By Delilah Brumer, correspondent
Instead of attending her baby care class, soon-to-be mother Leah Nanni spent her evening on Tuesday, March 7 in a cramped conference room on the second floor of Van Nuys Airport Flyaway. This was Nanni’s first time attending the airport’s Citizen Advisory Council (CAC) meeting, but she said that until the airport addresses her concerns, it won’t be her last.
Nanni lives across the street from Van Nuys Airport, having moved to Van Nuys in 2020. She said that noise and air pollution from the airport, which is a general aviation airport that hosts thousands of private and charter flights per month, have increased in her time living next to it.
She said that the possibility of the airport’s expansion on the land it owns makes her fear for her family’s health.
“You want your kid to be able to go outside and not worry about respiratory problems because of it,” Nanni said. “It’s a terrible thing to think about.”
Nanni was one of more than 50 community members who attended the in-person CAC meeting. Many attendees gave public comments to the council, which “reviews issues affecting the operation of Van Nuys Airport” and “concerns itself with all aspects of general aviation operations, facilities development and land utilization at and around the airport,” according to the airport.
The public comments largely pertained to concerns about airport expansion, as well as the environmental impact of the airport. Representatives of Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), which runs the Van Nuys Airport, said the airport will not be expanding.
“I want to be clear. LAWA does not have any plans to expand the airport’s 730 acres,” Van Nuys Airport Manager Paul Herrera said. “We are not currently, or in the near future, discussing any land acquisitions adjacent to the Van Nuys Airport.”
During the meeting, several residents of Van Nuys said they aren’t worried about the airport, which is landlocked, expanding past its current boundaries — rather, they’re concerned about expansion and construction on the land it already owns.
“The airport was relatively quiet but as time went on, that drastically changed,” said Matt McManus, who is Nanni’s husband. “We don’t want to have a defeatist attitude. There are solutions that aren’t anti-business.”
Some of the land LAWA owns is leased out to businesses, including a large area leased out to Home Depot. According to LAWA, that land is designated for commercial use and not aviation use. But some community members said they are afraid that could change, allowing for expansion on LAWA’s existing property.
Many CAC meeting attendees said they want a moratorium on construction and new Requests for Proposals (RFPs) at Van Nuys Airport until a new environmental impact study is conducted and a specific plan to mitigate the airport’s effects on residents is in place.
“LAWA wants to resume this piecemeal approach to project approval,” said Bob Bramen, who is a member of the Encino Neighborhood Council Airport Committee. “This is unacceptable.”
McManus said he is frustrated with LAWA, especially because of the wealth disparity between the residents of Van Nuys and the people and businesses who use the airport. Charter flights out of the Van Nuys airport can cost upward of $1,200 an hour.
“The biggest contrast regarding the airport and this neighborhood is that nobody here uses that airport,” McManus said. Their community, he said, “is not a community of billionaires and millionaires who are boarding these flights.”
According to LAWA, Van Nuys Airport contributes to the surrounding community through “more than $2 billion in business activity.”
“We are acutely aware that functionally increased operations are expansion,” CAC meeting attendee Linda Clarke said. “Expanded vendor use means more jet traffic with continued … adverse impacts to people [and] wildlife.”
Nanni and McManus’ concerns about the airport’s impacts on their family have led them to consider moving. They said they recently started contacting realtors, which has added stress on top of planning for having a baby.
“We do not want to leave because we really love our house and we really love our neighbors,” Nanni said. “We would move not because we want to be somewhere else, but because we feel forced to.”