COMMENTARY Navigating through the ‘noise’ of a Long Beach Airport ordinance By Rae Gabelich Former 8th District Councilmember

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With so many family and work responsibilities on our plates it is easy to lose track of the big-picture items that are being considered by our Long Beach elected representatives.
In the past several weeks, they have agreed to move the $300-million civic center forward without due diligence on the possibility of a retrofit that could give taxpayers a huge savings.
They have accepted a $3-million Bloomberg grant to develop economic practices without first discussing the required $1-million city expenditure and what services will be compromised because of this obligation. Nor have the explanations of the who, what, where and how for citywide economic development needs been addressed. Will the entire city benefit from this project, or mainly downtown, which has been reinvented numerous times?
These two items could now be considered “old news.” Once the votes are cast, they move on to birthing the next big idea.
What I want to share with you is an item that will be coming to the Council on Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 4pm. Eighth District Councilmember Al Austin, along with 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga and then 4th District Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell requested a Long Beach Airport (LGB) noise ordinance study session to educate the new council members.
What is not included in this session is the JetBlue request made in early 2013 to city staff to build a customs facility (FIS) at LGB. This request has surfaced in over a dozen citywide publications since early 2014. All articles were from proponents of this project. The most recent article requests the business community and traveling public to show up en masse to support this development.
They all, including JetBlue, repeat the mantra of supporting our noise ordinance. That is not the issue when it comes to discussion of quality-of-life concerns within our residential communities. Let’s talk about the facts related to allowing this facility to be built.
The most immediate concern for us today should be the general aviation (GA) noise bucket. According to the most current GA annual equivalent, only 41 percent of their “noise bucket” is being filled. We see a substantial risk of the remaining noise allocation being used by international business and personal jet aircraft that falls into the GA category.
The March 2014 issue of a local publication wrote that Roland Scott, former chair of our Long Beach Airport Advisory Commission, said general-aviation pilots would be able to fly to nearby locations, where they may have summer homes, while fixed-base operators with international ties would not have to fly their executives through other regional airports, thereby saving them money.
For the “commercial flights” segment of our noise ordinance, we are at capacity. The ordinance allows a minimum 41 flight slots per day. JetBlue holds 32 of the 41 slots but has found a way to manipulate their commitment and since 2012 have flown instead 20 to 22 slots daily. That has given the impacted neighborhoods additional noise relief, but also a false sense of security.
Then there is the “commuter flights” category that allows 25 daily slots. In 2005, the City Council adopted the guiding principles (GP) for LGB that directed the airport staff to no longer market those slots (GP 9). Today there are no commuter flights in operation. They, of course, are available if requested.
Guiding principle 10, adopted by the City Council in 2005, states: Ensure that any improvements to LGB will preserve those neighborhoods negatively impacted by airport activity, protect the noise ordinance, support financial self-sufficiency of the airport and provide measureable economic benefits to the city, its residents and businesses, while protecting residents and local businesses.
Should this JetBlue customs endeavor be supported by our City Council, we could be exposed to doubling the GA noise and other quality-of-life impacts, the additional 20-plus flights that are not being utilized by JetBlue today and also the 25 commuter aircraft that could be driven by the international component.
The Nov.14, 2013 memo from former LGB director Mario Rodriquez states:
“Future revenues from an FIS will only serve to mitigate the cost of the facility and will not further enhance the Airport’s financial position.” (O&M costs identified to be approximately $850,000, according to a financial feasibility study that Rodriguez attached to his memo.) “Disincentives include not only increasing the Airport’s financial exposure but also increasing the exposure to international threats.”
This should be a concern to all families within our city, but most important to those residents living within the airport-impacted areas of Long Beach.
Please mark your calendars to join us on Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 4pm at the LGB Noise Ordinance study session [in Council chamber]. It will be a good review for those who were involved in the last airport go-round and the opportunity for new residents to learn just what the ordinance does and doesn’t do for us.
This will be the beginning of another period that will require public vigilance and participation. Your presence and your opinion will give direction to the current council members that “quality of life” issues for residents outweigh the razzle-dazzle of international flight status.
Stay involved. ß

Rae Gabelich

Rae Gabelich