As Long Beach Airport Feasibility Study Nears, Council Votes for Timely Discussions

 

Residents questioned Jacobs Engineering Inc. representatives during a March meeting inside the Long Beach Gas and Oil auditorium. Photo by Jason Ruiz.

As the completion of the feasibility study to determine if an international terminal at Long Beach Airport is something that could or should be installed nears to an end, the Long Beach City Council wants to ensure that a review of the findings by the public will be given an ample window of time. In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the council voted to post the findings to city websites at least 15 days prior to the topic's return to the chambers for a full discussion.

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Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., the Texas-based firm that won the bid to carry out the study, is expected to conclude its work and present its findings by mid-September. Several council members signed on to support the item, which also includes hosting a formal community meeting before it is placed on the agenda for a council meeting. This inclusion was made to help clarify questions that could lead to hours of public questions, as has been the norm in past airport discussions.

The decision to commence the study at all came after several months of study sessions and council deliberation before finally being approved. Eighth District Councilman Al Austin, whose district lies within the takeoff path of LGB, said that providing room for discussion meant the council was simply adhering to the will of the people.

“When we had the community meetings prior to the consultants actually initiating the study, we heard loud and clear from the community that this was something that they wanted,” Austin said.


 

The meetings Austin referenced were held in March and April of this year and reflected the emotions swirling around the feasibility study and the possibility that an international terminal could be headed to Long Beach. The first meeting quickly turned to into an interrogation of sorts of the Jacobs representatives by the public, with questions of how the firm was going to account for increased noise and pollution at the airport and the possible introduction of international terrorism to the city.

Steven Peters, the project manager for Jacobs, presided over those meetings and said that while potential issues like increased traffic would be part of the scope of study for the firm, pollution would be addressed by an additional environmental impact report that would be carried out if the city determined to move forward with the project. However, Peters noted at the time that the study would be bound by the city’s noise ordinance, which places limits on daily noise levels and severely limits noise occurrences between the hours of 10:00PM and 7:00AM.

“One of the givens of the study is that the noise ordinance constrains the operations at the airport so nothing at the study would take into consideration an action that would imperil the noise ordinance,” Peters said. “The noise ordinance is a given.”

Once the study is completed, it’s scheduled to first cycle through the city’s airport advisory and economic development commissions, as well as another public meeting, before coming back to the council. That time table troubled some on the council, as the potential for at least one council meeting to be cancelled before the end of the year—the November 8 meeting date falls on the night of the presidential election—could push this discussion into the holidays.

“I wanted specifically a short time frame so we don’t hit the holiday season,” said Fourth District Councilman Daryl Supernaw, author of the item.


 

City Manager Pat West assured the council that special meetings can be called by both commissions, in an attempt to truncate the time table before it comes to the council.

Austin though, a longtime critic of the efforts by the airport's main tenant, JetBlue, to get an international terminal built at LGB, said that patience was important, as the findings of this report will help determine an important and divisive decision for the city.

“I appreciate that we’re looking to proceed with caution and involve our advisory groups in the process,” Austin said. “There’s no need to rush; I don’t think it’s in the interest of the city to do that.”



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