FAQ’s

Frequently Asked Questions about the LAX Northside Plan Update

Where is the Northside property and how big is it?

The Northside property is approximately 340 acres located between the north airfield of LAX and the communities of Westchester and Playa del Rey. It stretches generally from Sepulveda Boulevard and Sepulveda Westway on the east to Pershing Drive on the west.

Why is it called the LAX Northside Plan Update?

The land known as the LAX Northside Plan area was originally acquired by LAX mostly with funds from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) more than 30 years ago for development of the land located between the airport and the adjacent community. Initial planning began in the 1980's, and the first proposal for the site was called the LAX Northside Plan. In 1984, a plan was approved for 4.5 million square feet of commercial development. The current effort to modernize the proposal is therefore known as the LAX Northside Plan Update.

Why is it important to do this project now?

Development at the Project site is currently governed by the LAX Plan and the LAX Specific Plan, which established the zoning regulations and development standards. The Specific Plan requires that development on the Project site comply with design and development standards originally written in the 1980's. These standards have not been approved by the FAA, do not reflect current best-practices in urban design and sustainability, and do not respond to current community and LAWA interests, or to market conditions. The project site is approximately 340 acres of mostly vacant land. The proposed LAX Northside Plan Update would modify existing regulations to substantially reduce the total amount of development allowed by the 1980's plan, provide opportunities for open space, recreation and civic uses, create new design and sustainability guidelines reflecting current best-practices, and guide the transformation of this under-utilized property.

What exactly are the goals of the Northside Plan Update?

This is a chance for LAWA and the community to collaborate on an updated plan to re-imagine the Northside parcels as a vibrant and sustainable center of employment, retail, restaurant, office, hotel, research and development, education, civic, airport support, recreation, and buffer uses that support the needs of surrounding communities and LAWA. Working together, LAWA and the community can identify ways to sensitively accommodate a range of beneficial uses that comply with the strict requirements established by the FAA for future development, while serving the needs of Westchester, Playa del Rey and LAX.

LAWA intends to work with the community to update the LAX Northside Plan to reflect several priorities, including:

  • Comply with FAA requirements and regulations
  • Respond to current market realities and stakeholder interests
  • Bring development standards in line with current best-practices in urban design and sustainability
  • Balance the needs of neighborhoods and LAX
  • Meet rigorous environmental sustainability standards in design, construction, operation and landscaping
  • Manage vehicle traffic through smart engineering and trip reduction
  • Achieve the best use of the property and fair market value
  • Comply with all applicable zoning, land use, and air traffic regulations
  • Ensure consistency with other LAWA projects
  • Provide an opportunity for connection to regional transit/transportation plans
  • Create a buffer along the perimeter where the project is adjacent to residences

Upon completion, LAWA will be able to seek specific development proposals that are consistent with the approved plan.

Have you identified potential uses for the property?

Can you please explain each of those property uses – how exactly did you arrive at those options?

These proposed uses reflect the best and most balanced use of the property given the needs expressed by the community, recent market studies, and the needs of LAX, while being consistent with the strict mandates and directives established by the FAA. As proposed, more than one-third of the site is dedicated to open space and recreation uses, creating an expansive greenspace.

One important consideration for how the proposal was conceived is an FAA requirement that LAWA obtain fair market value for any proposed use of the Northside properties. This means that the FAA will not allow us to use the parcels just for open space, but will require that the open space be combined with other commercial development to comply with the fair market value standard.

A large portion of the site is reserved for community services and meeting spaces, while the largest section contemplates a low-rise office campus for higher education and research, and areas for students and employers.

A landscaped buffer zone is also proposed to be included between any commercial development and the existing residential community to the north of Area 2. To service these Project uses and the surrounding neighborhoods, new retail, restaurant, commercial services, hotel and office space is contemplated for the parcels located closest to Sepulveda Boulevard.

