Burbank Seeks a More Dominant Role in Determining Airport's Future

Times Staff Writer

Burbank city officials, concerned about expansion at Burbank Airport and its effect on area residents, are taking steps to increase their influence over decisions determining the airport's future.

Burbank City Atty. Douglas C. Holland said last week he is investigating the city's options for restricting development and parking in and around the airport to keep it "a community airport and not an international airport."

Holland said he began studying the situation following meetings earlier this month between the Burbank City Council and airport officials to discuss a planned new terminal and projected increases in passenger traffic in coming years.

The proposed terminal could handle as many as 92,270 takeoffs and landings a year, almost double last year's 50,827, and 7.3 million passengers annually, more than twice last year's total of 3 million.

Council members agreed that they should be more actively involved with the airport since it is in Burbank.

Burbank Councilman Robert R. Bowne said that the city had "taken a passive role in the past with dealing with the airport. But Mr. Holland has outlined some aggressive ways of dealing with the issue."

Holland said he does not want to take an confrontational stance, but "I believe the legal issues can be minimized, and that we can be creative in finding compromise."

"Our major problem is battling the concept that Burbank Airport has to have a role in satisfying regional air transportation needs," Holland said. "Burbank does not buy into that. This is a community facility. We want to make sure the airport has as little impact as possible on the surrounding Burbank community."

'Compatible With the Community'

"We want to implement programs that will make the airport compatible with the community," Holland said.

In the past, the council exerted influence primarily through its three appointees to the nine-member Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, which directs airport operations. Burbank has appointed some commissioners opposed to any airport expansion, and others who have said the city should not suffer inconvenience from added airport development.

However, it remains to be seen how much impact Burbank's additional involvement would have. The Airport Authority's role is distinct from that of the Federal Aviation Administration, which has jurisdiction over aircraft in flight.

"The Burbank City Council does not control the airport," said J.C. Schwarzenbach, a Pasadena appointee to the Airport Authority. He said he feels that any of the three cities on the authority "would not want to upset the apple cart. It would be a pity if people want to cause trouble."

But another Pasadena representative, Jo Heckman, said Burbank should be listened to. "Burbank should be involved to some extent since the airport is in their city," Heckman said. "And I'm sure the commissioners feel the same way as the city--they don't want the airport to be an international airport."

Holland said he would be looking into such things as land-use restrictions in the city's plan for development around the airport. He said the city could zone surrounding property for residential or industrial use to ensure compatibility with the area.

"We're not interested in seeing unfettered growth, and we can control that through our land-use elements," Holland said.

Also, he said he wants to keep the airport available to general aviation: private light planes, business and charter carriers. He said city policies could be formulated to hamper development that would involve the demolishing of general-aviation facilities.

"We would want the Airport Authority to be sensitive to that," he said. "The city would like to preserve the present levels of general aviation, rather than having them relocated at other airports. Displacement of general aviation would make Burbank Airport more available for commercial aviation."

Possible Limits on Parking

Holland also said the city could impose limits on airport parking.

Holland said it will take at least a month to prepare options for the City Council. The council has not stated any specific goals, "but I want to focus on what's available to us for council discussion," he said.

Richard Close, an anti-airport-noise activist opposed to airport growth, said he is pleased with Burbank's new stance. He said the airport is being run by airlines "that don't care about the citizens of Burbank."

"This is the best news I've heard in 10 years," Close said. "With the airport, the City of Burbank felt they were creating this spark plug of development. Now they realize that the airport may be out of control and destructive."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World