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AIRPORT TO PARK

I have been following and commenting for months now about the cry for the closure of the SMO airport. I have read the hundreds of unfounded claims of many emotional people that obviously do not understand the implications of closing this historic and valuable treasure of the Los Angeles basin. Many have claimed the pollution is the concern. Hanging their hat on a report by some UCLA group that claims to have determined there is a serous health concerns that the residents are faced to endure. The problem is Santa Monica has the best air quality in the LA basin. In addition most fail to read between the lines on this report where it clearly indicates that the pollution levels, while they exist are the lowest of any in the basin. So pollution yes, but clearly not as serious as made out. Many claim that the Jets send a " noticeable plume of black smoke that blankets the local neighborhoods with this terrible black soot". I remember at one meeting a local home owner bringing in an orange from his tree in the back yard claiming the black on the orange was soot from the jets. The reality was the soot was a fungus that orange trees have been getting in this region for decades, not related to any pollution source. So hysteria seems to be the tool of many. Never mind that engine manufacturers over the last decade have produced the most efficient engines known to man that are not only quiet but are polluting less and less every year. Mandates in this country require constant improvements to these engines, so the claims of many are again false and misleading. The latest attack on the airport is coming from our trust worthy politicians is the claim that the airport is a financial drain on the city. That it operates at a loss of well over a million dollars a year. Well again this is another misleading claim. The airport revenues as provided by the Santa Monica Airport Commission indicate a out of pocket estimated expense of around 1.5 for 2012. What it does not indicate is the revenue stream as provided by the actual dollars fed into the local economy by way of taxes and jobs. Santa Monica Airport averages, even in these hard economic times a documented 275 million dollars. Throw in the 1475 jobs and its pretty clear the airport is a major revenue stream for the City of Santa Monica. So throw out the false claim of the airport wasting city money. The last thing I would like to cover is the claim that a park would be a logical replacement for the airport. This of course seems to be agreed upon by those screaming for closure. Well lets look at the park idea for a moment. A park does not generate a positive cash flow any kind from its use. Yes there are park programs and sports events of which never seem to cover the actual costs for those events. One only has to look at the Los Angeles County park and recreation statistics to see that the operating budget for a large park is astronomical. LA alone has a 43 million dollar budget just in simple upkeep costs alone. Santa Monica's proposed park would be the largest in the city, so imagine the costs associated with the operating budget on that. How do we plan on paying for that, taxes? Do people really want to reach into their pockets in these down economic times? So a park is really a pipe dream. No the only solution viable in these economic times if not remaining an airport is high density living and or mall. So throw out the reducing pollution idea. Cars and trucks are the number 1 cause of pollution my fellow citizens in this fine city we live. Add a tremendous traffic increase and you will be blanketing the already burdened neighborhoods with parking and traffic issues not to mention the serious increase in pollution.  
JeanB November 25, 2013 at 09:37 PM
According to the staff report at the April 30th City Council meeting, as of June 30, 2012 total outstanding loans to the airport from the general fund was $13.3 million. These loans are to cover SMO losses which are clearly not a 'misleading claim' as the author suggests. Furthermore, the study by HR&A showed total economic benefit from the airport to be roughly equivalent to one medium sized office building. Even to get to that figure, they had to make the assumption that the same proportion of tourists arrive on planes coming into SMO as do to LAX because there was no reliable 'tourist' data for GA airports. This is ridiculous and plugging in commercial airport tourism figures throws the whole study into disrepute. I'd be amazed if more that a handful of tourists arrive each year to stay in Santa Monica hotels. That value to the economy you claim is a myth. It takes 4,800 square feet of leased space to support each aviation job at SMO. The national average is 250 square feet for a normal office building. If the City shut the airport and did absolutely NOTHING except lease existing building space directly to non-aviation tenants at commercial rates (instead of cents on the dollar), City revenue would increase by over $5 million per year compared to keeping the airport open. Also, nearby property values are depressed by up to 25% so if it were to close, the City would additionally get millions per year from property tax revenues. The list goes on and on. The airport looses money for everyone while polluting and endangering the surrounds. Seems like a no brainer to shut it down.
kelly sekon November 25, 2013 at 10:37 PM
I have lived here twenty years and know no one that works or pilots at the airport. Our tax dollars subsidizing flight school businesses and non-locals is unacceptable. I am thankful to the city council and the city controller for representing the community. I would prefer to have a "Central Park" or a Football Stadium than a money losing polluting hinderance.
Tom Jackson November 25, 2013 at 11:19 PM
AGAIN we have bogus numbers quoted by those on this site. Have a look around your magnificent city at all the unleaded office buildings. The city is operating at about 67 % occupancy rate which is seriously low. The number of 275 million is a fact not a guess and that is why this battle had raged on for years. The problem is many of you anti airport people fuel each other with your silly claims and miss information campaign. Bottom line is there will be no park because it will cost millions to put in and the locals will not want to pay for it. In addition there is no tax base on a park. The fact remains it will go to high density housing which will just be more traffic and pollution that far exceeds the airport. So believe your false claims and be prepared to loose the battle. The FAA is about to slap you guys once again. The ages will not allow a valuable transportation source be eliminated because of a few people who don't get the facts.
