Petitions signed by more than 10,000 San Fernando Valley and Burbank residents, demanding that Burbank Airport noise and pollution be reduced, have been delivered to Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), one of the sharpest congressional critics of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.
The petitions were the latest effort in a drive by Valley residents to force the airport authority to cap the number of planes that use Burbank Airport and to increase the ratio of flights that take off over the Glendale area. Most takeoffs are routed over the East Valley.
The signatures--collected at grocery stores, shopping centers and in neighborhoods from Encino to Sunland--are aimed at debunking persistent criticism by some airport and government officials that airport opponents are limited to a handful of vocal residents living near it.
Coalition Behind Petitions
Petitions were circulated last summer and autumn by members of the East Valley Homeowners Coalition, an association of resident groups from the San Fernando Valley and Burbank. The coalition was organized several years ago to oppose noise pollution from the airport and to oppose any increase in commercial flights, which averaged about 45 a day in the late 1970s and now exceed 75 a day.
"The East Valley is being bombarded with noise," Richard G. Sorenson, chairman of the petition drive, said at a press conference with Berman last week. "These are to present you with a body of evidence to use, to show the seriousness and extent of the problem, and the magnitude of injustice."
Berman, who was described by coalition members as a "champion" for residents in their struggles with the airport, swept 10 rolled bundles of petitions into his arms and pledged to keep fighting in Washington with his new ammunition.
The two-term congressman wrote an amendment to a federal transportation appropriations bill in 1983 in an effort to block federal funds for a proposed terminal building at the airport until the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority completed a noise abatement plan.
The amendment was intended to aid the City of Los Angeles, which subsequently sued the airport authority to prevent construction of the terminal. Berman dropped the amendment after the suit was filed and the FAA pledged not to distribute federal funds for a new terminal while litigation was pending.
The suit, based on fears that the new terminal would lead to more air traffic and noise, was rejected last year by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. The Los Angeles City Council voted in September not to appeal the decision after the authority agreed to attempt to reroute some departing flights away from some neighborhoods in the Valley.
But that compromise, which would reroute flights from the Valley to east Burbank and Glendale, requires the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration, which is studying the proposal.
Design to Be Drafted
The airport authority, meanwhile, will select an architect and engineer within the next few months to draft a conceptual design for the proposed terminal building, airport officials said. Officials are negotiating with Lockheed Corp. to buy 40 acres of Lockheed land at the northeast corner of the airport for the terminal.
Airport officials have said the new terminal is needed to comply with a federal regulation requiring that the distance between terminals and runways be at least 750 feet. The existing terminal, in places, is only 313 feet from a runway.
Airport spokesman Victor J. Gill said the authority has not determined how it will pay for the terminal, the estimated cost of which ranges from $30 million to $60 million. "The idea is to have it come from a variety of sources," he said.
In September the airport authority accepted a $2.2-million federal grant toward purchase of the Lockheed land. The money was forwarded by the FAA only after the lawsuit with the City of Los Angeles was resolved.
Berman said the signature drive "re-energized" his commitment to work with officials from the FAA and the airport authority to find a balance between growing transportation needs in the Valley area and the rights of residents living near the airport.
"When 10,000 people in this day and age go public, we now have the kind of evidence we always believed existed," Berman said. "I do not want to close the airport down. But I don't want to see it become a new national or international airport."
Berman said he favors using both the north-south and east-west runways at the airport for departing aircraft to better distribute aircraft noise (planes now depart almost without exception from the north-south runway), establishing a ceiling on the number of flights at the airport and moving to exclusive use of quieter jets.
Berman said he would not oppose a new terminal at the airport if it could be built "on the basis of equal runway utilization" and was not used as a means to increase the number of flights. Airport officials estimated several years ago that the new terminal could accommodate a 6% annual growth of airport operations for five years after it was built.
Aimed at Skeptics
The petitions, which asked elected officials to "do something about the noise and air pollution generated by the Burbank Airport activities," were intended to show skeptics that the adverse effects of noise, air pollution and vibration have been drastically increasing in the Valley, Sorenson said.
Homeowners contend that the airport affects Valley residents far beyond the neighborhoods in Burbank, Sun Valley and North Hollywood that adjoin it.
"I have had the opportunity to listen to hundreds of residents from Sunland to Encino and from Burbank to Van Nuys relate their experiences, concerns and outrage regarding the Burbank Airport," Sorenson said in a prepared summary of problems at the airport. "I only regret that I am unable to communicate the depth and intensity of their emotions and feelings on the subject."
Berman said he would show the petitions to other representatives from the Los Angeles area, Sens. Alan Cranston and Pete Wilson, members of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority and FAA officials.
The petitions, he said, will give him power in Washington to use the federal allocation process as a bargaining chip when the airport authority seeks federal assistance for construction of the new terminal.