$4.5 Billion LAX Upgrades Challenged in Court

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Three cities and a county, a union and a citizens’ coalition sued Los Angeles and its Airport Board, challenging a $4.5 billion upgrade of Los Angeles International Airport.
     The plaintiffs filed three complaints in Superior Court. They are the Alliance For A Regional Solution To Airport Congestion; the cities of Inglewood, Culver, Ontario, and San Bernardino County; and SEIU Service Workers West, an airport workers union.
     They sued the city, City Council, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Board of Airport Commissioners, the city department Los Angeles World Airports, and Executive Director Gina Lindsey.
     In virtually identical language, the Alliance and SEIU claim a city-approved plan to move part of a runway closer to homes violates California environmental laws, and understates its adverse impacts.
     They ask the court to vacate the city’s recent approval of the $652 million runway construction. They also want the city enjoined from breaking ground on the project.
     LAX, surrounded on three sides by residential developments, is 12 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles. The busiest airport in the United States, it’s also the nation’s third largest.
     The Alliance claims the projected price tag of $4.5 billion underestimates the “true costs,” of noise, air pollution and traffic impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.
     “The project includes relatively uncontroversial plans for adding terminal space, a consolidated car rental facility, a transportation center and links to light rail lines at the airport, also known as LAX,” the Alliance’s complaint states. “However, the project also includes a highly controversial plan to unnecessarily move the northernmost LAX runway 260 feet closer to neighborhoods in Westchester and Playa del Rey, thus increasing the intensity of aircraft traffic because it would allow LAX to handle more passengers and cargo. The additional aircraft traffic and northerly runway movement closer to the adjacent community would create more severe noise, air quality, biological, aesthetic, and land use incompatibility impacts on land under the new flight paths as well as adjacent communities.”
     Los Angeles World Airports’ final Environmental Impact Report also recommends relocating, 500 feet north, a stretch of California State Highway 1, the Alliance says.
     The Alliance, El Segundo, Culver City, Inglewood, and Los Angeles County first took court action against former Mayor James Hahn’s ambitious LAX redevelopment plan in 2005.
     “That litigation was first resolved in 2006 through a settlement agreement among multiple parties that sought to guide future changes to LAX and create a collaborative process where stakeholders would be meaningfully involved in decisions the city’s airport department, known as Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), would take,” the complaint states.
     The settlement included a limit of 78.9 million passengers a year, and a promise to spread air traffic over regional airports.
     But the Alliance claims the public has been shut out of the process.
     “Instead, LAWA continues to make unilateral decisions out of public view for poorly explained reasons and refused to choose the environmentally superior alternative identified by its own analysis,” the complaint states.
     Mayor-Elect Eric Garcetti, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and City Councilman Bill Rosendahl support an alternative, to redistribute high-speed exits and connect taxiways on the runway, rather than relocate construction closer to homes, the Alliance says.
     It claims that other airports could accommodate more air traffic. Los Angeles World Airports owns and operates airports in Van Nuys and Ontario and owns 17,750 acres of land in Palmdale. But Los Angeles refused to consider those alternatives, the Alliance claims.
     “This refusal has resulted in a substantial effort by the City of Ontario, County of San Bernardino, and numerous Inland Empire Cities to free Ontario International Airport from the control of LAWA,” the complaint states.
     It adds: “In approving the project, respondents violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in numerous ways. Many of the impacts of the project were not properly analyzed and mitigated in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared for it. Other deficiencies in the EIR include, but are not limited to, use of an inaccurate and unstable project description; use of an unreasonable range of alternatives to the project; failure to analyze the inconsistencies between the project and the Los Angeles County Airport Land Use Plan; failure to respond to comments; inadequate notification for public participation; and adoption of inadequate and deferred mitigation measures.”
     Inglewood, Culver, Ontario and San Bernardino are represented by Kimberly Huangfu, of Costa Mesa.
     The Alliance is represented by Douglas Carstens with Chatten-Brown & Carstens of Hermosa Beach.
     Gideon Kracov represents SEIU.

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