A plane over Westchester heads to the north runway at Los Angeles International Airport.

The view from Kittyhawk Avenue in Westchester as an airliner comes in for a landing on the north runway at Los Angeles International Airport. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / July 25, 2012)

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved a $4.7- billion package of improvements for LAX, including a controversial plan to move the northernmost runway closer to neighborhoods in Westchester and Playa del Rey.

The vote was a defeat for community organizations and airport activists that have fought to halt the runway project, which they claim will lead to the expansion of Los Angeles International Airport and increase pollution, noise and traffic congestion in their neighborhoods.

Proponents heralded the decision as a signifcant step that will boost the local economy and further the transformation of LAX, which has received low marks from air travelers for decades.

With its City Hall chamber packed with advocates on both side of the issue, the council voted 10 to 3 to approve the proposed improvements and the environmental analysis of the projects. No votes came from Councilmembers Bill Rosendahl, Dennis Zine and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti.

The latest round of projects includes terminal additions, a consolidated car rental facility, an elevated people mover and a transportation center with links to light rail service.

The most controversial proposal is a $652-million project to move the northern runway 260 feet closer to neighborhoods to make room for a center taxiway -- an improvement that was added to the southern runway complex several years ago.

Proponents say the runway plan will increase safety and make it easier for the airport to manage the largest commercial jets, such as the giant Airbus A380, which now requires special handling when it arrives at LAX.

Opponents contend that less harmful options are available, and the planned move would not substantially improve safety or airport operations.

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Twitter: @DanielJosephWei

dan.weikel@latimes.com