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A walk in the parking lot

Ben Godar

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but at

the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport, walking that line is illegal.

Since the opening in January of Star Park, a private parking lot


just south of the airport’s property, airport officials have

restricted its sidewalk access to the airport. The airport installed

a chain-link fence, cutting off a crosswalk from the sidewalk to

Terminal B, and used a sandblaster to remove the paint marking the



A sign also was installed warning pedestrians that it is illegal

to cross there, and Airport Police are issuing citations to those who

try. Airport Security Chief Mike Post estimated his officers issue

two of the $90 tickets each day.

But what airport officials call a public-safety issue, the owners

of the Star Park lot call a blatant attempt to hurt their business.

Paul Casey, vice president of Zelman Development Co., said the


crosswalk was there for 60 years and was deemed a safety risk only

after Zelman opened its lot, which competes with airport-owned


“They’re trying to intimidate people to park on their property,”

he said.

When city officials looked at the crosswalk, which is controlled

by a stop sign, they did not rule it a safety risk, Traffic Engineer

Ken Johnson said. While it is at the airport’s discretion to regulate


intersections on its property, he said that in the city, it is legal

to cross any intersection that has stop signs.

“The safest place pedestrians could cross is at an intersection

that is controlled,” Johnson said.

Airport officials deemed the intersection unsafe after having it

evaluated by a contracted traffic engineer. While control of the

intersection did not change when Star Park opened, Post said the

higher volume of pedestrian traffic led airport officials to take

another look at the crossing.

“Even when the crosswalk was there, the people that crossed didn’t

use the crosswalk,” he said.

On the north side of the airport loop, many pedestrians cross the

same road on their way to Terminal A, but Airport Authority spokesman

Victor Gill said that side is regulated by traffic officers. Creating

similar high pedestrian traffic on the south side raises liability

concerns for the airport, he said.

“Once they cross into our traffic area, they’re not going to be

suing Star Park,” Gill said.

Airport Police distributed leaflets for two weeks, warning the

crossing would be closed, before officers began issuing tickets, Post

said. While Burbank and Glendale police also patrol the airport,

Glendale Police spokeswoman Officer Leticia Chang said the officers

are not assigned to the area of the former crosswalk.

Despite the warnings, many of the 200-plus Southwest Airlines and

Transportation Safety Administration employees who use the Star Park

lot have been ticketed, Parking Manager John Rodriquez said. He said

Airport Police patrol the area whenever those workers have a shift


Employees aren’t the only ones using Star Park. Elizabeth Adams,

from Huntsville, Texas, was making her first trip to the airport

Tuesday when she was ticketed. She promised it would also be her last


“They’ve got crosswalks at even busier places where cabs are

passing all the time, but that’s OK, apparently,” she said.

With the crosswalk closed, Star Park customers must board a

shuttle van and ride around the airport’s loop to a terminal that’s

only a block away from where they parked. Post said the only way for

the lot’s customers to legally walk to the terminal is by parking at

the far end of the lot and crossing where the airport access road

meets Empire Avenue.

The Airport Authority is not concerned that blocking the

pedestrian access adds to shuttle traffic in the loop, and Gill said

Star Park has the same shuttle access as other similar carriers.

Zelman is appealing court rulings that allowed the crosswalk to be

closed, and a lawsuit by the airport seeking to block the lot’s

shuttle access to the loop is pending. Airport officials were in

negotiations with Zelman to operate the lot, but Casey said that

three days after those talks broke down, the airport filed a lawsuit

trying to block the access.

“The airport doesn’t want people parking on our property because

it’s not their property,” he said.