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Burbank Issues Permits Allowing Airport Expansion

Construction: Some work can resume on the 40,000-square-foot addition needed to provide security measures required by the federal government.

September 19, 2002|CAITLIN LIU and ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The city of Burbank issued building permits Wednesday to allow Burbank Airport to resume some--but not all--security-related construction work at its terminal, officials said.

The permits allow the airport to begin construction of a new building shell, which is part of the 40,000-square-foot expansion that airport officials say they need to accommodate beefed-up baggage checks and passenger screening mandated by the federal government.

The city halted the airport's construction work last month by red-tagging a site where crews had just begun some demolition, because the airport did not have building permits for the project.

Officials with the Burbank-Pasadena-Glendale Airport Authority said they couldn't wait to obtain permits, a process that can take months, because they were racing to meet an end-of-the-year deadline for finishing the expansion project.

The project will allow the airport to install better baggage-screening technology, increase the number of passenger check stations and provide more office space for security personnel and police.

Building permits for any improvements inside the terminal, however, are still pending and can be issued only if the construction work is "directly and substantially related" to the airport's security needs, city officials said.

"I expect we'll see [construction] activity by the end of the week," said airport spokesman Victor Gill. "The contractors will have to mobilize to get their people and supplies in place."

Gill said that even if construction resumes right away, the airport will not be able to meet a federally mandated year-end deadline for having the security measures in place, because the work is starting too late.

When Burbank officials halted work on the terminal, critics accused them of choosing parochial interests over mandated security upgrades because of the city's long-running opposition to airport expansion.

But Charles Lombardo, the vice president of the airport authority and one of three representatives from Burbank on the panel, said the city had no choice but to delay the permit process until a judge could rule on the validity of Measure A, a voter-passed initiative that severely restricted any airport expansion. On Aug. 23, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that Measure A was unconstitutional.

"The city was put in a bad position. They had to obey the existing law until the court ruled," Lombardo said. "That wasn't being obstructionist, it was being mindful of the will of Burbank residents."

The city gave its approval after its planning and engineering consultants examined the project plans and concluded that the project, which would expand the airport's 173,000-square-foot main terminal to 213,000 square feet, was needed for security.

"I'm very disappointed that Burbank is being seen as obstructionist," said Burbank Mayor David Laurell. "In fact, we've gone out of our way to expedite this project."

The city was the one that challenged the voter initiative in court, Laurell said. He added that city officials expedited their review of the airport's application.

The city's normal process for review of a project such as this can take five months, officials said. But Burbank shortened that period to a few weeks.

As for the pending permits, Lombardo said some of the airport plans for interior improvements still need to be finalized. "When they are, they will be submitted to the city for ratification," he said.

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