The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, despite opposition by its Burbank representatives, voted Tuesday to refer the city’s new passenger-terminal expansion plan to a mediation process that so far has succeeded mostly in frustrating all sides.
The authority, in its first opportunity to respond to the proposal announced by Burbank officials last week, voted 5 to 3 with one member absent in closed session to refer the issue to its mediation committee.
Authority President Joyce Streator said later that it was inappropriate for Burbank officials to publicly announce their plan, which proposes two additional terminal gates in return for a nighttime curfew and a 10% cap on additional flights, while mediators continued to work on a resolution to the bitter dispute over a larger terminal. Still, the proposal will be considered, she said.
“We intend to respond,” said Streator, a Pasadena city councilwoman. “We do feel they violated the [confidential mediation] agreement. But we want to resolve this.”
The three airport commissioners from Burbank, who are regularly outvoted by commissioners from Glendale and Pasadena, were concerned that the authority’s move would resolve nothing.
“To me, referring the matter to the mediation is just more of the same, which, unfortunately, has been nonproductive,” said Philip Berlin, an airport commissioner from Burbank. “This is an opportunity that the Airport Authority shouldn’t let pass.”
Berlin said a better response might have been setting up a meeting between the Airport Authority and city officials from Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena.
“I do feel that this is an opportunity to enter into an agreement to have the replacement terminal sooner rather than later,” Berlin said. “I am concerned that it’s going to be a ho-hum response from the airport.”
Ingolf Klengler and Margie Gee, the two other Burbank representatives on the nine-member airport commission, agreed that the proposal deserved a stronger initial response from the Airport Authority.
Many Burbank residents worry that a larger passenger terminal will lead to increased noise, traffic and pollution. But airport officials say the facility, which now serves about 5 million passengers a year, needs the terminal to accommodate demand and meet up-to-date safety standards.
The Burbank proposal, which city officials are calling the Burbank Airport 21st Century Plan, calls for a new terminal with 16 gates rather than the current 14. It supports a state-of-the-art passenger facility and tax-exempt financing for airport construction if airport officials agree to several conditions, including joint development of portions of the site not required for airport use.
The proposal, signed by the five-member Burbank City Council and the city’s three airport commissioners, also calls for the authority to agree that the terms could not be changed without unanimous consent of all three cities.
But the proposal already faces significant problems.
The Federal Aviation Administration must approve any airport limits on flights, and obtaining such approval is a lengthy and difficult process. Representatives of airlines using Burbank Airport, including Southwest Airlines, which serves about 64% of all travelers using the airport, said last week that the proposal was unacceptable.
And airport officials, in addition to emphasizing the difficulty of instituting curfews and caps on flights, expect a new passenger terminal to have at least 19 gates.
The authority’s mediation committee, which has no Burbank commissioners, includes commissioners Streator, Pasadena Mayor William Paparian and the authority’s immediate past president, Carl Raggio Jr. of Glendale.
Raggio said Tuesday that the Burbank proposal seemed to have no wiggle room.
Indeed, Klengler reiterated the city’s position that the proposal already contains significant compromises.
“We’re not looking to begin bargaining,” Klengler said.