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City Council Backs Delay of LAX Plan

A majority calls for a 120-day public hearing period on a $9-billion modernization proposal.

July 23, 2003|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

A majority of the City Council moved Tuesday to put the brakes on Mayor James K. Hahn's $9-billion modernization of Los Angeles International Airport, saying the proposed 45-day public-hearing period should be extended to 120 days.

Hahn provided the shortest public-comment period allowed by law in hopes that his LAX plan could be approved in time to break ground in late 2004. But council members said Tuesday that the project should be taken off the fast track and considered more carefully.

"Forty-five days is clearly not enough time for the members of the public and the residential and business communities to review the plan, determine how they are impacted and submit appropriate comments that the Los Angeles World Airports will respond to," said City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, whose district includes LAX.

Seven council members signed Miscikowski's motion Tuesday asking the city Airport Commission to extend the hearing process because of the complexity of the plan, which includes more than 5,000 pages of environmental analysis. Council rules prohibit a majority of the council from signing a motion, but two other council members, Wendy Greuel and Tony Cardenas, said later that they also support the delay.

The full council is scheduled to act on the motion Tuesday.

In addition to Miscikowski, those signing the motion included Council President Alex Padilla and Councilmen Martin Ludlow, Bernard C. Parks, Ed Reyes, Antonio Villaraigosa and Jack Weiss.

"Given the complexity of the documents and given the sheer heft of the documents, it is only appropriate to give the public more time to weigh in," Weiss said.

Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said Tuesday that Hahn recently asked Miscikowski if she would support a 90-day comment period, but that he had not heard back from the councilwoman.

"We are open to considering 120 days," Middlebrook said. But, he added, "we are a little disappointed that the first time the councilwoman proposed a number, it was through this motion."

A spokeswoman for Miscikowski disputed Middlebrook's account, saying that the councilwoman's staff told a Hahn aide that 90 days was not sufficient and that she wanted a 120-day public-comment period.

The council motion also calls for a briefing on how the city has reached out to the public with information on the modernization plan, but Middlebrook defended the effort, saying officials have held "hundreds of briefings with thousands of people" affected by the airport.

The proposal Hahn announced July 9 would significantly reshape LAX by demolishing Terminals 1, 2 and 3, knocking down parking structures in the central terminal area, building a passenger check-in center about a mile east of the airport, and moving sets of parallel runways on either side of the airfield farther apart.

Hahn said his plan would be easier on surrounding communities than previous proposals to update LAX because it effectively would cap operations at 78.9 million annual passengers, far below the level proposed in expansion plans by former Mayor Richard Riordan.

Airport Commission President Ted Stein, a Hahn appointee, did not return calls regarding the council's motion to extend the comment period. Middlebrook said Hahn wants to make sure momentum is not lost on his plan, given that other expansion proposals since 1993 have been bogged down by public opposition.

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