Los Angeles World Airports' governing board has approved a resolution establishing the guidelines for the potential sale of L.A./Ontario International Airport to the city of Ontario.
The Board of Airport Commissioners agreed Monday to negotiate a letter of intent between LAWA and the Ontario International Airport Authority establishing terms that would result in LAWA divesting of ONT through a sale to OIAA. The board is asking that the deadline for the letter be no later than April 1.
The resolution includes ensuring that LAWA would not be financially responsible, that ONT would remain a commercial service airport, and that the sale would have a minimal impact on city employees. It also requests that the commissioners receive monthly updates on the process.
"The guiding concepts and principles are an initial road map for the terms of divesting ONT," said Gina Marie Lindsey, LAWA's executive director. "It's a solid place to start."
Steven Martin, the chief operating officer for LAWA, cautioned the Board of Commissioners that LAWA is setting up these guidelines so that if the airport is sold, it does not result in "falling into less-than-ideal financial condition." The goal is that the airport be operated so that it is self-sustaining and that LAWA is not "called on to bail it out."
He was referring to the original transaction between the two cities when Ontario could no longer afford to maintain the runways and opted to bring in Los Angeles to operate the airport.
If a sale were to occur, Martin told the commissioners that it would most likely be a long process starting with the letter of intent, which would also need approval by the Los Angeles City Council. From there, all the documents would have to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Martin warned that that could be the hardest hurdle and longest part of the process.
The remaining steps would be to ensure the Ontario International Airport Authority can fulfill its financial obligations and close the sale, Martin said.
LAWA's governing body, to date, has not endorsed any sale of ONT, but it is following the recommendations of the city administrative officer and City Council, commissioner Fernando Torres-Gil said.
"This wasn't anything we initialized or wanted. Circumstances put us in this situation," he said.
Michael Lawson, the president of the commission, reiterated that ONT is an asset of Los Angeles and that the governing body must negotiate in the best interest of the citizens.
In late September, Los Angeles' top administrator, Miguel Santana, urged Los Angeles and Ontario officials to begin negotiations.
Since Santana's recommendation, LAWA has been forthcoming about discussing negotiations with Ontario officials.
Ontario officials have been attempting to regain control of the airport from LAWA for four years, saying the agency has not done enough to reverse declines in passenger traffic.
On Monday afternoon, Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner said he agreed with what was outlined, adding it is exactly what Santana recommended in his report earlier this year.
But Wapner, who is also president of the airport authority, said ONT has been operating as a self-sustaining airport and that nothing would change under OIAA ownership.
"It certainly can't be managed any worse than it's been managed in the past," he said. Passenger traffic has declined to levels not seen in two decades.
Wapner said the authority, which is backed by Ontario and San Bernardino County, has the fiduciary means to handle ONT.
Wapner said he hopes in the new year the two sides will meet more frequently because the goal was to complete a deal before the end of 2012.
Reach Liset via email, call her at 909-483-8556, or find her on Twitter @DBOntarioNow.