With a unanimous vote at its November 1 meeting, the city council has requested that Long Beach Airport Director Jess Romo report back in 45 days on the process involved, the potential scope and the pros and cons of developing a long-range master plan for the airport.
“I’ve been concerned that it seems that when it comes to the Long Beach Airport, the city has been in a very reactive mode, responding to external pressures to pursue development objectives,” District 8 Councilmember Al Austin said at the meeting. “There is not a clear, articulated vision of the direction of where the city wants to see the airport going in the long term. And that has eroded confidence of many residents and impacted neighborhoods throughout the city that are truly looking at all the interests of all the stakeholders when it comes to the decisions affecting the airport.”
The idea for an airport master plan was first introduced to the council in February. However, the item proposed by Councilmembers Austin, Roberto Uranga and Daryl Supernaw was added to the November 1 agenda late, which had other councilmembers feeling left out of the process and members of the community viewing it as a tactic to delay these “external pressures.”
The greatest external pressure is the $347,000 feasibility study conducted by Jacobs Engineering to analyze whether the airport could accommodate a federal inspections facility and the impact it would have. The study concluded that the airport could accommodate the facility, thereby allowing airlines to use some of their allotted flight slots for international flights. However, some council and community members question the study’s data and how some of the figures were determined.
Fifth District Councilmember Stacy Mungo requested that the council receive and file the original motion and make a substitute motion in the future once several other report backs requested by the council had been fulfilled. Mungo pointed out that other 30-, 45- and even 60-day report backs have not been coming back on time, and city staff could better use their time finishing what has already been requested of them.
Mungo also asked Romo about his previous experiences with airport master plans. Romo recalled one master plan that was in the works at Ontario Airport, where he was director for some time. After four years and $2 million, the report was shelved and never completed. He also explained that a master plan is typically created for new airports or when planning to add capacity to an existing airport, and that a master plan could add risk to Long Beach Airport’s noise ordinance.
“I know that I stand with some of my colleagues,” Mungo said, “in that the number one priority is not to expand aviation at the airport but to maintain the balance that we have today and the quality of life that we have for our neighbors. That is a high priority. So at this time, in an effort to protect our neighbors and ensure that we do not increase the risk to the noise ordinance, I would like to receive and file.”
Austin restated that his revised motion was not for a master plan but for the council to be informed on what creating one would entail and how it would affect the airport and the community. Mungo then asked for the report back to be extended to a 60-day period. At the suggestion of Romo, the council settled on the 45-day time frame.
Romo is expected to report back to the council sometime before the end of the year.