Los Angeles International Airport does not need to move its northern-most runway 260 feet closer to the community of Westchester, area residents told staff members Tuesday night at a Los Angeles Planning Department public hearing.

The hearing, attended by roughly 400 people at the Proud Bird restaurant, comes as the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners moves closer to a vote on an airport staff-favored plan to separate two parallel runways. Airport staff and officials with the Federal Aviation Administration say moving the runways apart will improve safety, especially as more supersize jets continue to use the airport.

Some residents also told the Planning Department staff they were concerned with the viability of an airport plan to build a consolidated rental car facility and an automated people mover that would shuttle passengers around the airport.

But the big draw Tuesday night was the runway. Many residents say moving it closer to Westchester is unnecessary and will bring too much noise and pollution to their neighborhoods. They told planning staff they favor leaving the runway configuration as is, citing a recent academic study that concluded a change might not have much of a statistical effect on so-called runway incursions. Those speaking against runway separation included Rep. Maxine Waters, whose congressional district includes the airport.


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"I listen to the control tower every day," said Ronald Ross, 65, a Westchester resident. "There's a lot of safeguards. If they're worried about safety, I think that's garbage."

A handful of people at the hearing spoke in favor of the modernization plan.

The planning staff will put together a report for the city Planning Commission, the mayor and City Council. That report will be important only if the airport commissioners decide to adopt the runway configuration change. According to the City Charter, changes in long-term land use policies require Planning Commission review.

The Board of Airport Commissioners has not scheduled a hearing on the matter yet but will likely give residents a chance to give public testimony at a special meeting to be held in about a month, airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.

Diego Alvarez, program director for some of the airport's modernization plans, spoke with many residents before Tuesday's meeting and told them airport staff took their concerns into consideration when they recommended the 260-foot change. He said airport officials also considered a 350-foot runway move.

"It's really a balance," Alvarez said. "We think 260 represents a compromise."

But most of the residents at Tuesday's meeting said they disagree. And they said the runways would simply be too close to the community.

"We put up with the noise and pollution," said Robert Krauch, 84, of Playa del Rey. "We tolerate it. But we don't want it to get worse."

brian.sumers@dailybreeze.com

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