City should reject proposed airport development pact

The relationship between the Burbank City Council and the public who

elected them has reached a new low over the proposed airport

development agreement. How are we to trust a City Council that makes

every effort to promote airport expansion by working out secret

agreements with the Airport Authority behind closed doors, while

denying our right to vote on airport expansion as promised by the

landslide passage of Measure B?

In 1999, the city entered into a trust agreement with the Airport

Authority after the City Council spent $14,000,000 of our tax dollars

in court, resulting in the state of California awarding the city of

Burbank land-use rights over the 131-acre B-6 property. The agreement

further required that the city and the airport sell the massive

property if they did not enter into a development agreement by May

2000, and they did not. The default document acknowledging the

failure was filed, although now there appears to be controversy that

this actually happened, and the document cannot be found at the

County Recorder's office.

That was four years ago. What has the city done to honor the

contact, while we waited for the B-6 property would be sold? On Oct.

3, 2001, without public knowledge, the city manager sent a letter to

the Airport Authority telling them not to pursue the sale of the

property in order to work "on a plan that would allow the Authority

to relocate the terminal onto the B-6 property". They met with City

Council members of Glendale and Pasadena to encourage them to oppose

the sale.

Now the city is considering a new development agreement that will

extend the trust agreement on the 131-acre B-6 property for 10 years,

as well as allow the airport to purchase an additional 29 acres of

property from Star Park, in exchange for the promise that the airport

won't build a new terminal building for 10 years.

Does a 10-year relief sound good? No way. In June, just a few

weeks before the "deal" was proposed, the FAA issued a report titled

"Capacity Needs in the National Airspace System," specifying that

additional capacity at Burbank Airport is not needed until the year

2013 or 2020. The deal expires just when the FAA predicts a need for

increased capacity, and the desirable B-6 property will be available.

Perfect timing for them. This deal gives the airport everything it

wants in the form of 160 acres of land for future expansion, and the

politicians can put the "deal" on their resume, but the residents of

Burbank get nothing but fewer restrictions, and potentially more

pollution, traffic and noise, and the loss of millions of dollars of

tax revenue from commercial use of the land.

As part of this deal, the airport wants to move a maintenance

vehicle parking lot onto the B-6 property to make room for a new

taxiway to "stack and pack" aircraft while waiting for a gate to

become available. Currently, aircraft immediately turn toward the

gates after landing because there is no place to "hold" an aircraft

at our small regional airport. The airlines respect this system by

carefully scheduling flights into Burbank only when gates will be

available. It is a self-restricting system that works to our benefit

to keep capacity at the current levels. If the taxiway is built, more

aircraft can "hold" on the taxiway, spewing lung-damaging jet exhaust

into our community and creating a dangerous situation with more

aircraft moving around on the ground.

The airport claims it needs the 29-acre Star Park lot on Hollywood

Way to enable it to move its rental car lot, which currently takes up

only an acre or two, directly adjacent to Terminal A. Besides an

unexplained need for so much land, it is obviously designed to free

up the area next to Terminal A for future expansion, when the need

coincides with the expiration of the "deal."

When questioned about these aberrations, the council repeatedly

changes the subject, and argues that the "additional protections" in

the form of rezoning of the Star Park lot make this a good deal for

Burbank. The Star Park lot is currently zoned industrial/commercial,

just like all of the surrounding land. As long as the airport does

not own the land, the city can control the zoning. We are told that

we have nothing to gain by selling the B-6, yet millions of dollars

in tax revenue available after the sale is ignored.

But wait, the council says there are more advantages! The council

has stated that if we enter into this new agreement, we may have

another chance at a curfew, because maybe, just maybe, a new FAA

director in 10 years might look on Burbank more kindly. This thinking

is irresponsible and incompetent at best, and is nothing more than

pursuit of political gain, and an excuse to keep the B-6 property

available.

The council tells us not to worry about airport expansion because

we have Measure B to protect us, but in the same breath, tells us

Measure B does not apply to the current planned expansion. Only

Councilwoman Stacey Murphy has the courage to publicly say that she

believes this airport expansion is "big" and therefore qualifies for

a vote, and recognizes this was the intent of the voters.

When the city filed suit to stop ROAR's Measure A from going into

effect, attorneys for the city argued that it was the intent of the

voters, and not the wording of the measure, that should be the

benchmark.

Certain council members are quick to argue that the wording of

Measure B only applies to a "terminal" and not other activities at

the airport, such as rental car lots and taxiways. Webster's

Dictionary defines the word "terminal" as "either end of a carrier

line (as a railroad or shipping line) with its handling and storage

facilities". It is important to note, that the definition is specific

to include "handling and storage facilities", and not just the

building where you check in. Look it up, folks.

This council presides over a city with great police and fire

departments and terrific city services for which they can be proud.

Council members have personally helped my neighborhood by working

with city of Los Angeles officials to prevent a zoning variation that

would have created a major parking and congestion problem, and for

that I am grateful. But airport expansion deals are negotiated behind

closed doors under the guise of safety and service needs. Our right

to vote under Measure B is conveniently and regularly interpreted to

favor airport expansion against the will of the voters.

Three council members are up for reelection in February. Concerned

citizens need to let them know that you expect them to do the jobs we

hired them to do, and represent the people of the city of Burbank and

not the airport, and to vote NO on the development agreement.

MARK STEBBEDS

Burbank

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