Rebuffed by two straight gubernatorial vetoes, Los Angeles County officials have abandoned legislative efforts to exempt the county from a law aimed at controlling growth around all airports in California.
Rather than continue their fight against the law, county officials began meeting last week with representatives of 39 cities to begin work on developing land-use plans for property surrounding airports.
Under current law, local planners must fashion comprehensive land-use plans to ensure that development around airports--including Los Angeles International Airport and those in Santa Monica, Torrance and Hawthorne--are compatible with flight safety and noise control regulations.
Last year, former Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed a bill that would have exempted Los Angeles County from devising such plans for its airports. His successor, Gov. Pete Wilson, vetoed a similar measure earlier this month.
John Huttinger, a county planner, said that in light of Wilson’s veto, “we have no choice” but to meet a Jan. 1 deadline for formulating the land-use plans for the county’s airports.
Huttinger said Thursday that it was too early to tell how specific airports, such as Santa Monica, would be affected by the law.
Such plans have been required by the state for two decades. But as of 1990, plans had been completed for only about half the state’s 269 airports. And in Los Angeles County, none of the 17 airports open to the public were covered by plans.
So, the Legislature put teeth into the law, compelling Los Angeles and other counties to finish the plans. Under the 1990 changes, if an airport does not have a plan, many construction projects--some as far away as two miles from airports--would need approval from a regional planning agency, as well as local governments.
In Los Angeles County, the Regional Planning Commission was given the job, triggering complaints from cities that they should have more representation on an agency that would decide local planning disputes.
The deadline for the commission to comply with the law was originally June 30, 1991, but the Legislature extended the deadline for Los Angeles County to Jan. 1, 1992.
Taking advantage of the extra time, the county sought to win a permanent exemption for itself.
In vetoing the latest bill by Sen. Newton R. Russell (R-Glendale), Wilson argued that airport land-use plans “are a useful tool in protecting the general public from the noise and safety hazards of airports, and to protect the aviation community and airports from encroachment by inappropriate land uses. These plans allow local officials to balance competing values without direct state intervention.”
Wilson invoked some rather tough language in criticizing Russell’s bill, saying, “Los Angeles County has already been granted one extension, but unlike other counties has made virtually no attempt to complete or adopt the plan within the required time.”
He concluded his message by saying that the law “should not be ignored any longer by Los Angeles County.”
“Basically, the governor said we had to do it,” said Huttinger, the county’s assistant administrator for advanced planning.
In pushing the Russell bill, county officials had argued that airport land-use plans duplicate local general plans and strip cities of authority to oversee local development.
Officials representing cities in the county, meanwhile, were upset that the Legislature designated the Regional Planning Commission as the airport planning agency for the county. City officials have said that the commission lacks the staff to handle the workload involved in the task and is less responsive than cities to local conditions.