Tuttle Suggests Closure of L.B. Airport Runway

Times Staff Writer

City Councilman Edd Tuttle, a longtime critic of noise generated at the Long Beach Municipal Airport, wants to replace one of the airport runways with warehouses, light-manufacturing plants, offices and a 250-room hotel.

Closing Runway 25-Right, which parallels Carson Street on the northern edge of the airport, would provide more than 200 acres for development that could generate thousands of jobs, Tuttle said--and, not incidentally, would shrink the amount of property available for planes to use.

Though he doesn't expect a runway closure to reduce the current number of takeoffs and landings at the airport, Tuttle said he hopes such a project could head off future expansion.

Federal Scrutiny Avoided

"If we occupy the land, we're not going to have to look at the feds (federal government) coming in with pressure" to increase the number of flights and the amount of airplane noise, Tuttle said.

Tuttle, whose Eighth District includes many west-central neighborhoods under airplane flight paths, distributed copies of a sample plan for runway development to his council colleagues last week. He said he wants to discuss his proposal at Tuesday's council meeting.

The sample plan would double the amount of land available for development at the airport and projects the development would bring the city $4.8 million in annual rent after completion in 12 years. An airport noise task force already is considering closure of the runway, though not necessarily developing it, and diverting the planes that use it to another runway.

FAA Approval Needed

Such action would require Federal Aviation Administration approval, an FAA spokeswoman said, because it might affect the use of other runways, air traffic control and the airport's current capacity.

Barbara Abels, public affairs officer for the administration's Western-Pacific region, said Tuttle's proposal is "not really unusual. Other cities have made changes in airport layout to get more property."

But she added, FAA approval would "depend on the circumstance. Certainly (the loss of) airport capacity is something the FAA is looking at because of the lack of airports generally."

Runway 25-Right is used for about 500 landings and takeoffs each day--mostly of small single-engine planes and light twin-engine planes, said Andy Richards, quality assurance specialist for the FAA air traffic control tower at the airport. That represents about 40% of the airport's daily traffic, Richards said.

Jets Use Runway 30

The airport's 18 daily commercial flights use Runway 30, which runs diagonally from the northwest to the southeast portion of the airfield, intersecting Runway 25-Right.

The sample plan was drawn up by Cabot, Cabot and Forbes, a Boston-based development company with a Los Angeles office. Ted Tomasovich, the firm's Southern California regional manager, said the plan was put together "as a favor" to Tuttle, though he acknowledged his firm has "been in the market for property in Long Beach, but we haven't been able to find what we want."

Tuttle said he asked Tomasovich about a year ago for help in devising a proposal. The two men said they have known each other since 1980, when Cabot, Cabot and Forbes was developing the Hughes Aircraft Corp.'s 76-acre headquarters for its support systems division, in Tuttle's district at the intersection of the Long Beach and San Diego freeways.

Company Interested

Tomasovich said his company might want to develop some or all of a project such as the 45-building, three-part complex in the sample.

Council members reacted with interest, but said the runway closure would be difficult to accomplish.

Warren Harwood, whose Ninth District covers North Long Beach, said he would "certainly favor types of development which would create jobs, and if elimination of one runway doesn't affect operations much. . . . I think there's a whole lot of questions to be answered and I'm looking forward to getting the answers."

Councilman Thomas Clark, whose Fourth District lies south and east of the airport, said that "from an economic standpoint, it would be a greater return" to develop the runway rather than use it for planes. But "you'd still have to maintain a degree of (air traffic) activity and safety at the airport."

Mayor Doubts Feasibility

Mayor Ernie Kell said the proposal is "certainly quite interesting to look at," but added, "I don't think it's feasible, quite frankly." Kell also said he would not want Tomasovich's firm to have the inside track on developing the site. "I would only support it if it went to competitive bidding," Kell said.

Long Beach Planning Director Robert Paternoster said "it's possible" to close the runway. In fact, he added, a task force studying airport noise also has considered closing Runway 25-Right and diverting traffic to 25-Left along the southern edge of the airport, where planes would take off over the San Diego Freeway rather than residential communities.

Repaving Postponed

The airport has postponed re-paving 25-Right because of the task force discussions, said Paternoster, who is on the panel's staff. The task force is expected to present its recommendations by the end of the year.

If 200 acres were indeed available for conversion, that would double the amount of property available at the airport for development, Paternoster said.

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