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Debate on air easement

November 30, 2005|By By Mark R. Madler

City officials consider pending legislation regarding possible lawsuits concerning soundproofing.AIRPORT DISTRICT -- City officials are looking into getting Bob Hope Airport included in pending legislation that would no longer require homeowners to give up future rights to file a lawsuit against the airport in exchange for soundproofing of their homes.

If approved, the legislation would now just affect Los Angeles International Airport, although the Federal Aviation Administration has taken a position against the bill.

The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority will discuss a letter on Monday that outlines the administration's position.

"I don't believe the FAA would permit that," airport Commissioner Charlie Lombardo said. "You're opening up Pandora's Box then."

A letter from the FAA's chief counsel Andrew Steinberg to State Sen. Tom Torlakson warned that if the bill becomes law the administration would resort to legal action.

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"If the legislation impinges on airspace management, aircraft flight, or operations, it would as such be Federally preempted and unenforceable," Steinberg wrote Torlakson, chairman of the senate's Transportation and Housing Committee.

The State Assembly approved the bill in May, with Assemblyman Dario Frommer voting in favor, but the legislation has been inactive since August when it went to the Senate Rules Committee.

City Council members seemed unaware that the legislation was even being considered when it was raised by several residents at the Nov. 22 council meeting.

But despite its current stalled state, council members want the city to get in on it -- just in case.

"I, for one, would prefer that no one have to sign an aviation easement if we have an option when they are having their homes soundproofed," Mayor Jef Vander Borght said.

Although the letter from the FAA is from June it was not until last week the commission was provided a copy, Lombardo said.

The letter, however, was not enough to want to deter Vander Borght from keeping an eye on what happens with the bill or trying to get Bob Hope Airport included.

"If the bill can become active in a way that is legally plausible, we would support that," Vander Borght said. "If legally it's not feasible, there is no reason to attach our wagon to a battle that would be lost."

At the Nov. 22 meeting, the council asked staff to review the bill to see what could be done.

"It's critical as language moves forward to get involved, ask that author to incorporate protections for our own community if they are willing to consider it," Vice Mayor Todd Campbell said.

The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Gordon, who died a month after the Assembly approved it.

Bob Hope Airport spokesman Victor Gill characterized the bill as tied up with the politics involving Los Angeles International Airport and neighboring cities opposed to expansion at the airport.

The airport began its soundproofing program in 1989 with area schools and expanded to residences in 1997, Gill said. As of June 30, the airport provided soundproofing for 1,005 homes and had obtained 1128 aviation easements from property owners in an area where the average airport noise is 65 decibels or lower.

The soundproofing done by the airport and paid for primarily through federal grants must meet a standard of no interior noise higher than 45 decibels, Gill said.

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