March 31, 2004 - From the March, 2004 issue

Pasadena's Chris Holden On Bob Hope Airport's Long Range Planning

Last year, the Burbank Airport was renamed in honor of Bob Hope. This change in name was far less significant than the proposed new terminal that has been contested in City Council debates, on ballots, and in courts over the past several years. However, Burbank is not alone in facing the trade offs associated with the expansion of airfield operations against the neighboring community's desire for more constrained flight activity. With LAX facing a proposed passenger cap, Burbank could feel significant pressure to assume a bigger share of local aviation demand. MIR is pleased to present this interview with Chris Holden, Pasadena City Councilman and Vice President of the Burbank Airport Authority, in which he addresses the potential impacts of Mayor Hahn's proposed LAX master plan on the region's airport network and how the Burbank Airport Authority balances the needs of consumers, airlines and local residents.


Chris Holden

Chris, over the past decade, the Burbank Airport Authority and the community surrounding the facility have engaged in what some have called a fierce and protracted battle over terminal expansion. Can you, in your position of leadership with the Airport Authority, bring our readers up to date on the status of terminal construction at Bob Hope Airport?

During the two years that I was President of the Authority, and in the last year as Vice President, I've seen the relationship between the Airport Authority and the city become calmer. There's a better understanding of the limitations of the Airport Authority regarding what it can effectively give back to the city in terms of concessions-obligatory curfews, caps on flights, and things of that nature. To have a chance at a mandatory curfew, the Authority has undertaken the Par 161 study under the direction of the FAA.

In recent times, due to 9/11 and the economy taking a dip, the airline industry is struggling. Even if a new terminal is approved, the ability to finance it and participation of the airlines is doubtful. These conditions reduced our incentive to move forward with the construction of a new terminal. The FAA has addressed the proximity of the terminal to the runway, and the potential for a safety issue, and, as a result, there is no need to move the terminal at this time.

As a result of 9/11 and the creation of the Transportation Safety Agency, there have been a number of safety driven improvements made to the existing terminal, and as a result, the old terminal has been upgraded.

As a new terminal is not currently planned, the FAA would like the grant and loan money that was provided to purchase the land returned. In the last year we have been negotiating with the FAA on the amount, between $11-$40 million. It appears that negotiations are moving toward the $11-15 million range. This is good news because that would allow us to pay back the FAA without having to dispose of the property, and bank the land until further developments allow us to refocus our efforts.

Chris, share with our readers the Airport Authority's priorities? What's the overarching agenda?

We're trying to keep the airport positioned as one of the premier airports in the region, and in the country. When safety improvements were mandated by the federal government right after 9/11, we were one of the first airports to have our safety work completed-new baggage checking equipment, screening areas in place, wider corridors, etc.-and to implement all of the mandated safety measures. Nationally we are viewed as being on the cutting edge of airport safety, and we continue to work on maintaining a well-managed airport that addresses the needs of the traveling public.

No airport is an island. What impact, if any, does L.A. Mayor Hahn's proposed Alternative D master plan for LAX have on Burbank-Pasadena-Glendale Airport Authority's priorities and future plans?

Clearly we're one of the regional airports that, over a period of time, are going to be impacted as the increased demand for service from LAX spreads throughout the region. Certainly, with the ease and availability of service at Bob Hope Airport, as well as Long Beach and some of the other regional airports, the flying public will be encouraged to increase their use of the regional airports. We want to be in a position to take advantage of the increased business, while mitigating negative impacts to the community.

Well, let's just focus on LAX. Obviously, a cap at LAX could accelerate growth at other airports in the region. Would not adoption of a plan that makes it less convenient for passengers to access LAX spur passenger use of Long Beach and Burbank airports? Have you taken a position on any of the proposed plans for LAX?

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We have not taken a position on Mayor Hahn's proposal for creating a master plan for LAX, but we are looking at it and trying to understand its impact on the region. Our goal is to continue providing a quality, well-run operation for the passengers of Bob Hope Airport. From that standpoint, we are marketing the Airport, but also recognize that we must be sensitive to the impacts of the airport business on the surrounding area. It's a delicate balance.

We want L.A. to do the right thing so that it doesn't put undue pressure on Burbank or the other airports and the surrounding communities. Hopefully, they will come up with a plan that will successfully address the needs of passengers using LAX, as well as be sensitive to the needs of the communities surrounding LAX and the other regional airports.

Security issues dominate public discussion of Mayor Hahn's Alternative D plan. Security is THE reason given to close LAX's Central Terminal Area to vehicles; and, security is what LA officials argue necessitates a remote passenger check-in terminal two miles from LAX. Obviously, one of the most user friendly features at Bob Hope Airport is the ease of vehicle access to your terminals, including valet parking. Do you believe homeland security requires your Authority to change your current access policies at Bob Hope Airport?

We have reviewed parking and security issues extensively, and are offering the convenience of valet parking and on-site/off-site airport parking, as well as maintaining a very strong public safety presence at the airport, with excellent screening and monitoring procedures. This provides airport commuters with the ability to park close to the airport, and still maintain safety standards with a complete and thorough evaluation of every passenger, and all luggage that boards an airplane.

We're trying to find the appropriate balance to accommodate the flying public and their business needs, as well as to make sure, as best we can, that everyone is safe and protected.

Last question, Chris. MIR carried an interview with Supervisor Don Knabe this past month, and one of the topics discussed was the recurring idea of regionalizing airport responsibilities and why that appears unlikely. Pasadena/Burbank's Bob Hope Airport obviously is part of an informal regional network. What, if any, are the prospects of the Southern California metropolitan region having an airport authority that could plan for and share the burden and responsibilities of growth?

Again, among Bob Hope, John Wayne, Long Beach, Ontario, and LAX, there has to be some discussion that looks at regional planning. I know that each airport is working to develop its own airport growth management plan, but it is also important to have some type of a community discussion among all of the regional airports.

I believe that the operators of each of these airports have their finger on the pulse of what's going on at their facility, and regular meetings on the part of the regional airports would allow us to stay on top of the hot button issues. The regional airport network is all one business as I see it, and it is paramount that we provide quality accessibility to these airports for the traveling public.

The population continues to grow in Los Angeles County, so we have to be prepared to deal with that-not in a vacuum or in an isolated manner-but with big picture planning and working together so that we can plan more effectively, and regionally, for the growth that's sure to come.

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