No Expansion Seen at Van Nuys Airport : Preliminary Plan for Unused Land Calls for Development Unrelated to Aviation

Times Staff Writer

The first version of development plans for the vacant Air National Guard site at Van Nuys Airport does not call for an increase in aviation businesses that would bring more planes and jets to the airport.

Preliminary sketches, unveiled Wednesday night at a meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners, revealed four business park developments, with acreage divided between commercial, retail and industrial uses, as well as land for an air museum and park.

The initial recommendations represented a small victory for nearby homeowners who have long fought airport noise and a disappointment for aviation interests, who would like to see their businesses bolstered by increased aircraft operations.

About 400 people attended the meeting at the Airtel Plaza Hotel at Van Nuys Airport. The board ultimately will approve a master plan for about an 84-acre swath of land--the largest plot that probably will ever become available at the city-owned airport. It is located on the west side of the airport along Balboa Boulevard.

Although the development is in its preliminary planning stages and is more than a year away from final approval, it is mired in controversy. Nearby residents generally do not want the addition of any businesses that will generate aircraft noise and traffic.

Healthy Operations

Operators of nearby aviation-related businesses, such as flight schools, airplane repair shops, aircraft gasoline stations and hangar operators, want land designated for more of the uses that lead to busier airport operations. This, in turn, keeps their operations healthy.

Homeowner representative Donald Schultz called the plans "a breakthrough for the residents of this community" because they show that the airport commission has "finally realized that the community has had it with excess aircraft noise."

Before the meeting, Rick Voorhis, president of the Van Nuys Airport Assn., a coalition of aircraft businesses, decried the development plans because they do not include any studies to increase aviation businesses. He said his group will conduct its own study on this issue to present to the commission.

"As long as they are studying potential land uses, there is no justification for not looking into a plan that will maximize airport uses," Voorhis said.

Arguing Since 1985

The two factions have been arguing over airport land-use issues since 1985, when the Los Angeles City Council established the Van Nuys Airport Citizens Advisory Council, a group that has not ironed out differences of opinion on the development plan.

The only idea members have agreed on is that a portion of the land should be dedicated for use as an aviation museum and park. The plans presented Wednesday suggested various sizes for the museum and park, ranging from less than five acres to 33 acres.

In October, the airport board hired an Irvine-based consulting firm, P&D; Technologies, to conduct a four-phase, $632,000 master plan and environmental impact report on the site.

The Department of Airports will lease the site to developers. The study is intended to show what would be the most lucrative uses of the land, said William Shoenfeld, the department's deputy executive director.

The consultants were instructed to reserve only 16 acres of land for aviation uses. An airport department official said this land will be used to relocate an existing aviation business, Air Sources. This does not mean that any new general aviation business will be developed on the property, said Wallace Jeong, a department planner.

Airport officials said that because general aviation businesses have been in a slump for several years, it would not be feasible to develop the land for such uses.

"We are able to fulfill the demand for aviation uses right now," Jeong said.

Van Nuys Airport loses about $300,000 a year and is subsidized by landing fees charged at Los Angeles International Airport, officials said.

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