(5:30 p.m.) Be careful what you ask for, especially as it affects the Long Beach Airport Noise Ordinance.
In an effort to appease some residents whose only goal is to shut down the airport, three councilmembers are throwing another hitch into plans to maximize the facility’s economic potential. But it could backfire. What they may end up doing is forcing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to tell city officials it has had enough tinkering with the ordinance.
The ordinance is the result of a court-approved compromise among the city, airlines and the FAA nearly 25 years ago. Only a handful of cities in the U.S. are fortunate enough to have local control of their airport and to dictate the number of flights. That control is based on the amount of noise – not the number of takeoffs and landings – generated by all flight operations at the airport (except military, which are exempt). It’s a delicate balance that the city has been able to maintain.
The primary way for the FAA to step in and ask the courts to void the noise ordinance is if the city is perceived as being unreasonable in dealing with the airlines and the air transportation system.
Two years ago, JetBlue requested that the city allow international flights at the airport. After many months passed, councilmembers requested a study on whether a customs facility was feasible. In January, the city council retained Jacobs Engineering to conduct a “Feasibility Study for a Federal Inspection Service Facility at Long Beach Airport.” The study, released a month ago, concluded that a customs facility could move forward.
Now Councilmembers Al Austin (8th Council District), Roberto Uranga (7th District) and Daryl Supernaw (4th District) are asking at tomorrow night’s city council meeting that the airport develop a master plan before any other action is taken. This, of course, is a further attempt to derail efforts to allow international flights.
The Jacobs Engineering study concluded in part that: “The Noise Ordinance balances the environmental, social, economic, and legal concerns of the community and the Federal regulatory requirements for a safe, efficient, and financially sustainable national plan of integrated airport systems. . . . The Noise Ordinance is among the most stringent in the United States and has been emulated by airports worldwide, positioning the City as an industry leader in airport noise mitigation. . . . The Noise Ordinance does not restrict the destination of flights departing from LGB, nor does it restrict the origin of flights arriving at LGB. The Noise Ordinance limits noise rather than flight activity.”
Jacobs draws a very strong conclusion that allows the city to move forward in developing the customs facility, and it is a statement that the FAA can point to, if necessary, to slap the city’s hand. We encourage councilmembers to reject any more efforts to stall improvements at the airport.