Firm approves new screening facility

CITY HALL — In a bid of support to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, an airport design firm has backed a new baggage-screening facility that critics contend violates Burbank’s development agreement.

Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell’s decision approving plans for the facility moves the project one step forward.

The city hired the firm two weeks ago to look into whether the project meets federal aviation security requirements, and whether it satisfies terms of the airport’s 2005 development agreement with the city, City Atty. Dennis Barlow said.

The Community Development Department plans to issue its decision today on whether the project meets those terms, and residents have until Nov. 26 to appeal the decision, Principal Planner Michael Forbes said.

“While the question is complex and requires a detailed examination of a number of technical and legal sources, the application is for a project that is consistent with the development agreement,” according to a memorandum from Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell that was released Monday.

The issue hinged on whether the new facility breached the development agreement Burbank and Bob Hope Airport agreed to in 2005 to govern against terminal expansion.

“This confirms what we’ve thought all along about this project,” Airport Authority Commissioner Charlie Lombardo said.

“It’s for passenger safety and convenience.”

City officials held a public meeting Monday night to announce the firm’s findings.

Airport Authority Executive Director Dios Marrero extolled the virtues of the proposed $8-million to $10-million 4,500-square-foot facility that would house a new, $2.5-million computerized baggage inspection system for Terminal B.

“This is something I fundamentally believe is an improvement to the community, to public safety and to security,” he said. “We believe this is serious and is intended to be a good thing.”

Members of the business community also rose in support of the project.

“Safety is the primary issue,” Burbank Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Gary Olson said.

“All precautions necessary must be in place to assure that baggage is screened properly. Security has to take precedence over concerns that the airport is expanding.”

Concerns over airport expansion are what brought many out to the meeting.

Stan Hyman, a Burbank resident who lives three miles from the airport, is concerned that the facility flies in the face of the development agreement.

“By disregarding the development agreement, theoretically they could build whatever they want,” he said.

“Who’s to stop [them] from building a second story? The development agreement is useless if they agree to this.

“The city is willing to give up the protections we have from expanding the terminal.”

If plans are not approved, the airport could lose the new equipment, said Dan Feger, the airport’s deputy executive director.

“The authority is committed to . . . house this $2.5-million investment.” he said.

“Otherwise the [Transportation Security Administration] will take it elsewhere.

“This allows for a more rapid assessment of what’s in people’s bags. Opening bags in the lobby takes time and exposes people to potential hazards. This will allow for a much more sophisticated analysis. We all benefit from having a better inspection of those bags.”

The impetus for building a new facility hinged on whether the airport received a mandate to do so from the Transportation Security Administration.

The development agreement requires that a permitted terminal expansion project be explicitly mandated by the security administration, Barlow said.

“The report concludes that the proposed improvements are necessary to meet a federal or state mandate that cannot be accommodated within the existing footprint of the terminal,” he wrote in a memorandum Monday.

Barlow referred to a letter from the security administration as a mandate.

In a July 31 correspondence, then-Assistant Federal Security Director Blanca Morales said the current space in Terminal B allotted for security is “inadequate,” and that Burbank is being considered for a new baggage-screening device.

Burbank resident David Piroli, who attended the meeting, was asked if the letter amounts to an explicit mandate.

“No, it doesn’t,” he said. “[Morales] very specifically . . . says Burbank is being considered for equipment. How do you go from being considered to being mandated? The two words don’t gel together.”


 JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers City Hall and public safety. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@ latimes.com.

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