By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Technically, the FAA signed off two years ago on a north runway redesign — the one encased in Hahn’s LAX plan. But with that plan tabled, all the agency can do now is await a new proposal from Los Angeles city leaders, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. “The FAA has been on record in stating that we believe the airport should do something to improve safety on the north airfield. But the airport has not yet presented us with a plan,” he said.
IF ANYONE FACES POLITICAL PERIL over the runway brouhaha, it is Rosendahl, the councilman who rode into office in 2005 on one big “anti” platform — anti–LAX expansion, anti–Playa Vista, anti-development in general. His effort to stop tenant evictions at Lincoln Place in Venice fell short. His push for a separate agency to extend the Metro Green Line to LAX just got squashed in Sacramento. A betrayal on the north runway could prove devastating for Rosendahl, who is up for re-election in two years.
Some Rosendahl supporters are hoping the proposal to move the runway northward by more than the length of a football field is just a bargaining chip, a gambit by airport officials to secure modest changes to the north runways. The thinking goes like this: By vigorously asking for 340 feet, LAX might persuade neighborhoods to accept a more modest northward shift of 100 feet.
But that theory began looking shaky last week. Appearing before the airport commission, Jim Ritchie, the LAX official in charge of long-range planning, hinted that the north runway parameters might need to be widened not by 340 feet but by 400 feet to accommodate the new jumbo A380 airplanes. Ritchie then suggested that moving it 546 feet — more than one-tenth of a mile — would satisfy international aviation standards.
If the airport commission — a group handpicked by Villaraigosa — becomes dead-set on moving the runway 340 feet, the only way to spare Westchester and Playa del Rey an increase in noise would be to move both those runways south. But to do that, the airport would need to demolish three major passenger terminals. And to demolish three terminals, LAX would quite possibly have to create a new airport facility near the 405.
Or to put it another way, they would need to resurrect the Hahn plan. So within five years, everyone would end up where they started.
Sooner or later, Villaraigosa will need to present his own LAX plan, one that modernizes the airport’s sad-looking facilities. The plan was originally supposed to reach the Los Angeles City Council by October 2008. Ritchie, the airport official, hinted that the new timetable could push into spring 2009 — right after Villaraigosa’s hoped-for election to a second, and final, term of office.
If that happens, the post-election Mayor Villaraigosa, now safe from voter retribution, would be able to push any LAX plan he wants without fear. When it comes to the airport, Villaraigosa learned from the mistakes of his predecessor.