out older, noisy jets and place restrictions on helicopters. Nearby residents frequently complain that the copters, particularly those used by Los Angeles-area TV and radio stations, fly low over homes.

Stone, 55, was an aide to former Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs and served on an advisory commission for the airport. She also was part of a citizens panel that worked on the airport's master plan.

Her opponents in the council race say she did little in those positions to ease the noise problems.

"To close it would be totally wrong," said candidate Norman Huberman, 55, of Northridge, a building contractor who also teaches at the West Valley Occupational Center. "We need the airport to be economically viable."

Another candidate, former city elections official Richard Perry, 49, of Van Nuys, added his support for the airport.

Perry also said he will not accept any money contributions from big businesses or special-interest groups for his grass-roots campaign.

"This brand-new city is starting from scratch," he said. "I'm putting my own money where my mouth is."

Huberman criticized the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for failing to tell Valley residents that the use of a second meter at most homes could cut water and sewer costs.

He also wants increased community policing to combat gang violence.

The youngest candidate, 32-year-old medical student Ali Malekniazi of North Hills, takes the secession idea a step further. He favors breaking the Valley into "five or six smaller cities."

"There's nothing wrong with smaller government," he said.

Bailey wants greater public control of and access to the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area, which includes three golf courses, Balboa Lake, a sports center, Japanese gardens, picnic grounds and a wildlife area.

Promoters of special events at the recreation area, such as July 4 celebrations, are given too much sway, sometimes limiting public access, he says.

"The public needs to be better informed about use of the Sepulveda Basin," said Bailey, who lives in Encino.

The other candidates in the district are:

Robert Stachowiak, 46, an actor and graphic artist who lives in Reseda. He favors light-rail lines that would connect the Valley's western and southern neighborhoods to the Red Line subway station in North Hollywood.

Benjamin Lesko, 48, a charity events organizer and Van Nuys businessman. He says he represents the everyday worker and would bring "real-life" experiences to the new council. He also said he would work to stop the transport of dangerous toxic chemicals through the area.

William McMahon, 49, an engineer and educator who lives in Reseda. McMahon said he would work to ensure the new city supports gay rights.

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