By Chad Garland, Los Angeles Times
November 19, 2015
Nearly two-dozen residents spoke Monday night during a Burbank City Council meeting, where elected officials voted to endorse a set of proposed terms that would apply to the development of a gate-for-gate replacement terminal at Bob Hope Airport. The current terminal has 14 gates.
(Courtesy of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority)
“Fourteen gates means 14 gates,” said Frank Quintero, president of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority board, promising the council and the public that airfield officials would not seek to expand the airport any further.
The airport authority had endorsed the terms earlier this month, along with a measure to initiate an environmental study considering multiple alternatives for the new terminal building — including not to construct it at all.
Airport officials want the new terminal, which would be a safer distance from the runways, to have larger waiting areas and offer modern amenities.
The mutual endorsement of the terms, which are nonbinding and lay out the foundation for legal documents and other staff work in the coming months, is a sign of progress for the two governmental bodies, which have been at odds over the proposed terminal project for years and had reached a stalemate in negotiations earlier this year.
Despite the fact that there have been multiple public meetings on the matter during the past two years — including three prior meetings in the past month where the outlined terms were made public and at least two where public comment on the items was received — the Burbank residents who showed up Monday complained that the council had sought no public input.
Several of the speakers expressed confusion over items on the term sheet, an eight-page outline of conditions for any terminal-project development agreement, which would not only need the agreement of the city and airport, but would require a public vote under Measure B, which was passed by Burbank voters in 2000.
For example, the term sheet states that the terminal will not have more than 14 gates, and the authority will continue to enforce noise rules as it does now, while also supporting a mandatory nighttime curfew.
Another section states that a “super-majority” of the airport authority board could change any of those positions.
“This is how you get to that,” said Councilman Will Rogers, explaining that the authority board can change those positions now with a simple majority of any five of nine commissioners, but the super-majority requirement would mean that if two Burbank commissioners voted against such changes, they could block them.
Quintero said he prefers to think of it as a veto power for Burbank on issues related to the airport’s impacts on the city’s residents, who would bear the brunt of those effects compared to residents in the authority’s other two cities.
Some speakers complained that one proposed condition would allow the cities of Glendale or Pasadena to conduct building inspections of the new terminal in place of Burbank inspectors, which city officials said is not an uncommon practice. The inspections would be conducted according to Burbank’s building code, City Manager Mark Scott said.
The airport authority sought the condition for fear that Burbank could hold up the construction process by “nickel and diming” the authority with petty concerns, Rogers said.
Members of the public also complained of anticipated impacts, such as increased traffic, aircraft noise and the loss of the existing terminal, which is expected to be razed when the replacement terminal is built.
An environmental study, which was started in 2013 but stalled when the council and airport officials reached an impasse in the summer of 2014, will evaluate those impacts. It will include a review of two alternatives that would leave the existing terminal as-is.
A public informational meeting will kick off work on the study tonight. It is slated for 6 to 8 p.m. in the Burbank Community Services Building, 150 N. Third St.
Officials said the study is just one of many activities moving forward that will provide opportunities for public input, along with, for example, hearings on whether or not to authorize bonds to fund the new terminal, which is expected to cost $400 million, mostly paid for through fees charged to passengers.
Paul Dyson, a member of the city’s transportation committee, said the discussion should focus on the building, not the number of flights or passengers or the amount of noise, which could all increase even at the existing terminal, where there is capacity for more planes and a greater number of passengers than the airport handles currently.
Many of the residents who came to the council meeting had been apparently motivated by a flier distributed throughout some Burbank neighborhoods, and which Vice Mayor Jess Talamantes said contained “not even half-truths.”
The postcard-like flier, bearing the logo of the community group Save Burbank Neighborhoods, was a scare tactic, some council members said.
It proclaimed a “Flight Path To Deception,” threatened more planes, traffic and noise, and stated, “City Council plans to eliminate legal protections by giving them away to unelected airport bureaucrats.” It called on residents to urge council members not to support the proposed terms for the terminal project.
The flier also claimed that the document “was drafted without any public input,” despite the fact that members of the group had been at meetings where earlier drafts of the terms were made public and discussed, such as a special Sunday council meeting on Feb. 8.
The city released the latest version to the public nearly a month ago, soliciting input.
Rogers, who lives under the airport’s flight path, said he had sought for a year to meet with the group to discuss the airport issue. He said he was “frustrated and a little bit angry to be so impugned by people who are my neighbors and I have literally gone to your doors — literally gone to your doors — to talk to you about this.”
Burbank resident Mike Moynihan, who said he was at the council meeting in February and who is active with Save Burbank Neighborhoods, said “obviously we don’t understand [the terms] completely,” but he defended the flier, calling its contents merely “opinions.”
He said he planned to congratulate his friends, the flier designers, for getting so many residents to the meeting.
Moynihan said he had heard from some public commenters that they felt intimidated after council members had chided them over their misinformed critiques. Talamantes, however, said he had lost some respect for the organization as a result of its misrepresentations.
Stepping down from the dais and walking into the audience during the meeting, Mayor Bob Frutos said the progress on the terminal project stalled last year because the Burbank officials were seeking greater protections for the city than airport officials were willing to give at the time. The proposed terms endorsed this week provide those added protections, he said.
“I am trying very hard to do what’s right, not just for today, but also for the future,” Frutos said.
Los Angeles Times On November 19, 2015