The Los Angeles City Council signed off Wednesday on a settlement that resolves ongoing litigation from a group representing residents who live near Los Angeles International Airport and indefinitely defers a project to move a runway closer to the Westchester and Playa del Rey neighborhoods.
Under the settlement, approved by the City Council on a 14-0 vote, LAX officials must implement a series of safety measures for the existing north airfield, which include upgrading, removing or adding various taxiways; widening runways; and installing lights and signals, according to David Graham- Caso, and aide to City Councilman Mike Bonin.
The Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion sued the city in 2013 to stop the north airfield project, which calls for relocating the runways 260 feet closer to residential neighborhoods.
The group’s representatives said they support other parts of LAX’s $4.8 billion modernization plan, but airport and other city officials had insisted on keeping the north airfield relocation project in the larger plan, saying it was necessary to improve safety.
Under the agreement approved Wednesday, the alliance has agreed to not sue or take other actions that would delay, stop, prevent or change various projects, such as the rental car facility and an automated people mover, from moving forward at LAX.
Denny Schneider, president of the alliance, said during an announcement of the tentative agreement last week that it is a “win-win” for passengers at LAX and the airport’s neighbors.
“For years, we had to fight the airport to ask that they act like a good neighbor, but this is a new day for Westchester and Playa del Rey,” he said. “I am thrilled that we are not only keeping the runway where it is, but that our neighborhoods are getting some great benefits out of this agreement.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week that the city’s “goal in this process has always been to reach a compromise that helps us strengthen and enhance the Westchester and Playa del Rey communities while pursuing a world- class modernization of LAX.”
“After years of hard work, I am proud that we have reached this tentative agreement together,” he said.
The agreement also includes promises by Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that operates the airport, to assist with the funding for parks and recreation areas on vacant airport sites north of LAX, and to allow Neilsen Park to continue to be used by youth sports leagues and children in the neighborhood.
Mike Bonin, who joined community groups during his election campaign in opposing the north airfield relocation project, declared last week, “We did it!”
“This proposed agreement would formalize our intent to modernize LAX in cooperation with local neighborhoods, and it is great news for Westchester, Playa del Rey and the millions of passengers who travel through LAX,” Bonin said.
“When I first ran for office, I promised to modernize LAX by prioritizing the projects on which there was broad agreement, like improving the terminals, connecting LAX to Metro, and common-sense safety improvements to the runways that didn’t move them north,” he said.
“This agreement would allow for those critical improvements to our airport and the surrounding neighborhoods, and would help make LAX the world- class airport and first-class neighbor that every resident of Los Angeles deserves.”
LAX will have up to three years to implement these changes, and will need to monitor the effectiveness of these safety measures for another three years, which means it could be as many as six years before LAWA can begin studying a project to relocate the north runway, under the agreement.
LAX will still need to follow any orders from the Federal Aviation Administration, including those that call for studying the north airfield relocation project or reconfiguring the runways, according to the agreement.
Deborah Flint, LAWA’s executive director, said the agency will “work to further improve the safety and operational efficiency of the north airfield.”
“This agreement is the path toward achieving these improvements and the major capital development and modernization of LAX,” she said.
—Staff and wire reports
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