Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) prepared the following remarks for the City of Los Angeles Planning Department's public hearing today regarding the LAX Specific Plan Amendment Study Draft Environmental Impact Report (SPAS Draft EIR):
I appreciate the willingness of the Department of City Planning to convene this public hearing and listen to the concerns of the community regarding plans to modify and expand Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). However, I share the concerns of the community regarding the timing of this hearing. The public comment period on the LAX Specific Plan Amendment Study Draft Environmental Impact Report (SPAS Draft EIR) was just concluded in October, and the Board of Airport Commissioners has yet to vote on a preferred alternative.
The staff of Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has recommended to the Board of Airport Commissioners a combination of Alternative 1, which involves moving the northernmost runway 260 feet farther north, and Alternative 9, which involves ground transportation improvements, including the construction of a consolidated rental car facility and an automated people mover. While there is broad support in the community for the ground transportation improvements, there is overwhelming opposition to Alternative 1. I joined with leading individuals and organizations in the community in opposition to Alternative 1 and in support of Alternative 2, which does not involve moving the runway. There is still time for the Board of Airport Commissioners to listen to the concerns of the community and recommend Alternatives 2 and 9 -- rather than Alternatives 1 and 9 -- to the City of Los Angeles before the Department of City Planning will be required to consider LAWA's proposal.
I have always been deeply concerned about issues related to LAX during my career representing what is now the 43rd Congressional District, which includes LAX. I have always been committed to balancing the needs of the airport with the needs of the surrounding community. LAX is an important economic engine and a job creator for my entire congressional district, but it is also
responsible for a significant amount of noise, air pollution and traffic congestion for everyone who lives nearby.
When LAWA proposed a huge airport expansion plan that would have exacerbated these problems back in 2002, I opposed the plan and introduced the Careful Airport Planning (CAP) for Southern California Act (H.R. 5144), which would have capped LAX traffic at 78 million passengers a year and prevented LAX from expanding beyond its current capacity. The bill would also have promoted a regional approach to airport development in Southern California, with an emphasis on community determination and economic opportunity.
Following the proposal of Alternative D in 2003, I submitted testimony on the proposed LAX master plan. My testimony opposed Alternative D on the grounds that it would demolish homes and disturb communities without improving the safety and security of LAX.
In 2005, I joined together with the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC) to support the election of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa after Mayor James Hahn broke his pledge to ARSAC by supporting LAX expansion.
In 2007, I introduced the LAX Community Safety Act (H.R. 2872). This legislation would have prevented LAWA from moving the northernmost runway farther to the north. At that time, I warned that relocating this runway farther to the north would have increased noise, air pollution, and other environmental impacts on residents, schools, churches, and businesses in the communities to the north and east of LAX.
In 2010, a joint panel between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and academic experts studied the airport's configuration and concluded, "The North Airfield of LAX is extremely safe under the current configuration." I welcomed this conclusion, as did Westchester residents, many of whom could have been forced to leave their homes if the runways had been moved.
Throughout the past decade, I have had the pleasure of working with a variety of individuals and organizations in the community on airport issues. I worked closely with ARSAC, under the leadership of attorney Valeria Velasco and with the valuable input of El Segundo Mayor Mike Gordon, since deceased, to propose alternatives to LAX expansion. I continue to value the perspectives of Denny Schneider, the current president of ARSAC; Cindy Hench, Westchester/Playa Neighborhood Council President; Craig Eggers, the Chair of their Airport Relations Committee; Sheila Mickelson, President of the Westchester Democratic Club; Terry Marcellus of the Westchester/Playa Airport Relations Committee; and many others, too numerous to mention, as we all try to preserve good jobs in the neighborhood of LAX, mitigate the harmful impacts of airport operations, and balance the needs of LAX with the needs of the community. Ultimately, we are all interested in ensuring the safety of our families and the flying public.
We respect the fact that LAX is an economic engine for the Southern California region, and we recognize that LAX is important for job creation and economic opportunity. We also respect that LAWA officials and LAX employees work hard every day to ensure the safety and security of the airport. We work with LAX whenever we can to support the needs of the airport, and to make certain that LAX continues to create good jobs and encourage people around the world to come to Southern California for business and for pleasure.
I have met with Gina Marie Lindsey and heard her perspective as the C.E.O. of LAWA. I met with Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, whose primary concern is job creation. I have always been a big supporter of organized labor, and I respect the fact that our positions may differ on this issue. I have also met with Alan Rothenberg, the past president of LAWA's Board of Airport Commissioners, who is heading up a coalition of business leaders, including the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, who would like to ensure that LAX can accommodate an increased volume of the large Airbus A380 aircraft.
Despite the good intentions of all of these persons and entities that support and deem a move of the northernmost runway 260 feet farther north as a positive and productive enhancement to our world class airport -- I respectfully disagree, and I continue to support the leadership and sentiments of the people who live and work in the surrounding community.
My first priority is ensuring an excellent quality of life for the residents that have worked so hard for so long to protect this community from being overrun and endangered by the intrusion and expansion of LAX into our neighborhoods. The bottom line is that the businesses and families of Westchester, Playa del Rey, Inglewood, El Segundo, Lennox, Hawthorne and South Los Angeles have to live every day with the noise, air pollution, and traffic congestion caused by LAX operations.
Therefore, let the record clearly reflect that I join once again with other leading individuals and organizations in support of Alternative 2, combined with Alternative 9, and in opposition to any other alternatives. Let the record also reflect that I urge the Department of City Planning to hold additional public hearings on this matter after the Board of Airport Commissioners has voted on the SPAS Draft EIR and designated a preferred alternative and before the Department of City Planning decides whether to accept the Board's preferred alternative.