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San Fernando
Saturday, Aug 13, 2022
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Commentary

The city of Burbank is justifiably proud of its long tradition of being “business friendly.” Over the last 15 years, while other communities in Southern California have been threatened by downturns in the economy, Burbank has successfully achieved consistent growth in the Media District, the Downtown Village and the airport area. The city has worked hard to ensure that its business-friendly policies are consistent with the city’s other policies on issues that affect our business community, including the controversial airport issue. The city has worked hard to ensure that its airport and business policies are consistent. As someone responsible for implementing the city’s vision for this community, I would like to share my perspective on the interplay of these important issues. The city appreciates the importance of the Burbank Airport to our community and the entire region. A vibrant and successful airport is essential to our continued economic success. The airport represents our front door for millions of visitors each year. As the media capital of the world, we benefit from convenient air service. For these reasons, the city has always supported the replacement of the existing outdated passenger terminal. Like any responsible local government, the city of Burbank supports economic growth. But we also recognize that uncontrolled and unregulated growth can irreparably damage the character of our community and our ability to provide a receptive environment for businesses that locate here. The city views the airport the same way we view other economic assets: Some growth is desirable but too much growth can overwhelm us. We have long argued that limited expansion of the airport should be allowed to serve the economic needs of our community and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. We do not believe, however, that it is reasonable to expect the Burbank Airport to serve the economic activity from throughout one of the fastest growing areas of Southern California, including Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster. The comparison between Burbank Airport and John Wayne Airport in Orange County is particularly appropriate. John Wayne, with its 14 gates, serves the booming Orange County economy remarkably well. No one has ever argued that it should expand to serve the needs of Los Angeles and San Diego. It currently serves almost 8 million passengers a year and is still growing. It does so with stringent noise limitations and a mandatory curfew that are intended to ensure that the airport does not destroy Newport Beach and other attractive nearby communities. We believe that the Burbank Airport can do the same. It has 14 gates today and it should be allowed to replace those gates with a new state-of-the-art terminal. Today’s passenger traffic has been relatively stable at under 5 million passengers per year for the last five years, despite a booming economy. It should be allowed to grow with our communities. The John Wayne experience shows that the Burbank Airport, with a replacement terminal, should be able to accommodate at least 8 million passengers a year plenty of growth to serve our region for the foreseeable future. At the same time, though, the airport should be required to be a good neighbor. It must live with limitations on its adverse noise and traffic impacts. After all, any new business or development in our city must agree to comply with reasonable limitations on its impacts so that existing businesses and residents do not have to shoulder the entire cost and burden of all new development. We ask nothing more of the Burbank Airport. The most disappointing aspect of the present dispute is the Airport Authority’s unwillingness to seek a compromise. This battle reminds me of the fights in the 1970s and 1980s between developers and concerned neighbors. A refreshing change today is that the smart developers strive to find ways to craft “win-win” solutions so they can grow without destroying the quality of life of their neighbors. The Airport Authority, however, has apparently adopted a throwback to the mentality that the bigger a project, the more its proponents should be able to ram it down the throats of the community. Burbank has proved that it is a friend of business, but it has also proved that it expects reasonable accommodation to the needs of the community. If the proponents of airport expansion want to see an end to this battle and to see a desperately needed new terminal, they should urge the Airport Authority to work with the city to find a compromise that we can all support. That solution would recognize both the wisdom of airport growth and the airport’s obligation to live with reasonable limitations such that its growth will not destroy its neighboring community. Robert Ovrom is Burbank’s city manager.

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