LA City Wants to Know if Van Nuys Airport Can Fund Graffiti Cleanup in Tunnel

June 7, 2024

Graffiti by taggers in the Sherman Way Tunnel that runs underneath Van Nuys Airport in the San Fernando Valley has been a problem for years. Now, Los Angeles city officials want to do something about it.

The L.A. City Council on Wednesday, June 5, requested that Los Angeles World Airport (LAWA), which oversees Van Nuys Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, work with city staff, Councilmember Imelda Padilla’s office and stakeholders to develop a plan to maintain, secure and beautify the often-vandalized tunnel.

The council called on city staff to identify potential funding to pay for the plan and instructed city staff to look into whether airport revenue can be used to clean up the defacing and provide security.

Padilla, the councilmember who represents the airport area, said graffiti in the underpass has been an ongoing problem and that her office provided funding earlier this year to pay for monthly cleaning of the tunnel by the city’s street services bureau.

Now, she wants to see if Van Nuys Airport can pay for ongoing maintenance and security for the tunnel.

“ The Sherman Way tunnel is part of the Van Nuys Airport’s infrastructure as it serves as the critical foundational support for the 8,000-foot runway,” Padilla said in a statement.

Residents near Van Nuys Airport have complained for years that the tunnel, which runs below the airport, is a prime target for graffiti. They believe the bustling, successful airport should be responsible for the tunnel’s maintenance, including paying for cleanups and security.

The question is whether revenue generated by the airport can be used on tunnel maintenance. In her statement, Padilla said it’s important the city verify information about all federal aid and bonds used to build the tunnel “so that we can explore the feasibility of using Airport Revenue to fund tunnel maintenance moving forward.”

“Today’s unanimous 14-0 (city council) vote signifies growing public consensus to explore this potential solution,” Padilla stated.

“The City cannot afford to pick up the slack to maintain airport infrastructure, and the Sherman Way underpass serves as critical (airport) infrastructure,” the community group QuietSkies Woodland Hills (QSWH), which keeps tabs on Van Nuys Airport, wrote to city officials last month.

“Members of the Valley public wish to see the Department of Airports made wholly responsible for the security of the tunnel, graffiti clean-up and all other maintenance required of the structure,” the group wrote.

Residents have urged Los Angeles World Airport to use revenue it generates to maintain the tunnel. But LAWA previously said the Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA) would consider that a “misappropriation of funds.”

Paul Herrera, airport manager at Van Nuys Airport, reiterated that sentiment on Wednesday.

He said in a statement that all airports are regulated by the FAA “and have rules regarding how and where funds can be spent, as well as strict policies regarding the diversion of funds.

“Based on previous conversations with the FAA, we don’t believe we can use airport funds for the Sherman Way tunnel,” Herrera stated. “However, we are committed to working with Councilmember Padilla’s office to further explore this issue as well as find ways in which we can collectively bring wins to the local community within the scope of how we are allowed to use our funds.”

The tunnel, or underpass, was built in 1959 when that section of Sherman Way was redesigned to dip beneath Van Nuys Airport so the airport could extend its runway above ground from Saticoy Street to Vanowen Street.

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