ALPERN AT LARGE - Over the years, I've learned something about getting one's hopes raised prematurely, but new Mayor Eric Garcetti has shown that he says what he means, and he means what he says. And it's hoped that issues surrounding the economy, mobility and environment at LAX will really turn around, thanks to the bold appointments Garcetti just made at LA World Airports.
After having dealt with LA World Airports (LAWA) over the past decade in my efforts to promote a Green Line/MetroRail/LAX connection, it's pretty obvious that LAWA has been as insular and self-serving as the LADWP (more on that in my companion article in today's CityWatch) at the expense of not only its immediate Westside neighbors but of the entire Southern California region. The most recent and most distressing evidence of that persistent insular thinking was the misguided effort to ram the northern runways 100 yards north.
Which would not only ram LAX farther into Westchester, but certainly block or severely impact the critical Lincoln/Sepulveda Blvd. intersection and destroy I-405 alternative traffic arrangements that Westsiders, Valley and South Bay residents currently use as quasi-freeway lanes. And while I am aware that many, including the Times editorial board and the City Council don't give a rip about Westchester and the Westside (ain't it fun for the haters to watch Westsiders suffer?), the misery would not stop there.
I am also aware that the legally-agreed settlement of LAX and its neighbors to 78 million annual passengers (78 MAP) is one that isn't favored by many, including the Times and City Council and other Angelenos--either because of a desire to keep all the business in LA or because of a lack of environmental considerations (and quality of life considerations) that come with directing all of LA's traffic into one airport, no matter how inaccessible freeway traffic makes that airport.
And those not connecting the dots between a northern runway expansion and a violation of the 78 MAP just do not know how insular LAWA really is, and how the court cases from LAX's neighbors to the north and south will affect our City.
Furthermore, the lack of consideration for LAWA-owned Ontario Airport has potential economic, environmental and legal implications for the entire region, as air traffic continues to be consolidated at LAX to the detriment of Ontario Airport.
Orange and Riverside County residents want alternatives such as Ontario to exist, but self-serving airlines and an enabling atmosphere at LAWA has left prices high and airline flights few at Ontario, to the point where frustrated Inland Empire officials have also taken LA and LAWA to court in order to operate its own airport.
However, Mayor Garcetti's bold move to rein in LAWA (a move which he must also do to another insular LA City institution, the LADWP) came with a removal and replacement of 6 out of 7 airport commissioners, as well as a re-appointment of local Westchester resident and community leader Val Velasco.
The previous Airport Commission, and then the City Council, was unfortunately caught up in the unholy alliance of developers, contractors and trade unions who want jobs at the expense of proper long-term planning, and chose an unnecessary and overly expensive northern expansion of LAX coupled with a complete redo of the northern half of LAX.
Count me in as someone who wants jobs, but without lawsuits (particularly those lawsuits that have merit). Count me in as someone who wants LAX modernization, but without unnecessary destruction and devastation to our mobility and environment...and that sentiment is not only shared by Westsiders but every other environmental and community group who has weighed in on this matter.
Similarly, the atmosphere at LAWA (which clearly has been slow to evolve and adapt to our modern day) has brought it dragging (kicking and screaming?) to the table with a long-sought MetroRail/LAX connection, and is a problem that Metro is arguably years ahead of LAWA in addressing and confronting a problem that has vexed and still vexes commuters, tourists and LAX workers for decades.
In particular, the need to connect MetroRail and LAX is one that serves the needs of LAX workers--because LAX is one of the top ten employment centers in the region, and such a connection would benefit not only their lives but facilitate the growth of more jobs in the LAX, Sepulveda and Century Blvd. Corridors ...
... jobs that should also pay well, with an Independent Wage that allows restaurant and hotel workers the ability to afford their own health insurance and benefits, and with a decreased need for transportation costs and increased mobility that results from a quality transit system to serve the LAX region. That is an economic independence that should result from the enhancement of a dynamic pro-business atmosphere that allows greater employer/employee flexibility and empowerment to create first-rate middle-class jobs.
(I personally despise the term "Living Wage" because it implies that a government entity can tell an employer or employee how much a person can or should live on, while preferring the term of, and need to create, an "Independent Wage" because an employee should be able to live independently of the public dole and have the power to work hard at a wage that allows greater economic independence.)
A new Board of Commissioners, a duo of reinvigorated and properly planned LAX and Ontario Airports, and a first-rate MetroRail/LAX connection is just what our City needs to enhance its Economy, Environment and Quality of Life for all parties involved.
That, and the need to make it perfectly clear that the City of Los Angeles operates LA World Airports, and not the other way around.
Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for a moment of optimism at LAX. To those seven new commissioners (including returning commissioner Val Velasco), I wish you all the best, and it is my hope that you will first start moving your meetings to the evenings so that the grassroots can more easily partner with you and attend your meetings to create the first-class LAX we've always wanted.
Vol 11 Issue 66
Pub: Aug 16, 2013