Town hall meeting scheduled today on LAX runway project

Los Angeles International Airport's neighboring community and labor organizations are hosting a town hall Saturday in response to the L.A. City Council’s approval this week of a $4.76-billion renovation project, which includes a controversial plan to move the northernmost runway closer to homes in Westchester and Playa del Rey.

The town hall will “discuss the next steps towards addressing broken promises and the lack of accountability by airport authorities,” the coalition of neighborhood groups wrote in a statement.

The City Council voted 10-4 Tuesday to approve the renovation project, a defeat activists and community groups that have fought to halt the runway project. They say it will lead to an expansion of the nation's sixth-busiest airport and increase air pollution, noise and traffic congestion in their neighborhoods.

But proponents, including labor leaders, prominent businesspeople and civic groups, heralded the decision as a significant step that will boost the sluggish local economy and further transform LAX -- an aging 1960s complex that has received low marks from air travelers for decades.

"It's been a long, tough battle to get to this victory," said Alan Rothenberg, a former president of the city's airport commission and chairman of the Coalition to Fix LAX Now. "This has been the biggest hurdle to get over. Los Angeles World Airports has been careful to do everything right."

The runway approval, however, sets the stage for possible lawsuits that could threaten to delay or frustrate the modernization of LAX, much like the experience of Mayors Richard Riordan and James Hahn, whose ambitious proposals were halted by substantial opposition.

The most controversial proposal is the $652-million plan to separate the two northern runways by 260 feet to make room for a center taxiway -- an improvement that was added to the southern runway complex several years ago.

Supporters on the council said the modernization projects are needed to provide jobs and turn LAX into a world-class airport capable of handling the largest commercial jets, such as the giant Airbus A380, safely and efficiently. They said the effect of the runway separation would be reduced through mitigation measures and no homes or businesses would have to be condemned.

Although they support modernizing LAX, council members Jan Perry, Dennis Zine, Eric Garcetti and Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes LAX and nearby neighborhoods, voted against the proposals because they said the runway proposal would foster dramatic growth at LAX and further degrade surrounding communities.

Saturday’s town hall will be held at 1 p.m. at the Westchester Senior Center, 8740 Lincoln Blvd. in Los Angeles. 


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