logoUpdate on NPB efforts to control JWA

Newport Beach
has been negotiating with the County to gain control over the future of John Wayne Airport, packaging a deal on the airport with several easier to sell “sphere issues”.

Mayor Steve Bromberg outlined the city's goals in his "Resolutions for '05" in the Daily Pilot: "First, as a city, we would like to have, for lack of a better term, complete veto power over future airport expansion. What this simply means is, we, the city of Newport Beach, would like to have the say as to any future expansion, including runways, additional runways or expanded runways, because runways relate to additional flights. The second issue is, we would like to have that same veto power on curfews."

This website served document requests on the City and the County under the California Public Records Act in an effort to inform viewers as to what is occurring out of public sight.

Despite early indications that the County would not discuss JWA, the City has plugged away at its goal. Newport wants a long-term agreement with the current supervisors to bind the County beyond 2015 when the existing JWA caps expire.

In our view, current county supervisors should do nothing to restrict the future of JWA - which is already constrained until 2015 -  without having a plan in place for getting O.C. travelers to other airports. Decisions about JWA should be made by future supervisors when the need for Southern California airport capacity is clearer.

The JWA night curfew is incorporated into county regulations and will continue indefinitely unless the Board of Supervisors takes action to make a change which must comply with provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act.

On February 23, 2004, representatives of the two sides met following an exchange of letters between the mayor of Newport Beach, and Tom Wilson, then Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.  

JWA was not on the table at the first of “two meetings with Supervisors Silva and Wilson” and three with County Executive Officer Tom Mauk, Newport Beach staff reported (on March 22, 2005).  “The Board of Supervisors did not immediately accept our invitation to discuss sphere issues; certain sphere issues [i.e. JWA] were not discussed during the first meeting involving elected officials.”

Following the February meeting, on April 19, 2004 Wilson, Silva, Mauk or his representative, County Council and staff met amongst themselves to review Newport’s position papers on the proposed sphere issues. Despite earlier County reluctance, John Wayne Airport proposals were discussed at this internal meeting.

Concepts proposed by the City and reviewed at that meeting included the possibility that:

We are told by an informed source that the “Joint Powers Authority idea was DOA” at the County. However, Newport Beach would not giving up. 

Almost a year later, on March 3, 2005, both sides met again and the airport was a topic. No public information was divulged regarding communications during this period.

As a follow up to the March 3 meeting, Newport Beach City Manager Homer Bludau wrote to CEO Thomas Mauk on May 4, 2005. He offered a “proposal [that] is extremely fair in light of the City's willingness to revise its position with respect to JWA and the fact that the proposed Joint Powers Agreement is consistent with the current position of the Board of Supervisors on the size and operational characteristics of JWA.”
One unsigned document observes: “The FAA has recently released portions of a Mitre Corporation report that concludes JWA, Long Beach and other regional airports would have to increase capacity to serve anticipated demand in the 2013 and 2020 time frames . . . Continued growth in Orange County and the region will, over time, create the potential for the County, the FAA, the air carrier industry, the business community and/or the traveling public to at least consider ways that JWA can serve more passengers.” 

The document continues: “Newport Beach . . . [is] comfortable with the current Settlement Agreement but concerned about the County's ability – long-term – to maintain the protection it affords after current Members of the Board are no longer in office.”  [Emphasis added]

The creatively structured deal proposed by Newport Beach would empower the City to veto any future physical expansion of the county airport, including lengthening of the runway. These restrictions would be in force regardless of what future Supervisors or voters deem necessary for the good of the County as a whole.

A second request to the county for documents, produced no record of any written response to Bludau’s May 4, 2005 letter.

At the June 14, 2005 NPB City Council meeting, City Manager Bludau reported that staff’s first priority for 2005-6 "deals with sphere issues.  He stated that they want to reach agreement with the Board of Supervisors relative to John Wayne Airport (JWA)."

On February 22, 2006 Supervisor Silva arranged a follow-up meeting on the "spheres issues" with Supervisor Wilson, County Executive Officer Tom Mauk and staff. Three Newport Beach council members and their City Manager participated. Expansion of John Wayne airport was an area of concern to Newport. County staff was advised to continue the discussions.

The Daily Pilot of July 4, 2006 reported that "sphere issues" remained his current first priority, negotiations with the county had continued and City Manager Bludau hoped to have an agreement to his city council in July 2006.

The Newport Beach city council agendized approval of  a proposed agreement for its August 1, 2006 meeting and then removed the item.
The City Manager recommended continuing the matter to "a future meeting in late August or early September to allow for continued discussions with County staff and supervisors.”

One county supervisor’s staff member told us shortly thereafter that “There is no deal between the County and the City.”  Another reported that the negotiations "are not going anywhere" so far as John Wayne Airport is concerned.

Approval of the spheres agreement was agendized for the Newport Beach City Council meetings in August and September but pulled both times by the city manager to allow for more negotiations.

Another California Public Records Act request to the county produced 67 pages of documents, none of which mentioned the airport. The airport deal was apparently being kept secret.

For the city council meeting of October 10, 2006, the proposed "Cooperative Agreement" was finally made public. Several residents spoke against an element added to the package by Supervisor Jim Silva that dealt with a trail on Mesa Drive. The council voted unanimously to approve the agreement noting that its key airport runway veto component was a "huge victory".

The county immediately agendized the agreement for approval at the next Board of Supervisors meeting on October 17. The agenda item description made no mention of the airport and the agreement was not attached to the similarly vague Agenda Staff Report. After the Editor of this website complained to the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and the County Counsel that the agenda appeared not to meet the public disclosure standards of the Brown [open meeting] Act, the item was pulled and rescheduled for the October 24, 2006 meeting with a new agenda title.

On October 20 the agenda item title for the October 24 meeting was changed for a second time to represent more closely the much reduced focus ot the "Cooperative Agreement" and its central issue, the airport.
33.    Revised Title to read: County Executive Office - Approve cooperative agreement with Newport Beach regarding for certain projects including Santa Ana Heights Project Area, Mesa-Birch Park, John Wayne Airport Area Compatibility and future upper and lower Newport Bay studies - District 2 (Continued from 10/17/06, Item 69)

 Revised  October 20, 2006