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
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
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
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.