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Kennard to Oversee L.A. Airports

The popular lawyer and City Hall insider, who previously held the post, replaces Kim Day, who resigned last week after a two-year turn.

October 04, 2005|Jennifer Oldham | Times Staff Writer

Lydia Kennard, a popular City Hall insider, lawyer and urban planner who gained nationwide attention for improving security at Los Angeles International Airport after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will return to oversee the city's four airports Oct. 8.

Kennard will replace Kim Day, who resigned last week after a two-year turn as director of Los Angeles World Airports.

Day was a major proponent of former Mayor James K. Hahn's $11-billion modernization plan for LAX. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who defeated Hahn in May, opposed much of the plan.

Even before he took office, Villaraigosa talked with Kennard about being part of his administration, stepping up his efforts in recent weeks to persuade her to come back. Kennard was previously executive director of the city's airport agency, which operates LAX, Ontario International, Van Nuys and Palmdale airports, from 1999 to 2003.

"Ms. Kennard is committed to my goals of increasing public safety at LAX and LAWA's other three airports, creating a regional plan for accommodating future growth in passenger travel and cargo, and continuing to support the regional economy through LAWA's operations," Villaraigosa said in a statement.

On Monday, the Airport Commission unanimously tapped Kennard after interviewing her by telephone in closed session. The City Council must also approve the appointment.

Commissioner Valeria Velasco, who was voted the body's vice president Monday, said Kennard "is the right person to modernize LAX in a way we can all be proud of, and which protects and enhances the quality of life in the surrounding communities."

Kennard now must figure out what to do with Hahn's controversial LAX modernization plan. Villaraigosa has said he approves of the proposal's most popular projects, including a consolidated rental car facility, a transit hub and moving the southernmost runway 55 feet.

He wants to eliminate a passenger check-in center near the 405 Freeway, but it's unclear if he can do so without invalidating complex environmental studies and forcing the city to start the planning process anew.

In an interview Monday, Kennard said she would draw on her experience in construction, real estate and planning to rework the modernization blueprint. She declined to say how, citing several lawsuits filed in state and federal court challenging the proposal.

She said that she agreed with Villaraigosa's vision of spreading an expected doubling of air passengers in Southern California by 2030 among other airports in the region.

"The dilemma is we don't have enough aviation infrastructure in this region to handle the growing demand and the question is how is it going to be properly distributed, and that's always been a challenge," she said.

Kennard also said that she would continue to emphasize security at the city's four airports. After 9/11, Kennard put security at LAX ahead of other matters, often amid protests from the airlines, as well as labor and business leaders.

"We have got to implement state-of-the-art security measures, particularly at LAX," she said. "We've really got to focus on security both landside and airside."

She added that she would institute recommendations by the Rand Corp. to fortify LAX, including reconfiguring terminals to shorten lines at ticket counters and security checkpoints. The Santa Monica think tank has said that these lines are vulnerable to bomb attacks.

LAX is considered the state's No. 1 terrorist target. In 1999, a terrorist plot to bomb one of its terminals on New Year's Eve was thwarted.

Kennard began her career in public service when she joined the city Planning Commission in 1991, where she served until 1993. She began her tenure at the city's airport agency in 1994 as deputy executive director, when she led a $270-million project to build two terminals and other additions at Ontario.

She has connections with several airport commissioners. She served on the Planning Commission with Fernando Torres-Gil and attended Harvard Law School with Michael Lawson.

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