Ontario International

Terminal 2 at Ontario International Airport is virtually empty amid a severe decline in passengers since 2007. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

By Dan Weikel
September 28, 2014

Accusing Los Angeles of breaking agreements to foster a network of regional air centers and build up L.A./Ontario International, Inland Empire officials went to court last week to regain control of the struggling airport.

In a motion filed Friday, the city of Ontario asked a Riverside County Superior Court judge to order Los Angeles to relinquish the airport — the latest development in a year-old lawsuit and long-running political battle.

Besides legal arguments, the city’s court papers reference internal communications and other documents to portray Los Angeles leaders as insulting and rudely dismissive of Ontario’s desire to protect the airport from decline as resources were directed to improve Los Angeles International.

Citing records that include emails, deposition testimony and meeting transcripts, the motion states that the chief operating officer for Los Angeles World Airports once referred to the Inland Empire as the “inbred Inland Empire,” while Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey characterized the effort to share air traffic with other airports as “a silly waste of time” and “a politically driven mantra to appease LAX neighbors.”

Regionalizing commercial air traffic has long been a goal of noise- and traffic-conscious residents surrounding LAX. Many have fought its physical expansion for years and gotten Los Angeles officials to agree to spread the growth in passengers to other airports like Ontario and Palmdale, which has since closed.

But in court papers, Ontario’s attorneys say that LAWA — L.A.’s airport agency — has failed to comply with a 1967 agreement to both operate Ontario International and do its best to attract service to the airport, where passenger volumes plunged from 7.2 million in 2007 to about 4 million last year.

The city also says that LAWA has ignored a 2006 court settlement requiring the agency to regionalize or encourage the growth of air traffic at Ontario and Palmdale. That settlement stemmed directly from a lawsuit challenging plans to expand LAX.

Ontario alleges that instead of fulfilling their legal obligations, Lindsey and her lieutenants turned away from regionalization, put up a façade of compliance and abandoned Ontario to concentrate on a multibillion-dollar modernization of LAX.

“As a result of that neglect and mismanagement, Ontario is on the brink of ruin,” Inland Empire officials assert in Friday’s court filing. “Even so, Los Angeles insists on continuing to operate Ontario in perpetuity.”
As a result of that neglect and mismanagement, Ontario is on the brink of ruin. – Inland Empire officials in a court filing

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