Opponents Renew Heavy Barrage at Proposed New Terminal at Burbank Airport

Times Staff Writer

Opponents of a plan for a new terminal at Burbank Airport took second shots at the proposal this week.

About 60 people turned out Monday night for a second hearing on a draft environmental impact report prepared for the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority on the controversial plan to build a new, larger terminal. The proposal is opposed by the City of Los Angeles, a number of Los Angeles-based political leaders and coalitions of San Fernando Valley homeowner groups, who protest that it will increase aircraft noise.

Of the speakers, 19 opposed the plan and three voiced support.

Representatives of Los Angeles City Councilmen John Ferraro, Joel Wachs and Ernani Bernardi read their statements opposing the plan.


Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky and representatives of Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), state Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), Supervisor Ed Edelman, Mayor Tom Bradley and City Councilman Michael Woo had voiced opposition at an earlier meeting.

Ferraro’s statement warned that “a volatile adversarial storm is brewing” over the terminal plan between Los Angeles and the cities that own the airport. Bernardi’s message argued that jetliners routinely leave the airport half full, so the same number of passengers could be carried by half as many flights.

The plans call for a 285,000-square-foot terminal in two buildings, more than twice the size of the existing buildings, with 18 boarding gates instead of the present 14. The terminal would be capable of handling a projected 7.3 million passengers annually, more than twice the 3 million counted last year, and 92,270 takeoffs and landings a year, almost double the 50,827 registered last year.

The public-comment session was the second held by airport commissioners.


Although state and federal environmental laws require only one public hearing on the draft of the environmental impact report, the commissioners voted to hold a second one, responding to widespread calls from opponents for more time to prepare rebuttals.

The deadline for written comments was extended from Dec. 1 to Jan. 15.

One of the parties asking for more time was the City of Los Angeles, which complained that the draft report was too “technical and complex” for analysis within the original 45-day review period.

The Los Angeles city government has been calling on the Burbank Airport commissioners to adopt a “share-the-noise” plan, which would route departing jetliners to the east, over the three cities that own the airport.


Now, almost all jetliners take off toward the south and circle to the west and north, over Los Angeles neighborhoods in the eastern Valley.

Airport administrators argue that the possibility of such a plan is included in a federally funded noise study, but that the airport is powerless to enforce such a rule. Decisions on directions of takeoffs are made by pilots, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration’s control tower, because the federal government has preempted jurisdiction over planes in flight, they argue.

Pilots choose to take off from the runway toward the south because it is longer, runs downhill, usually has more advantageous winds and faces away from the Verdugo Mountains, which confront an eastbound plane immediately after takeoff.

Several anti-noise protesters suggested at Monday night’s hearing that most commercial flights now using Burbank Airport be moved to Palmdale Regional Airport, with Burbank Airport becoming a parking lot and station for a “bullet train” to the airport in the desert.


Tom Patterson, representing a coalition of East Valley homeowner groups, told airport commissioners that the group has hired its own noise consultant, “and we’re going to bury you with the truth, that in fact the noise is not getting better, it’s getting worse.”

Gerald Silver, a longtime leader of airport noise protests who said he was speaking for a new coalition of more than 20 homeowner organizations from throughout the Valley, called for the terminal plan to be scrapped and replaced with a plan that would prevent additional traffic from the airport.

Harry Berg of Sepulveda, a private pilot who was one of the few defenders of the proposal, criticized Los Angeles for its continued refusal to accept invitations to join the airport authority and share power and responsibility with the other three cities.

“Los Angeles didn’t have the guts to join and take the heat, so now they send guys down to beat you about the head and shoulders for doing a good job,” he told the commissioners.


Four of the nine Burbank Airport commissioners attended the meeting. Robert Garcin, the authority’s president, was absent, recovering from surgery.

In a related action, a Los Angeles City Council committee voted Friday to oppose a variance from state noise standards for Burbank Airport unless the authority agrees to shift half its takeoffs away from East San Fernando Valley neighborhoods.

The Intergovernmental Relations Committee instructed the city attorney to present the city’s position on the variance at a Feb. 8 hearing before a state administrative law judge.

“Aircraft operations at this airport have continuously subjected the citizens of the northeast San Fernando Valley to severe noise disturbances primarily because of the inequitable distribution of departures,” a committee resolution said.