With one month before Mayor Richard Riordan leaves office, his city Airport Commission has drawn protests from City Council members about plans for eleventh-hour approval of leases at Van Nuys Airport, some of which involve supporters of the mayor.
The Airport Commission is set to decide three leases on its agenda on June 26, just days before Riordan leaves office June 30.
A citizens advisory council that normally reviews leases was not scheduled to hold its next regular meeting until July, but Coby King, chairman of the panel, said he decided late Thursday to call a special meeting this month to review the leases in response to concerns raised by members.
King had questions about one proposed lease, for new aviation uses on 5.8 acres of vacant land next to the Airtel Plaza Hotel on Valjean Avenue.
"The lease is a particular concern because it's a major parcel of prime undeveloped land at the airport next to the hotel, and there are concerns it will lead to a major expansion of jet operations and the process appears to be, if not rushed, substantially faster than may be prudent," King said.
Jerry Perenchio, a longtime supporter and confidant of Riordan's, has obtained documents necessary to bid. Perenchio declined comment through a spokeswoman.
A second proposal would award, without competitive bidding, a hangar lease to a firm partly owned by former junk bond dealer and Riordan-backer Michael Milken. The firm, MC Group, is a subtenant on the site.
"Neither Mike nor anyone from MC Group has asked the mayor to intervene in any way," said Geoffrey Moore, a spokesman for Milken. "We have gone through the normal process and complied with all the city's rules and regulations."
Stacy Geere, an airport spokeswoman, said competitive bidding is not required when a current tenant is extending use of a site.
She and Jessica Copen, of the mayor's office, denied that there is any attempt to fast-track projects for political purposes.
"There was no special rush," Copen said. 'The mayor had nothing to do with it."
The actions are consistent with the airport board's objective of efficiently using land, and no political motivations were involved, Geere said.
Councilwomen Cindy Miscikowski and Laura Chick, who both represent portions of Van Nuys, joined neighborhood leaders and business people Thursday in calling for delay on the 5.8-acre parcel on Valjean Avenue.
"It is absolutely absurd, for several reasons, to remotely consider giving approval to new leases at Van Nuys Airport at this time," Chick said.
No action should be taken before a new mayor and council members take office in July, Chick said.