El Toro Info Site to wrap up after nearly 20 years
Leonard Kranser, who
has been posting Southern California airport related news to the El
Toro Info website since 1996, will wrap up the site by the end of the
year. This marks the end of one of the Internet's longest running blogs
and a final footnote to the El Toro reuse debate, one of Orange
County's most polarizing political issues.
In 1996, use of the Internet for political activism was a new concept.
Kranser, graphic designer Dan Finch, and a small team of volunteers,
launched the website early in the fight over Orange County's plan to
convert the former Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro to a major
international airport. The website informed the
public about the project, connected diverse anti-airport groups on one
platform and fueled grass-roots activism that helped pass two
countywide initiative campaigns.
With an annual budget of only a few hundred donated dollars, the El
Toro site built an email list of almost 20,000 Orange County residents
who received news updates and meeting alerts. Thousands of
viewers spread the website news and commentary to their unconnected
Information not easily available to the public - gleaned from Freedom
of Information Act inquiries, environmental reports, or correspondence
with aviation industry and government officials - was made accessible
on the website. In a symbiotic relationship, the website supplied
information to traditional media reporters and letter writers; their
newsprint references to the website spurred website viewership.
In 1999, the Orange County Chapter of the Public Relations Society of
America gave the website its Award of Excellence for Internet and
In 2000, volunteers, many recruited via the Internet, collected a
record breaking 195,000 signatures on petitions to qualify anti-airport
Measure F for the countywide ballot. Measure F's landslide
victory ended the county government's airport planning. In 2002,
website volunteers teamed with professionals from South County cities,
sparking efforts to get out the vote and fund the Measure W campaign
that finally killed the airport project.
In 2002, as the fight over the airport wound down, Kranser summed up
lessons learned in a book, Internet for Activists. A hands-on guide
to Internet tactics field-tested in the fight against building El Toro
Airport. Stephen Burgard, Director of the Northeastern University
School of Journalism and previously editorial writer for a major
Southern California newspaper during the El Toro campaign described
Internet for Activists as "a how-to manual for Web-based political
activism. The relationship between citizens and their government
will never be quite the same again," he wrote.
In his book, Kranser listed over a dozen websites - both for and
against the airport - that followed his into the fray, but estimated
that the El Toro Info Site drew more online viewers that all the others
In 2005, OC Business Journal editor and airport proponent Rick Reiff,
commenting that "history is written by the victors", published
Kranser's wrap up analysis on "The
Grounding of El Toro". It summarized key factors behind the
airport project's demise, from the perspective of a participant who
chronicled the debate on a daily basis.
After the defeat of the El Toro Airport plan, the website turned its
sometimes acerbic attention to other commercial airport issues in
Southern California. Frequently the news showed one group of airport
neighbors, or their political representatives, trying to push airport
noise onto neighbors of another airport. Los Angeles politicians
spent heavily - hundreds of taxpayer dollars per passenger - to bus
passengers away from LAX to the doomed Palmdale Airport. San
Diego groups attempted to pry a piece of Miramar Naval Air Station away
from an unwilling military so as to move flight traffic away from
Lindbergh Field. Newport Beach obtained an Orange County Transit
Authority grant to study ways for inducing Disneyland visitors to fly
into Ontario rather than the nearby John Wayne Airport. Los Angeles
agreed to close gates at LAX to appease its neighbors, hoping that air
travelers would just go someplace else.
However, the excitement of the highly public El Toro debate was
gone. When the County of Orange added a spacious third terminal
to John Wayne Airport, and then continued the airport's restrictions on
the number of passengers and flights, there was scant public
discussion. Ordinary citizens were allowed to submit comments on
the Environmental Impact Report, but it was essentially a done deal.
Nothing was happening in the airport scene like the long-running open
discourse over El Toro that had engaged thousands of involved
activists, including Kranser. Len began thinking about winding
down the website after nearly 20 years.
The final shove came, surprisingly, from the introduction of
Microsoft's Windows 10. Software that Kranser had used for years
to edit and publish the site will no longer work with the new Microsoft
operating system. With a bit of sadness, Len is preparing to archive all those years
of Internet news, analysis and data and call it a day.
To Protect Citizens From More Airplane
Noise Long Beach Now Must Expose Them To More Airplane Noise -
From the "Man Bites Dog" file we learned this week that there's just
not enough noise at Long Beach Airport in California. In fact, the City
of Long Beach, which owns and operates the airport commonly known as
LGB 22 miles southeast of Los Angeles International (LAX), is
legally required to allow nine more commercial flights each day.
If it fails to allow those additional flights the unique local
ordinance that keeps LGB from creating too much resident-annoying noise
will be voided. And because Long Beach is the only U.S. city in the
last 29 years to successfully get a local noise ordinance limiting
commercial service approved over the objections of the Federal Aviation
Administration, if the its airport noise ordinance is voided, it likely
will never be re-instated. (Website
Editor: John Wayne's noise ordinance dates from1983.)
Thus, Long Beach is in the weird, even non-sensical position of having
to allow more noise-making commercial flights in order to retain its
right to limit airplane noise.
Confused? That's understandable. It's a concept very much in line with
the famous quote attributed to an unnamed U.S. officer fighting Vietnam
by famed Associated Press war correspondent Peter Arnett; "It became
necessary to destroy the town to save it."
To understand Long Beach's awkward predicament, we have to go back
about 20 years, when city leaders there were worried that their little
airport - home to a McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) aircraft
manufacturing plant and not much else - might get really busy. Airlines
at the time were tinkering with different ways to serve the huge and
widely-scattered Southern California population through airports other
than the crowded, consumer-unfriendly and increasingly run-down LAX.
