Van Nuys Airport Compromise Fails, Assuring Permit Hearing

Times Staff Writer

Negotiations between Van Nuys Airport and anti-noise homeowners, aimed at heading off a hearing next week in which the airport's state operating permit will be at stake, have ended without agreement.

Failure to reach an agreement guarantees that the hearing will begin as scheduled Tuesday, lawyers for both sides agreed Wednesday.

After the administrative-law judge assigned to conduct the hearing urged both sides to consider a compromise that would avoid the need for one, homeowners proposed a package of eight restrictions on air traffic. They offered to drop their demand for a hearing if the city, which owns the airport, agreed to enforce the restrictions.

The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners decided "not to take any action on the offer, but wait instead until after the evidence is submitted to the hearing officer, and then take up the matter again," said Assistant City Atty. Breton K. Lobner, who represents the airport.

Ask for Operations Freeze

In return for agreement to drop their demand for a hearing, the homeowner activists asked for a freeze on the number of private helicopter and jet-plane operations.

They also asked for a ban on "touch-and-go" flight training on weekends and holidays, as well as on simultaneous takeoffs on the airport's two runways. The homeowners also wanted the city to require that pilots begin a takeoff from the far end of a runway, become airborne in the shortest distance safely possible and remain above the runway as they climb.

Another request would have made the airport's curfew more restrictive. Now, planes classed by the Federal Aviation Administration as making more than 74 decibels on takeoff are barred from taking off from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. The curfew, a city ordinance, is enforced by civil suits against violators.

The noise protesters want it to apply to all flights, except those by public-emergency planes, and to be directly enforced by airport police.

The offer by the anti-noise groups "raised a lot of legal issues that could not be completely analyzed in the short period of time we had," Lobner said.

Variance at Stake

After the hearing, it will take the administrative-law judge at least six months to issue his findings, which will provide time for further talks if the city wishes, Lobner said.

At stake is a recommendation by the judge to the head of Caltrans on whether to renew the airport's variance--a Caltrans permit to continue operating without meeting state noise-control standards. Almost all urban airports in the state operate under variances, because airport administrators say they cannot meet the standards.

The Van Nuys Airport variance, valid for three years, expires this year.

When an airport applies for renewal of its variance, a hearing must be held if any citizen requests one. A request was made by seven airport-noise activists, including Gerald Silver, head of Homeowners of Encino, and Don Schultz, president of Ban Airport Noise. Schultz also represents Reseda and Van Nuys homeowners groups.

The city has faced five such hearings involving other airports since 1979, and in all five cases the airports' variances were granted.

The hearing is scheduled for the airport's Airtel Plaza, and is expected to take about a week.

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