LA City, SB County Panel Picks Herald Airport Change

(August 23) A week after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made major revisions to the Los Angeles Airport Commission, the county of San Bernardino made three key appointments to a panel that has one of its precepts the eventual wresting of Ontario Airport from Los Angeles.
Los Angeles entered into a joint powers agreement with the city of Ontario in 1967 to assume management of Ontario Airport, a facility that was relatively underused at that time with fewer than 200,000 passengers per year. Using its leverage in controlling gate positions at Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles induced many airlines to fly into and out of Ontario, and ridership there increased dramatically. In 1985, after all conditions spelled out in the 1967 agreement were met, Ontario deeded the airport to Los Angeles for no consideration. Los Angeles, under the aegis of its Division of Airports and Los Angeles World Airports, the corporate entity that runs Los Angeles International Airport, Ontario International Airport and Van Nuys Airport, invested heavily in Ontario Airport and in 2007 passenger traffic there peaked at 7.2 million.
In the last six years, however, passenger counts at Ontario Airport have declined significantly and Ontario officials have charged that Los Angeles World Airports is deliberately mismanaging Ontario Airport to increase ridership at Los Angeles International Airport. Ontario has waged a three-year campaign aimed at inducing Los Angeles to surrender ownership of Ontario Airport back to Ontario. Last year, Ontario and the county of San Bernardino formed the Ontario International Airport Authority, which is chartered to serve as the entity to gain ownership and control of the airport and manage its operations once Los Angeles cedes possession  of it. Ontario has severely maligned Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey throughout its campaign, and has been equally critical of Los Angeles’ seven-member airport commission.
Last week, the newly sworn-in Garcetti replaced six of the seven members on that panel. While he retained one of the incumbents – Valeria Velasco, an attorney from Playa del Rey, he brought in new blood to replace the balance of the board.
Garcetti’s appointments are Matthew Johnson, a civic leader and entertainment lawyer;  Bea Hsu, a real estate developer and former advisor to California State Controller Kathleen Connell; Gabriel Eshaghian, a real estate investment executive who has worked in both the travel and airline industries; Jackie Goldberg, a former Los Angeles City Council member and state assemblywoman; Cynthia Telles, a local civic leader and former vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission; and Sean Burton, a former Warner Bros. executive, real estate developer and attorney.
In San Bernardino County and Ontario in particular, there was hope that the newly composed airport commission would be amenable to Los Angeles eventually divesting itself of Ontario Airport, where fewer than 4.1 million passengers are projected to enplane this year.
This week, the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors named supervisor Gary Ovitt to the Ontario International Airport Inter Agency Collaborative along with San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux and San Bernardino County Planning Director Terri Rahhal.
Ovitt and Devereaux will  serve as at-large mediators for the collaborative while Terri Rahhal will function as a technical advisor.

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