Carriers at the time were experimenting by adding flights at John Wayne
Airport in Orange County further south, at Ontario International
Airport an hour east of downtown Los Angeles, and at Bob Hope Airport
in Burbank, north of downtown L.A. A couple of airlines, working
through their regional airline partners, even dabbled at offering
limited service at Palmdale, 80 miles north of L.A. in the high Mojave
Long Beach city leaders were horrified that their constituents soon
might be shaking to the sounds of lots and lots commercial jets - and
complaining loudly to them. But because LGB, like most airports its
size, had accepted money from federal sources over the years the city
could not simply prohibit commercial airlines from flying there. So
those local leaders came up with creative, one-of-a-kind local
ordinance that put a cap on the amount of noise at LGB that could
attributed to commercial jets. But to win grudging federal approval of
the cap, the ordinance also created a floor for how much noise could be
made by commercial jets there, too.
After all the complicated math was done, it was determined that Long
Beach's airport noise ordinance required the city to allow at least 41
commercial jet flights a day. Technically, there could be more than 41
commercial flights a day there but how many more always has been
dependent on how much more noise those additional flights would make.
Luckily for Long Beach residents, the airlines' experiments with
increased service to L.A.-area airports other than LAX were never very
successful. Most of them reduced or dropped service not only at LGB but
also at Ontario, Bob Hope and John Wayne airports. In recent years
they've begun focusing on improving their much-maligned facilities at
LAX in order to concentrate as much revenue production at that one
airport - and to reduce costs and eliminate unprofitable flying at the
other LA area airports.
Consequently at Long Beach carriers never reached the 41-flights-a-day
floor (though LGB has remained obligated to let airlines operate at
least that many flights if they want to). Today, in fact, there are
only 14 daily airline departures (and a corresponding 14 arrivals) at
LGB. Delta and American each offer two daily flights, while JetBlue
offers 10. Those flights go to a total of 15 cities, mostly in the
West, but also to Austin, TX, and to both New York and Boston.
But now Long Beach must raise the floor on the number of commercial
flights it is required to allow at LGB, even when there appears to be
little or no demand for such additional flights.
Why? Because airliners today are, on average, significantly quieter
than the ones in wide use back in the early and mid-1990s when Long
Beach was negotiating with the FAA to come up with some formula
determining the ceiling - and floor - on commercial aircraft noise. The
formula was built around the notion of maximum allowable noise during
specific periods of time each day. It was that formula, which also
included data about the amount of noise produced by aircraft in use at
the time that dictated a floor of 41 commercial flights a day.
Now, a recent recalculation of that formula using the noise production
data of today's quieter jetliners concluded that Long Beach must allow
at least 50 flights a day (if demand exists for that many). Under the
terms of the Long Beach noise ordinance, airport officials now have
less than 30 days to offer nine additional sets of landing and takeoff
rights to the airline community. If no such offer is made, the city's
airport noise ordinance will be voided and, at least in theory, the
city would have to allow airlines to offer as many flights there as the
facility can handle physically.
There's no threat of that happening any time soon. Carriers currently
are putting nearly all of their L.A. eggs in one basket at LAX. But who
knows, someday they may actually want to begin adding lots of flights
at LGB and other L.A.-area airports once again.
So, to paraphrase that unnamed Vietnam-era military office, it has
become necessary for Long Beach to inflict (potentially) more aircraft
noise on its residents in order to protect them from aircraft noise.
Long Beach Airport Must Add Nine
Commercial Flight Slots To Comply With Noise Ordinance -
An annual analysis of aircraft operating noise at the Long Beach
Airport has led to the conclusion that the city must offer nine more
daily commercial flights in order to stay in compliance with the
Airport Noise Compatibility Ordinance.
The analysis, conducted by Mestre Greve Associates, is part of the
compliance agreement settled in court in 1990. That was the year a
baseline was established, figuring the “noise bucket” for three
categories of airplane — commercial, commuter and general aviation.
Since that date, the commercial requirement was for Long Beach to offer
a minimum of 41 flights a day. Currently, all of those flight slots are
A Noise Ordinance adopted in 1995 by the City Council requires an
annual report on the noise experience in the previous year. The latest
report covers Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015.
Those results showed the air carrier cumulative [noise] totals were
well below the allocated noise budget. After additional study and an
audit, it was confirmed that Mestre Greve’s conclusion that at least
nine more flights must be added was correct.
Under the noise ordinance, it is the Airport Director’s responsibility
to allocate the slots, a process that must be completed within 30 days
of the determination that they are available. According to the staff
report, the slots will be given out on a first-come, first-served
basis. If more than one carrier requests slots, they would be allocated
sequentially to each carrier until all the slots were allocated.
There is an appeal process, with the airport director’s decision
appealable to the city manager. That decision can, in turn, be appealed
to the council.
However, the ordinance requirements for slots must be met, or the
entire ordinance could be in jeopardy. Long Beach is one of the few
airports in the nation to have an ordinance allowing it to limit the
number of flights based on noise.
JetBlue, the commercial carrier that holds most of the commercial
slots, requested earlier this year that the city study and file for
designation as an international airport. Results of that study have not
returned to the City Council.
Website Editor: The Long Beach restrictions on noise allow for
adding flights when quieter aircraft come on line. This is
different from the restrictions at John Wayne Airport where quieter
aircraft do not change the number of passengers allowed to be
served. The Long Beach approach seems more reasonable.