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Public Voices Support for LAX Renovation

During first round of hearings, most speak in favor of Mayor Hahn's $9-billion plan to modernize the airport, citing economic pluses.

August 19, 2003|Jennifer Oldham | Times Staff Writer

Last week's opening round of public hearings for Mayor James K. Hahn's $9-billion plan to modernize Los Angeles International Airport was predominantly positive, in contrast to skepticism the proposal has faced from some airlines and residents.

Three out of four of the 68 people who spoke at the hearings in San Pedro, Los Angeles, Monterey Park and Ontario supported Hahn's plan, which the mayor says favors security and safety over expansion.

The hearings, which continue this week, are part of a 120-day comment period on the 5,323-page environmental study of Hahn's proposal to redo the aging airport. Federal law requires that the city respond to both written and oral comments in the final version of the mayor's plan. Hahn hopes to present the plan to the City Council next year.

"We haven't poured any concrete," the mayor said in an interview Friday. "If there are tweaks to this plan that would improve it, we're very much interested in hearing from people."

Hahn's proposal would dramatically rework the airport by knocking down Terminals 1, 2 and 3, demolishing parking structures in the central terminal area and replacing them with a new terminal complex, and moving the facility's two sets of parallel runways farther apart.

In the weeks leading up to the hearings, some airlines and residents have expressed concern about the plan's cost and the location of a proposed check-in center.

But last week much of the testimony came from unions and others who envision more work if the airport is renovated.

"Nearly 49,000 jobs will be generated during the construction phase of this plan," said Richard Slawson, executive secretary of the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, at a hearing in Koreatown. "Putting this many people to work will have a tremendous ripple effect and lead to 100,000 jobs."

Ontario city leaders said Hahn's plan would help the Inland Empire's economy grow.

"Under this plan, LAX will accommodate its fair share of passengers and cargo, while providing limits which will encourage growth at other Southern California airports," Ontario Mayor Gary Ovitt said at the hearing in his city.

Hahn hopes to persuade airlines to move flights to Ontario and other airports in the region as part of a proposal to limit LAX to 78 million annual passengers. The mayor has no power to cap the airport, but says that cutting the number of gates at LAX will force airlines to take traffic to other facilities.

Business representatives and several airlines at the hearings also applauded Hahn's plan because, they said, it would maintain the airport's positive economic impact on the region, estimated at $64 billion a year.

"To do nothing, or not to do this project ... is not acceptable," said Alan Wayne, a spokesman for United Airlines at a hearing in Koreatown. "This project is overdue and must get underway. Other airports -- Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Denver and Phoenix, to name a few -- have modernized or are advancing programs to draw business away from LAX."

The list of attendees at the hearings was similar to those who spoke almost two years ago on expansion plans devised by Hahn's predecessor, Mayor Richard Riordan. The three expansion alternatives that Riordan proposed are still on the table because Hahn chose to piggyback on environmental studies for his predecessor's plan.

Despite the general support, several speakers last week worried about more aircraft noise in their communities. Monterey Park Mayor David Lau said that the quality of life would suffer in the West San Gabriel Valley because the plan would allow more 747s and other large aircraft to approach the airport over that area.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Hearings scheduled

The city will hold public hearings this week on Mayor James K. Hahn's $9-billion modernization plan for Los Angeles International Airport. Here is the schedule:

Today, 6 to 10 p.m., Airtel Plaza Hotel, 7277 Valjean Ave., Van Nuys

* Wednesday, 5 to 9 p.m., Joslyn Community Center, 1601 Valley Drive, Manhattan Beach

* Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m., Palmdale Regional Airport, 41000 20th St. E., Palmdale

* Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Furama Hotel, 8601 Lincoln Blvd., Los Angeles

For more information, see the Web site www.laxmasterplan .org.

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