The Areas south of Westchester Parkway have a distinctly different character from the Areas north of the Parkway due to their close proximity to the LAX North Airfield and the associated noise impacts, safety requirements, and height restrictions, which limits its potential use and commercial viability. Since 1984, land south of Westchester Parkway in Area 4 was zoned for airport support use. LAWA will continue to reserve space located south of Westchester Parkway to support the airport operations at LAX, which may include uses such as storage, maintenance and repair shops, temporary construction materials and staging, parking and administration. It is important to note that runways and terminal facilities are not permitted uses in the Northside Plan Update areas.

How did you decide on the amount of square footage for each use?

Many factors contributed to decisions on proposed uses and density. The FAA's fair market value requirement is a key factor. A preliminary market analysis was also conducted to identify near-term conditions and potential economically viable uses. Community stakeholders provided insights on local needs, and LAWA identified necessary airport support uses. With this information, density was apportioned among the Northside parcels to permit a sensible balance between market rate uses, community uses, airport support and open space.

If open space and recreation facilities are included, who will build and maintain them?

LAWA cannot build or maintain open space or recreation facilities on its own. The LAX Northside Plan Update, once approved, will attract developers to move forward on commercial development, and like other Master Planned communities, their agreements will include the acquisition of "common area" land for open space, recreation, or buffer purposes. Once the Plan is approved, private companies, non-profit or public agencies will have to be sought to build and maintain these areas.

Recreation facilities are needed, but where is everyone going to park?

The proposed recreation areas and facilities will include parking areas. In addition, these facilities will be located adjacent to uses which provide shared parking opportunities. For example, soccer fields used primarily on evenings and weekends may be located adjacent to office projects which operate primarily on weekdays.

How are you going to deal with traffic generated by the new development?

The Environmental Impact Report will include a comprehensive analysis of traffic, including any potential impacts, as well as possible mitigation measures that incorporate transit opportunities.

It looks like there's been a great deal of community involvement in shaping this plan. Will there be more opportunities for participation?

Community participation is a critical element of the LAX Northside Plan Update. LAWA is interested in a consensus that reflects the needs and opinions of our neighbors. LAWA plans to hold a series of community planning workshops focused on updating the urban design and development guidelines, and will continue to outreach to community groups on the proposal. Information on upcoming community meetings is available at www.laxnorthside.org. There also is a feedback section where you can ask questions or offer comments about the proposal online.

What has changed since the LAX Northside Plan Update process started?

For more than a year, LAWA has convened meetings and workshops with business and residential neighbors to better understand community issues and concerns. As a result of community input, the Plan has been refined in a number of ways. For example:

  • Increased privacy and security: The buffer zone between the proposed Project uses and adjacent residences in Area 2 has been increased from 50 to 100 feet; it will be closed to the public; it will be landscaped and secured with a fence.
  • Height limits reduced: Height limits for buildings in Areas 1 and 2 have been reduced to 45 feet, and building heights in Areas 3, 11, and 12 have been reduced to 60 feet.
  • Responded to access and circulation concerns: No access from residential neighborhoods will be permitted. Access to the proposed Project will be limited to Westchester Parkway, Lincoln Boulevard, Loyola Boulevard, and Falmouth Avenue.
  • Preserved space for future public transit: A location for a potential public transit station has been identified and included.
  • Enhanced opportunities for pedestrian and community amenities: The vacation of Cum Laude Street is proposed to accommodate St. Bernard High School's desire to expand their existing sports field. Public pedestrian pathways will be limited to Westchester Parkway. Civic/community space and recreational uses have been increased, which could include soccer fields, a dog park, and open space.

Besides the airport's operational requirements and constraints, what other principles were considered to form the elements of the plan

The Plan Update takes into account

  • Current environmental and planning regulations
  • Federal Aviation Administration requirements that place limits on types of development, specific uses, landscaping, lighting, and biotic resources to promote aviation safety, and also imposes rules which require fair market value for any future use
  • County of Los Angeles Airport Land Use Compatibility regulations
  • Advanced urban design principles and advanced sustainability practices
  • Latest developments in regional transit/transportation plans
  • Changed market conditions and current economic realities
  • Community stakeholder interests

How does the Northside Plan fit with the larger Specific Plan Amendment Study (SPAS) currently underway? Can these two things be done separately?

