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Los Angeles

LAX Proposal Criticized by Councilwoman

Airport: Miscikowski says residents in neighboring areas weren't given a say in the expansion plan.

September 06, 2002|JENNIFER OLDHAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski criticized the Airport Commission on Thursday for ignoring residents as it finalizes Mayor James K. Hahn's $9.6-billion plan to modernize aging Los Angeles International Airport.

Miscikowski's district inherited several of LAX's closest neighbors, including Westchester and Playa del Rey, from longtime expansion opponent Ruth Galanter last summer. Until this week, the councilwoman hadn't taken a position on Hahn's plan to redesign the world's fifth-busiest airport. In an interview, she said she approves of several of its key tenets, but is not yet ready to endorse or reject the entire proposal.

The mayor's plan, which favors security over expansion, was unveiled in July and is still in the early conceptual stages. Airport officials shopped the document around to business and community groups, but haven't presented it to residents who would be most directly affected, according to a letter Miscikowski wrote to Airport Commission President Ted Stein and the Board of Airport Commissioners. .

"A large number of other community groups and residents of neighborhoods that are impacted by noise and ground traffic related to LAX were not consulted or briefed, nor are they participating in the current planning process," the letter charges.

Hahn's modernization plan would entail a dramatic reworking of the airport, including the demolition of four terminals, new transportation facilities to the east of LAX, and the removal of all cars in the central terminal area.

The mayor has attempted to build political support for his plan by having his staff meet with various groups before announcing details and by promising former expansion opponents that he would limit LAX to 78 million passengers a year. The airport served 61 million passengers in 2001--52% more than its current intended capacity.

But these concessions haven't appeased those who live adjacent to Manchester Square--a 129-acre neighborhood whose residents are currently being bought out by the city agency that operates LAX. Hahn's plan calls for the construction of a check-in facility there where travelers could park and get on an elevated train to LAX.

"We've called the mayor's office and asked them to come meet with us regarding the plan many times," said Denny Schneider, a member of the board of directors of the Osage Neighbors Assn.--which represents residents living north of Manchester Square.

Stein did meet with a neighborhood council representing Westchester and Playa del Rey a month ago, but made it clear that "he's going to do what he wants to do and doesn't care what we have to say," Schneider said.

Stein did not return calls for comment.

The mayor's office said it will work with Miscikowski's office to identify neighborhood groups that haven't been briefed on the modernization plan.

"A lot of people have an interest in this, and the mayor's staff and the airport staff are working very hard to get to as many people as possible," said Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook. "People should not read into who got talked to first and who got talked to eighth and who got talked to 50th. All of this input, whether first or last, is important."Miscikowski said she expects the mayor's office to initiate a dialogue with neighborhood groups about the plan and what needs to be changed--particularly when it comes to Manchester Square.

"If the plan says that's going to be a drop-off terminal, the question still needs to be engaged with the community," she said.

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