FAA Blocks Use of Funds for Lawsuit Settlement

MAY 19, 2006

The Federal Aviation Administration told Los Angeles International Airport officials this week that they cannot use $3.3 million in airport revenues for an LAX jobs program meant to attract residents affected by airport operations. The program is a key part of the city of Los Angeles' settlement last year with residents who had sued over plans to renovate the airport. The idea is to use the program to hire people from neighborhoods most affected by LAX air and ground traffic.

The FAA's stance will likely raise questions over the settlement and its ability to placate airport critics.

"We are looking at appealing the findings," said Nancy Castles, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles World Airports. "We're also looking at perhaps pursuing alternative funding options if necessary or redesigning the jobs program."

Daniel Tabor, who chairs the jobs committee for the LAX Coalition for Economic, Environmental and Educational Justice, said that the FAA's opinion was a concern but not a fatal blow.

Airport officials were going to use their own revenues to fund the program. The problem is that LAX receives federal money for improvement projects and therefore must comply with a law that prohibits it from using its own revenues on anything other than aviation activities.

In the agency's letter, officials from the FAA's regional office stated that those activities do not include "general economic development, marketing and promotional activities, that are unrelated to the airport."

The FAA's decision angered City Councilman Tony Cardenas, the former chair of the council committee that oversees the airport and who helped negotiate the benefits package. He said the FAA's "interpretation is unclear and does not allow us to give back to the families impacted by the airport."

Source: Los Angeles Times, Steve Hymon, Times Staff Writer