Friday, May 31, 2013 at 6 a.m.
Eric Garcetti did poorly in Westchester in the March primary, finishing third behind Kevin James and Wendy Greuel. But in the runoff, he came out against moving the LAX north runway. That changed everything.
Garcetti won 69% of the Westchester vote last Tuesday -- far outpacing his 54% showing citywide. Thanks to that one decision, Westchester became one of the most pro-Garcetti neighborhoods in the city. (In Silver Lake, his hometown, he got 73%.)
"He really really killed it," says Mike Bonin, the councilman-elect in the coastal 11th district. "Clearly Eric's decision on LAX resonated really clearly with people in Westchester and Playa del Rey."
Now that Garcetti has been elected, Westchester activists want their due.
Activists remember all too well that Antonio Villaraigosa also ran against airport expansion, only to change his mind once in office. They want to see concrete steps from Garcetti to slow down the project and show that he will stay true to his word during the campaign.
"I'm expecting there will be some changes in the management (of the airport)," said Denny Schneider, president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion. "Even though Antonio didn't meet our expectations, we have high hopes that Eric will."
Schneider said he and his allies will be forwarding some names to Garcetti for potential appointees to the Board of Airport Commissioners. He said he would also like Garcetti to "take a very hard look" at Gina Marie Lindsey, the airport's executive director.
Garcetti pledged during the campaign to require all of Villaraigosa's general managers to reapply for their jobs. No one expects him to get rid of Lindsey, and the expectation is that she would stay on at least through the end of 2014, when the new Tom Bradley International Terminal is due to be completed.
Beyond that project, airport officials are working on an ambitious modernization plan that includes rail access, a consolidated rental car facility and terminal improvements. The plan -- which the City Council approved last month despite Garcetti's opposition -- also entails moving the northernmost runway 260 feet to the north. The FAA has been pushing for the runway relocation for years, out of concern that the current configuration is outmoded and potentially dangerous. Moving the runway would allow larger planes to use the airfield more easily.
Schneider's group filed suit on Thursday to block that part of the plan, alleging that the environmental impacts have not been fully accounted for. Three other suits were filed making similar allegations. Westchester residents have for years been worried that moving the runway will encroach on homes and businesses.
In a statement, Garcetti's spokesman, Yusef Robb, reiterated that Garcetti is opposed to moving the north runway. Robb said that Garcetti has not reviewed the lawsuits. He also said that Garcetti will be looking for "airport leadership who can best help him develop a plan" that includes all the upgrades except the runway relocation.
"Mayor-elect Garcetti wants LAX to be a first class airport and a first
class neighbor, and wants to work with airport leadership committed to
the same," Robb said.
In her own statement, Lindsey said she looks forward to sitting down with Garcetti.
"There are critical decisions that need to be made, that will require a great deal of discussion and consideration," she said.
Garcetti did not sign a pledge opposing the runway relocation, and he may have left himself an out if new information comes up that changes his mind.
At last month's council meeting, Garcetti said that the airport should do the non-controversial items in its plan first, "and then come back and see what is left to be done."