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County probes L.A.'s compliance on transferring LAX traffic

Under a legal settlement, the airport authority was to send flights to Ontario and Palmdale, but a report says there have been only token efforts.

February 26, 2013|By Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times
  • A woman watches a plane come in for a landing on the north runway at Los Angeles International Airport.
A woman watches a plane come in for a landing on the north runway at Los Angeles… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday sought to determine whether Los Angeles airport officials have complied with a 2006 court settlement requiring them to spread the growth in flights at busy Los Angeles International Airport to others in the region.

Supervisors directed the county counsel's office and William T Fujioka, the county's chief executive officer, to assess how well Los Angeles World Airports has implemented the agreement that ended a legal challenge to the plans of former Mayor James K. Hahn to modernize LAX. They must report to the board in 30 days.

The settlement stemmed from a series of lawsuits brought in 2005 by the county, neighborhood organizations and communities surrounding LAX. Among other things, the agreement directed airport officials to seek to shift cargo and passenger operations from LAX to LA/Ontario International Airport and LA/Palmdale Regional Airport.

Inland Empire officials are now seeking to take control of Ontario, saying that Los Angeles has done too little to halt a severe decline in passengers since 2007. Palmdale, which struggled to retain airlines, closed in 2009.

Airport officials say that they have tried to encourage airlines to serve Ontario, but the severe economic downturn has devastated the demand for air travel in the Inland Empire and prompted carriers to move flights to LAX.

Regionalizing air traffic has become increasingly controversial amid recent decisions by Los Angeles airport officials to move the northern runway at LAX closer to homes in neighboring Westchester and Playa del Rey, where there is stiff opposition to the plan.

A report prepared late last year for Fujioka's office asserted that Los Angeles World Airports has made only "token efforts" to comply with settlement terms that seek a wider distribution of commercial flights. The study noted that a series of interagency initiatives to pursue regionalization were short-lived and there was never any effort to revive them.

In addition, Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes LAX, will address the northern runway plan and the regionalization issue at a council meeting March 22. The latest round of airport modernization projects, including shifting the runway, requires council approval.

dan.weikel@latimes.com

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