The LAX Northside Plan Update is a separate and independent project from all other LAWA studies currently underway. The Specific Plan Amendment Study is related to the options for the North Airfield configuration and ground transportation system to LAX, and involves LAX airfield property to the south of the Northside Plan parcels. The Northside Plan will be consistent with, and take into account as necessary, the SPAS study, as well as any other concurrent LAWA projects. For example, the Northside Plan update will take into account the most restrictive SPAS options for the North Airfield, and be consistent with any potential future changes considered for the airport.

Why isn't the LAX Northside Plan Update included in the SPAS EIR?

The LAX Northside Plan Update is a plan for future development of parcels adjacent to the airport, and does not cover or include the LAX North Airfield. The LAX Northside parcels south of Westchester Parkway designated for airport support may provide services for airport operations, but airfield runways or terminals are not permitted. As noted in the FAA Record of Decision in 2005, the development from LAX Northside Plan Update and SPAS North Airfield improvements serve unique and independent functions and are not dependent on the other.

It looks like the SPAS project may require the relocation of Lincoln Boulevard near the east end of the Northside property, but your Plan doesn't include it. How is that going to work?

The LAX Northside Plan update will take all of the SPAS alternatives into account, and will accommodate the most restrictive proposals. In the case of potential changes to Lincoln Boulevard, the only properties affected would be those reserved for airport support uses south of Westchester Parkway.

The schedule appears to show a lot of work getting done in the next year or so. Can you accomplish it in that time?

The schedule balances two important needs. It allows LAWA to meet with as many members of the community as possible to share the details of the proposal and gather input. It also is designed to be an efficient use of everyone's time. We appreciate all stakeholders' interest and involvement in the LAX Northside Plan Update, and will be respectful of their efforts by completing our work as quickly as possible.

Once all of the approvals are obtained, when would construction actually start and how long will it last?

The current schedule anticipates approval of required CEQA documents and local requirements by 2013, and Federal NEPA approval by 2014. After all required approvals are secured, LAWA will seek interest in the market for individual development projects. Construction of all projects will not be simultaneous, but may begin in 2015 and continue through 2022.

What are the next steps for the Northside plan update?

LAWA plans to hold a number of community workshops focused on creating the landscaping, signage, lighting and urban design guidelines, and we will let the public know of these upcoming meetings. LAWA has begun preparing an Environmental Impact Report on the proposal. With that comprehensive analysis completed, LAWA will seek approvals from the Board of Airport Commissioners, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, and the FAA.

This property has been primarily vacant for decades. Why can't the airport just leave it like it is?

Because the property was purchased with FAA funds as a buffer between the airport and the Westchester and Playa del Rey communities, LAWA is obligated to create a plan that complies with FAA's extensive requirements, including the need to obtain fair market value for any use, and other mandatory regulations that govern uses adjacent to an airport. The FAA is now conducting a national audit of land purchased by airports with Federal funds to determine if it is being properly used for airport purposes. LAWA must demonstrate that the LAX Northside Plan area is in compliance with the FAA's rules, and must put the land to productive use consistent with FAA requirements.

Nevertheless, one of LAWA 's goals is to incorporate open space, pedestrian walkways, landscaped buffer zones, and recreational areas as allowed within the regulations. This effort is aimed at complying with Federal, state and local laws while also meeting the needs of the community and the airport.

It is also important to note that the Northside property was originally entitled for 4.5 million square feet of development in 1984, with minimal open space and no provision for community facilities. The current effort will reduce that density by approximately half, and contemplates substantial open space, and space for community facilities, in several areas.

I have a question about the Northside Plan and would like to speak to someone. Who should I call?

LAWA would be happy to have a representative contact you to discuss your question. You may either call 424.646.5072, or you can email us at laxnorthside@lawa.org.