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Trade Group Endorses Revised LAX Plan

Airlines back the expansion effort as L.A. officials work to win the support of El Segundo and community coalitions.

September 28, 2004|Jennifer Oldham | Times Staff Writer

As the City Council on Wednesday begins to weigh a modernization plan for Los Angeles International Airport, Mayor James K. Hahn and Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski are working overtime to win over the remaining detractors in the community.

Miscikowski, who drafted a compromise that postpones the most unpopular elements of the mayor's plan, and Hahn hailed a victory on Monday when the top trade group for the airlines endorsed the councilwoman's plan.

"This is huge," Hahn said at a news conference at LAX where he and Miscikowski were joined by airline representatives. "It's hard to overstate its importance."

Miscikowski worked for weeks to win airlines' support, ultimately convincing them her "specific plan" -- a document that would be used to implement Hahn's $9-billion LAX proposal -- would not allow the most controversial projects to be built unless they passed rigorous environmental, traffic and security studies.

"We can move forward now with some level of comfort that we didn't have before," said James C. May, president and chief executive officer of the Air Transport Assn., which represents most domestic carriers at LAX.

Airlines, together with business groups and neighborhood associations, opposed several aspects of Hahn's plan, including a centralized check-in center near the San Diego Freeway and the demolition of Terminals 1, 2 and 3.

Miscikowski's plan would allow projects with a broad consensus to move forward, including a consolidated rental car center, a transit hub and a FlyAway bus system. Her plan would also move the airport's southernmost runway 50 feet closer to El Segundo.

But the jubilation that accompanied the airlines' endorsement could be short-lived. Negotiations with other major players, such as the city of El Segundo and a coalition of community groups, have hit turbulence and it's unclear if the city will be able to appease them.

Reaching an understanding with these groups could be crucial to getting the 10 council votes that Hahn and Miscikowski need to approve the plan.

"If there's one thing we know now in this plan it is that we can't do it alone," Miscikowski said Monday. "That's why we need to have everyone involved."

City officials have yet to meet with Los Angeles County officials, after an obscure county commission ruled last month that Hahn's plan violates a county land-use plan. The county commission's ruling requires the council to muster 10 votes, rather than the usual eight, to approve the mayor's modernization plan.

The city tried repeatedly to schedule a meeting with the county to discuss changes that consultant A.C. Lazzaretto and Associates recommended be made to Miscikowski's plan, but were rebuffed by county staff members.

A discussion is now set for Thursday.

Other talks are further along. Publicly, lead negotiators for the city of El Segundo and a 26-member coalition of church and community groups say they are optimistic that they will reach an agreement with the city of Los Angeles over how to remodel LAX.

"I believe we've made substantial progress on all fronts," said Kelly McDowell, the mayor of the city of El Segundo, who has been in talks with Miscikowski and the city attorney's office since late May.

But privately, attorneys and other participants say that the city of Los Angeles remains far apart on key issues in talks with both El Segundo and the community coalition.

A top priority for El Segundo, a seaside community located south of LAX, is reaching a legally binding agreement with Los Angeles that would limit capacity at LAX to 78-million passengers annually, McDowell said.

But City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo has said in the past that Los Angeles cannot negotiate an agreement with El Segundo that would prohibit future council members from implementing a new master plan at LAX.

El Segundo also wants Los Angeles to study alternatives to moving the airport's southernmost runway 50 feet closer to the city, and for Los Angeles' airport agency to pay to insulate buildings and homes and to improve area streets.

Miscikowski said Monday that she couldn't comment on the status of talks with El Segundo, adding that "it's very sensitive, this is really a crunch time."

Los Angeles officials are also working on a deal with a coalition of airport-area organizations, including several school districts and labor unions, for hundreds of millions of dollars in community improvements.

The deal is intended to keep the community groups from challenging airport plans in court. The coalition is seeking new schools, a mobile health clinic and extensive job-training programs in a precedent-setting agreement that would require the approval of federal aviation officials.

Although both sides had hoped to announce an agreement this month, talks are bogged down over legal issues, including how the deal would be enforced, and what the city's airport agency could fund without violating federal laws against diverting airport revenue.

Even so, coalition members said they hoped to be able to announce an agreement sometime this fall.

"We're working very hard to bring this to a conclusion and have a signed agreement by the time of the council vote," said Nancy Cohen, a senior policy analyst at the L.A. Alliance for a New Economy and a coalition member. "This is a time that we'll see how we work through whatever sticking points there are."


Meetings planned

The City Council will consider a modernization plan for Los Angeles International Airport at a series of meetings this fall:

* Wednesday: Planning and Land Use Management Committee, 2 p.m.

* Oct. 7: Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, 1 p.m.

* Oct. 19: City Council, 10 a.m.

* Dec. 7: City Council, 10 a.m.

* Dec. 14: City Council, 10 a.m.

Source: Los Angeles World Airports

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