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Judge approves land transfer

Paul Clinton

CIVIC CENTER -- What began with a shout ended with a whisper.

On Friday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ended two-and-a-half

years of legal wrangling by allowing Burbank Airport to acquire 49 acres

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of land once owned by Lockheed Martin Corp.

The hearing before Judge Carl West proceeded as expected for the three

parties with a stake in the outcome. The decision ends the aerospace

firm’s role in the airport’s drive to build a new terminal at Burbank

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Airport and transfers control of the process to the city.

The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority must now seek approval

from Burbank before it can acquire the additional 81 acres of former

Lockheed property, which it seized through eminent domain in June 1997.

That action set off an acrimonious civil trial over the value of the

130-acre former Lockheed property. On June 8, a Superior Court jury set

the land’s value at $86 million.

With additional costs, the airport has paid more than $100 million for

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the land.

“It’s one more step forward,” Burbank Airport Commissioner Charles

Lombardo said of the judge’a ruling. “It’s another step in the process.”

On Tuesday, the City Council -- which is scheduled to vote on the

airport’s proposal for a 14-gate, 330,000-square-foot terminal in April

-- laid the groundwork for Friday’s anticlimactic hearing by formally

approving the transfer of the 49 acres.

West had requested the approval, which came on a 4-1 vote, as a

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precondition for entering the verdict, officials said.

According to the state Public Utilities Code, Burbank must approve any

purchase of land by the airport for terminal expansion. Airport officials

have promised to leave the 49-acre parcel vacant until they hear from the

city.

The council also approved an updated escrow agreement that allows the

review process to move forward.

Tuesday’s council vote followed its Aug. 31 approval of escrow

agreements in which Burbank and the airport agreed to split the 130 acres

into two parcels.

“The deal has been structured so that the airport can’t do anything

with the property without the approval of the city,” said Peter Kirsch,

Burbank’s special counsel on airport issues. “The city is in the driver’s

seat.”

Councilman Bob Kramer, who supported the Aug. 31 agreement, was the

sole dissenter Tuesday. He said he didn’t want to give the airport any

land for a new terminal until he hears more public comment on the Aug. 4

Framework for Settlement. If approved, the historic agreement would end

years of feuding between the city and airport over expansion.

Kramer has pushed successfully for a public advisory vote on the

framework deal. That vote is likely to be be held shortly before a

decision by the council in April on the airport’s terminal application.

Other council members said Tuesday’s approval of the land transfer was

just one more important step in the city’s consideration of the airport’s

terminal.

“We’re going through that process,” Councilman David Laurell said. “We

are in a very precarious position right now.”


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