El Segundo Mayor Mike Gordon says he will issue an ultimatum to Mayor James K. Hahn today: Revise the massive modernization plan for Los Angeles International Airport or face opposition from a formidable regional coalition that helped kill previous airport expansion plans.
To appease Gordon during the 2001 mayoral campaign, Hahn pledged that if elected, he would limit capacity at LAX to 78 million passengers a year.
In the last 18 months, the mayor has spent considerable time and effort to convince Gordon that the $9-billion plan for LAX complies with that pledge. But Gordon said Thursday that an independent analysis he commissioned concluded that the Hahn plan would allow the airport to grow to at least 87 million travelers a year.
"The bottom line is that this plan is no different than [Mayor Richard] Riordan's plan," Gordon said. "Now we're saying fix the plan or face opposition."
He planned a news conference for today to publicly deliver that message.
The strong rhetoric is a departure for Gordon, who stood with Hahn when he unveiled his LAX proposal in the summer of 2002. Since then, Gordon has held numerous discussions with Deputy Mayor Troy Edwards and Airport Commission President Ted Stein, trying to forge a compromise that would please airport-area residents.
Hahn said the dispute boils down to a disagreement between his consultants and several experts hired by Gordon over how to limit capacity at LAX.
The mayor "has full confidence [his] plan sufficiently limits capacity and provides mitigation measures that the community deserves," said Elizabeth Kaltman, a Hahn spokeswoman. "He's looking forward to working with Gordon and other regional officials to ensure regional airports will help relieve the burden on LAX."
Gordon argues that the mechanism used in the mayor's plan to discourage growth at LAX -- reducing the number of airline gates from the current 163 to 153 -- assumes that airlines would move flights to other airports. That is not necessarily the case, Gordon said, because there is no incentive in the proposal for airlines to shift their operations. The result is that overall airport traffic could grow under Hahn's plan, he said.
Gordon has played a pivotal role in the debate over modernizing LAX. In 2001, he claimed to have lined up a coalition of 125 cities against Riordan's plan. He also has worked feverishly to persuade officials around Southern California to spread air traffic among the region's airports to take the pressure off LAX.
Hahn scrapped Riordan's plan, which would have allowed LAX to grow to 89 million annual passengers, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Hahn's plan would dramatically alter LAX by knocking down Terminals 1, 2, and 3; demolishing parking structures and replacing them with a new central terminal complex; and building a new remote passenger check-in center near the 405 Freeway.
Hahn has fallen far short of his goal to develop a plan that pleases area residents, Gordon said Thursday. To make growth limits stick at LAX, Gordon said, Hahn must reduce the number of gates in his plan to 142 and forge a legally binding agreement with El Segundo that would prohibit the city of Los Angeles from adding gates at LAX until after Jan. 31, 2021.
That agreement would be akin to a federal court settlement in 1985 that established aircraft noise restrictions, limited airport operation hours and capped the passenger volume at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Gordon said.
But City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo believes the city cannot negotiate an agreement with El Segundo that would prohibit future City Councils from implementing a new master plan at LAX, said Eric Moses, a spokesman for Delgadillo.
Gordon also said for the first time Thursday that he opposes moving the outer runway on the airport's south side 50 feet closer to his community. Airport officials want to move the runway to reduce the number of near misses between airliners taking off and landing.
Gordon argued that moving the runway would put El Segundo residents at greater risk, because it could increase activity on the south runways and thus the number of airplanes instructed by air traffic controllers to fly over his community.
Gordon, who will finish his term as El Segundo's mayor next month and is running for Assemblyman George Nakano's (D-Torrance) seat in November, said he plans to remain active in the airport debate and has already lined up a number of cities to fight Hahn's plan.