Santa Monica Airport

Santa Monica Airport – The Fairness Factor

By Martin Rubin, Director, Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP)

Our Los Angeles election is now behind us, so let me begin by saying that CRAAP’s endorsed candidates were elected! Congratulations to Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti and City Attorney-elect Mike Feuer who promise to be the team players we need to move the ball further downfield and into the end zone over the coming  years. Along with Councilmember-elect Mike Bonin (District 11), we are in a strong position to continue the efforts of our fabulous Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and State Senator Ted Lieu.

Now  to expound on  the April 27 Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Forum on Santa Monica Airport (SMO). The responsibility of the leadoff presentation that would  set the forum-tone was given to me. The topic of my presentation: “Santa Monica Airport’s Impacts On Los Angeles – The Fairness Factor”.

When discussing the fairness factor, factual information is essential.

To make credible arguments, the community needs facts. Over the years I’ve learned how difficult gathering  facts can be. Understanding what information is accurate and whether the source of the information is credible and can be trusted is indeed a challenge.

We know that SMO is owned and operated by the City of Santa Monica, and that the City of Santa Monica maintains proprietary powers to protect the surrounding communities from environmental harm; that airports need to follow FAA guidelines and that those guidelines are ultimately approved by Congress; that July 1, 2015 is the irrefutable date when the (1984) “Santa Monica Airport Agreement” between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the City of Santa Monica will expire. To what degree the affected communities are prepared (or not prepared) to address all concerns is vital in determining the future use of the 227 acres that is now SMO.

You may be surprised to know that a triangular portion (approximately 34 acres) of the airport’s eastern boundary lies within the City of Los Angeles. This land is owned in fee by the City of Santa Monica.

You probably know that those from Venice, Mar Vista, and West Los Angeles, all neighbors of Santa Monica, think  Santa Monica Airport’s  “Fly Neighborly Program” is anything but neighborly. The “Fly Neighborly Program” directs Visual Flight Rules departures to fly neighborly by avoiding flying over Santa Monica.

Approximately half of all SMO operations are pattern-flights, mostly from flight-school training, and are directed to fly a loop over Venice, Mar Vista, and North Westdale in West L.A. Besides the ongoing, incessant noise, these small piston aircraft run on leaded gasoline. Children are particularly vulnerable to toxic lead pollution.

Prior to 1990, all Instrument Flight Rules departures, including all jets, flew the 250 degree turn “immediately after departure” toward the Santa Monica Pier. After 1990, these flights were directed to fly straight out over Venice to the ocean. The reason for the change that redirected all these aircraft to fly straight out down Rose Avenue over Venice is in question. Requests to the City of Santa Monica, the FAA, and Congressman Henry Waxman have not yielded an answer. LAX and SMO are separated by less than 4 nautical miles, and  due to departure flight tracks convergence, SMO departures must be sequenced with LAX departures, causing delays that besides increasing operating costs are greatly increasing pollutants emitted into the downwind Los Angeles neighborhoods.

You are probably getting the picture of how Santa Monica has, for more than two decades, shifted the impacts of its airport away from Santa Monica to Los Angeles. Is that fair? We know the answer is no. The real questions are: is it illegal?; what will Santa Monica do to correct it?; what will Los Angeles do to protect its residents from SMO’s harmful impacts?

The last question takes this article full circle to the election of Eric Garcetti, and  Mike Feuer, a Mayor and a City Attorney who I believe will take our concerns very seriously. We are very fortunate to have such a strong team with Mike Bonin on the City Council, Ted Lieu in the State Senate, and Congressman Henry Waxman, who will fight for the will of the people regarding Santa Monica Airport.

Will we, the affected communities, be prepared to address our concerns? Our collective  involvement is vital in determining the future use of the 227 acres that is now SMO.

The City of Santa Monica and the Federal Government must address the critical public health concerns generated from Santa Monica Airport.

It is unacceptable to shift SMO impacts to Los Angeles Neighborhoods.

Above all we want everyone to recognize that the airport should be closed for way too many reasons than I have space and time to cover in this article.

Categories: Santa Monica Airport