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Airport workers, area residents rally against LAX modernization plan

Los Angeles International Airport workers and area residents held a rally Tuesday, Nov. 9 at LAX to oppose a $6 billion modernization plan they say will cause increased traffic, noise and air pollution at the airport and in surrounding neighborhoods.

They’re also looking to ensure they’re paid enough for the work they do.

Under L.A.’s Living Wage Ordinance, airport workers currently earn a minimum of $17 an hour, but union officials say that’s not enough to offset rising home costs and other inflationary expenses related to parking and transportation.

The employees — including cabin cleaners, baggage handlers, wheelchair assistants, janitors and others — are represented by SEIU United Service Workers West, which employs about 2,600 people at LAX.

“They are very concerned about the environmental impact on their health,” said Jane Martin, director of SEIU’s airport division. “Many of them live near the airport.”

‘A big cloud of smoke’

Jovan Houston, a customer service agent at LAX who suffers from breathing related problems, is among them. Her home is about seven miles away.

“I work in a bag room directly across from the jetway,” the 39-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “As soon as they start up the engines on a plane there’s a big cloud of smoke.”

Los Angeles World Airport’s (LAWA) Board of Airport Commissioners approved the Airfield and Terminal Modernization Project‘s environmental impact report on Oct. 7. Following that, SEIU and a coalition of environmental groups and area residents filed a formal appeal to the decision.

L.A.’s Trade, Travel and Tourism committee was scheduled to review the EIR on Tuesday, Nov. 9, followed by a full City Council review the following day, Martin said.

City officials could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

In a Sept. 14 letter to the Board of Airport Commissioners, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, also expressed concerns about increased air pollution and traffic. She acknowledged the airport is an important economic engine and job creator for the region but said the improvements shouldn’t lower the quality of life for people living nearby.

In a statement issued Tuesday, LAWA said the upgrades will actually reduce traffic congestion in neighborhoods and on local streets adjacent to the airport, while also increasing business opportunities.

“This project will result in approximately 4,700 new long-term employees associated with the operation of Concourse 0 and Terminal 9 and thousands of construction jobs,” the agency said.

The planned upgrades for LAX include new gates, replacement of old ones, taxiway improvements, an automated people-mover train station, a pedestrian corridor over Sepulveda Boulevard between Terminals 8 and 9 and additional restaurants and shops. (Photo by Axel Koester, contributing photographer)

Planned upgrades

The Airfield and Terminal Modernization Project would all be done within the airport’s existing footprint.

Inefficient and outdated remote gates would be replaced with state-of-the-art facilities, and needed taxiway improvements would be completed without moving any runways, officials said.

Twelve to 18 new gates would be added to Terminal 9 and six to nine new gates would be added at Concourse 0. Fifteen of the airport’s 18 West Remote Gates would be replaced.

An automated people-mover train station would also be installed at Terminal 9, and a pedestrian corridor would be built over Sepulveda Boulevard between Terminals 8 and 9. Additional restaurants and shops would also be added.

‘Deeply flawed’

Martin said the EIR is “deeply flawed” because it assumes the upgrades won’t result in an increase in flights or ground traffic. Plus, it doesn’t consider environmental and traffic impacts beyond 2028 when the project is expected to be completed — just in time for the 2028 Olympics.

“There will be more flights and more pollution,” she said.

The EIR acknowledges construction and operation of the upgrades may have “a significant impact on the environment” in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, despite mitigation measures.

LAX operates a noise and aircraft monitoring system in neighboring communities and also maintains a 24-hour Aircraft Noise Complaint Response Office to identify noise-related problems as they emerge.

Flying Simple, an online hub for aviation news, said the upgrades would position the airport to handle the increased crush of air traffic when Los Angeles hosts the Olympic games.

LAWA said the project is supported by the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa, the City of Inglewood, the LA Urban league, and several local chambers of commerce and community organizations.

Martin said SEIU intends to maintain its opposition.

“If the appeal gets denied our coalition will continue to fight this,” she said.

Source: Orange County Register

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