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Approval Of LAX Expansion Plan Frustrates Westchester Residents

Hayley Burgess |
February 11, 2013 | 4:42 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

LAX is planning a 260-foot runway expansion into Westchester. (Kai Strandskov, Creative Commons)
LAX is planning a 260-foot runway expansion into Westchester. (Kai Strandskov, Creative Commons)
As the first step in Los Angeles International Airport’s expansion plan is passed, Westchester residents worry about the impact it will have on their community.

Airport commissioners approved the plan Feb. 5 to expand the LAX borders further into the neighboring community despite complaints from local residents.

The remodel has been said to allow the airport to continue to compete with those of other major cities. While the full plan includes upgrades to passenger facilities, a new parking structure and a light rail station, the most heavily debated factor is the shifting of a northern runway that will extend 260 feet into Westchester.

The additional space would allow for more passenger gates to be built and create more space for taxing planes. However, residents who remain actively involved in airport developments are concerned about the added noise, pollution and general interruption they believe the expansion will reap on their quality of life.

“I wouldn’t want it to get any closer to the places we shop, eat, go to school, and work,” said Kelsey Goelz, a USC student who grew up near where the new runway will be paved. “I feel that the expansion would impede our day-to-day lives and interrupt a lot of people doing their jobs.”

Denny Schneider, president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, started pushing for safer airport practices when his wife saw two Boeing 747 jumbo jets nearly crash 18 years ago.

“The more you learn about what they’re doing, the more determined you become to ensure they’re doing it right,” he said.

Schneider said he believes that the airport has not put enough thought into the plan and that the money would be spent more responsibly in repairs for other parts of the airport, such as the terminals.

“It’s imperative that we fix the airports,” he asserted, saying that an expanded runway was unnecessary.

In terms of expanding the airports, both Goelz and Schneider believe that LAX is big enough as it is.

“Los Angeles World Airports owns the Ontario and Palmdale airports,” Schneider said. “They’re certainly good candidates for expansions. Their capacity is not being utilized.”

The airport did make an effort to reach out to the community during the planning process. The LAX Community Relations Division attended several meetings and reached out to residents, but the amount of difference it made remains unclear. 

“It seems like they’re making a solid attempt at gathering local opinions via phone calls, public meetings and door-to-door visits,” Goelz said. “I just hope they’re hearing everyone out rather than [just] going ahead with the initial expansion plan.”

Schneider wasn’t convinced.

“It wasn’t even a good show,” he said of their effort. “The whole objective was to sell what they already decided.”

Although the plan has passed the foremost stage of approval, there are still several more steps the airport must take before they can break ground.

“I can’t really imagine this working out,” Goelz said. “Any way they expand the airport, it will be encroaching on residents, businessesand busy streets. It’s big enough as is! Westchester doesn’t need any more pollution or air traffic.”


Reach Staff Reporter Hayley Burgess here



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