Venice Oceanarium – by Tim Rudnick

Santa Monica Airport – by Bill Worden


Dear Beachhead,

I’m happy to say that our annual reading of Moby Dick, on the beach went fabulously. We had a good crowd and great readers who kept the book moving. We actually finished the book on Sunday at 8:00 pm, a great record of 26 hours.

This year, along with the reading, we also presented a showing at Beyond Baroque of the 1956 movie “Moby Dick,” starring Gregory Peck. The audience loved it.

But we couldn’t have enjoyed the success without your generous contributions and sponsorships and we are grateful and thankful to you. We look for your continued support in 2014.


Tim Rudnick, Director, Venice Oceanarium


Dear Beachhead,

A feature article in your last issue of the Beachhead purports to show that our local airport (Santa Monica) has somehow been a “bad neighbor”.  It fails to make its case because the arguments are based on faulty data, falsehoods, and other myth-information.  The argument presented goes like this: the airport only serves the purpose of a tiny minority of pilots living in Santa Monica; the airport is a danger to the community; it is no use to anyone else–so let’s make it into a park.

The author says that there are some 300+ licensed pilots living in Santa Monica and that this shows the facility is being operated for the use of a privileged few. This conclusion is bogus.  The airport is used by people from all over Southern California and the country, and from all over the globe, every day.  Aircraft and pilots based there are but a portion of the airport’s users in any given time period.  More local pilots live in Los Angeles than in Santa Monica.  The airport is a major general aviation transportation hub for the western United States.  Some of the wealth and wellbeing of Venice come directly from it. Santa Monica City has estimated that more than 200 million dollars come in yearly just to them.

To bolster her contention that the airport is physically dangerous, the author cites the now infamous list attributed to Zina Joseph, President of the Friends of Sunset Park homeowner’s group.  This list is very deceptive and can easily lead a casual reader to erroneous conclusions.  The list is a raw, unsorted compendium gleaned from the National Transportation Safety Board’s database of accidents and/or incidents for approximately the last 30 years that are indexed by the words “Santa Monica”.  When this list is culled of irrelevant reports such as those that pertain to occurrences in other localities, or merely run-of-the-mill landing mishaps like flat tires, the dramatic conclusions melt away.  There are about two incidents involving the surrounding communities every three years, on average.  In fact, to the best of anyone’s knowledge only one person on the ground has died or even been seriously injured in the entire 93 year history of the airport.  That is a remarkable safety record, but not at all unusual.  A child at Penmar Park is far more at risk from normal playground activities than from any operation at the airport.

The author alleges that there are dangerous amounts of air pollution coming out of the airport but the evidence she offers either does not support her position or is inconclusive. The recent EPA lead study found no levels of lead around the airport neighborhoods anywhere near what is considered unhealthy by the federal government. The so-called “UCLA study” on particulate matter was not university sanctioned and was not conducted by personnel with the specialized training necessary to conduct it.  Its conclusions are based on two, one-day samples taken in two separate years and tell us essentially nothing worth knowing.  It would be good to know, but one needs to know the true facts, which were not present in the report.

The author opines that the airport premises are not secure.  Again, this is simply not the case.  There is a dedicated police facility on the airport.  Access to the airport is controlled with card keys, and there is practically no crime of any type.  I totally disagree about warrantless searches.  The fact that airport security does not routinely search planes and passengers makes me feel more secure, as a freedom-loving American citizen, not less.

The substantive issue of noise was dealt with back in 1984 when an aggressive noise abatement program was instituted as part of a legal settlement between the Federal Aviation Administration and the City of Santa Monica. Since that time, no neighbors are routinely subjected to noise levels above 65dbl as measured and monitored by microphones in the vicinity of the runway ends. You can still hear aircraft but their noise levels are now on a par with other sources of noise in the community and pose no danger whatsoever. These noise levels are enforced by robust municipal fines and, or, permanent banishment from the airport, in some instances for “busting” the noise monitors.

The author implies that there must be some sort of calumny towards Venice on the part of the FAA or Santa Monica City in the designation of flight paths. Nothing of the sort is true. Flight paths are designed for best-fit noise abatement and flight safety. The Sunset Park neighborhood is a hill and so, for noise abatement and safety, flights go over Penmar Golf Course to get more distance between the departing aircraft and local homes. Aircraft departing on instrument flight rules follow the runway heading (270*) for procedural safety rules set by the FAA.

Most offensive to me is that the writer ignores three vitally important aspects of the airport in an attempt to show that we would lose nothing of value if it were closed.  The first is the role the airport is expected to play during natural disasters similar to the Loma Prieta Earthquake up in San Francisco in 1989.  The airport may likely be our only source of relief for needed supplies and medical care.  In an emergency this airport can handle large military and civilian cargo aircraft and helicopters. It will be a lifeline for all of us, come the time of need.  City and county fire departments routinely stage out of our airport for day-to-day emergencies.

Secondly, the writer doesn’t mention the activities of private aircraft flying routinely for the public benefit.  Groups like Angel Flight West fly needy people, and sometimes animals, for compassionate need, most often medical, into and out of the Los Angeles area with its many major medical facilities and teaching hospitals.  These flights are done by volunteer pilots using their own aircraft, their own time, and bearing all the flight expenses themselves, to help ensure that a fellow citizen gets help.  These pilots help mend a big gap in our healthcare net and they do it out of our local airport about 800 times a year. God Bless them.

Thirdly, the airport channels business and money into our communities – parks take money out.

So finally, the author would have us trash all the beneficial things we get from our community airport to speculate on yet another park. And speculation it would be as Santa Monica has said it cannot afford to build a park should they get a grip on the land and I don’t doubt that. The last two parks built in Santa Monica came in at over $6,000,000 an acre. Even all of the out of control development now going on in Santa Monica, could not cover that kind of overhead.  The city has tried once already to begin a “Century City West” project at the airport in the late 1980’s.  They were only foiled when their attempt to develop 37 acres along Airport Avenue into 6, six-story office buildings was to be put before the people by referendum causing the city to shelve the idea until a later date.  They will try again.


Bill Worden