Tom Jackson November 25, 2013 at 11:46 PM
One only needs to read the the Santa Monica Mirror article on the airport impact on the city revenue stream to see that you anti airport people are off your rocker. As you claimed that a simple office building would provide the same revenue is a joke and outright lie. How about 1855 rooms of a mid priced hotel chain. Or 1.2 million square feet of top end office space. Where exactly are you going to put these things and at what cost. More congestion and pollution than that of the airport. Throw in the fact that the courts have already ruled that the airport is a tremendous resource as a traffic reliever for LAX and other local airports. Throw in as an emergency recovery asset during a major event and logic alone says you should keep the airport. Dreaming of a non revenue generating park is not even in the cards.
JeanB November 26, 2013 at 01:13 AM
It is not us that makes the claim that it is equivalent to a medium office building. If you had been at the HR&A presentation (the City's aviation expert consultants) at both the airport commission and the City council (as I was), you would know it was the presenter himself that made that statement, and you can reference his powerpoint slides from the airport site if you don't believe me. The $275 million figure you quote came from the exact same source, but in that case the computer model was fed with commercial airport tourism figures - garbage in, garbage out. Watch the video of the presentation on the City Council site and you will see. Simply repeating a false statement without referencing any data to back it up does not make it true, no mater how laced with insults your phraseology may be. This hollow bluster is apparently the only tactic left to aviation proponents, and nobody is fooled by it. The airport is a complete waste of space. It is a toxic, dangerous, drain on the City's finances, and it needs to go.
Tom Jackson November 26, 2013 at 01:44 AM
So Jean, what makes you think that your figures are not garbage. I quoted what was given in that report. Its not your place to claim one figure is garbage and the other is not. The court has agreed with my garbage as you say, as they have ruled in favor of keeping the airport in the past. Your park dream is just that and would clearly be a bigger drain on the economy of the City. I notice you don't want to discuss that fact. Have a look at the LA County park figures and have a look at their garbage in. The only option to have the lost airport revenue stream being replaced would be to build several business centers or high density hotel complex, which brings more traffic and more pollution. I notice that no one in the anti airport group wants to admit that the number 1 pollution source is the automobile and truck traffic. The airport is singled out as if it is the only source. It is in fact the lowest form of pollution in the transportation arena of Santa Monica, but lets not talk about the real facts. Lets stay on the demonization of the airport by a select few. The same government that gave you Obama care is clearly working to save the airport and will certainly make your battle a loosing cause as it has been for decades. You city has wasted millions in fighting to close the airport. It will continue to spend our tax revenue on a loosing cause. I say lets get on with our lives and strive to improve the airport as it clearly is an asset and not the liability you anti airport type claim.
JeanB November 26, 2013 at 02:07 AM
There have been 3 economic studies contracted by the City over the decades. All three showed that it was not economically viable. That is why the City Council resolved back in the early 80's to close it as soon as possible. The court did not make any statement on your revenue figures, the matter was simply related to land agreements. As to the park, you may recall that I already pointed out in an earlier comment that a park would generate more income for the City than the airport does as present. No point in repeating myself. There is no need to build anything. Simply stop the losses caused by aviation occurring where it is not necessary or desirable. Pattern flying at the airport generates the lead pollution equivalent of 1/3 million of today's cars driving past our front doors every day. Again that is a FACT and you can find the computation at "www.casmat.org/2011/11/lead-in-aviation-fuel.html". There is no other lead source that comes anywhere close nearby.
Tom Jackson November 26, 2013 at 03:00 AM
Jean, Here are the facts. In 1993 the City took over 9 million in grants from the FAA for airport improvements. This creates the obligation to keep airport open until 2023 minimum and that is if the court denies the original government agreement as valid. The Park is a pipe dream and will never happen. Cost's too much and has no revenue stream, much like Obama Care. Will cost the City Millions in upkeep alone. So your comments about the park costing nothing is another dream. Your insistence on claiming the terrible pollution generated from the airport is again another attempt to cloud the issue. I will speculate that your fabricated numbers and misleading statements will only prove to serve against your attempt to close the airport. Denying a binding contract with the Federal Government does not excuse the City from compliance. I will venture to guess the City will spend another Million dollars only to loose again when heard in court. This time I suspect the court will make it perfectly clear that the airport is to remain an airport. I understand that in the answer submitted by the FAA to the city suit that the FAA will work to gain control of the airport back from the city, which a stipulation afforded in the original agreement. We will soon see!!!
Val Streit November 26, 2013 at 11:23 AM
Tell Malibu and Topanga that in the event of a brush fire that WE choose to only have a park for emergency craft to refuel. If we get a major quake here we would have no means of getting emergency needs here without the airport. It proved valuable during the 1994 quake and always with wildfires in Malibu and Topanga. The next nearest airport would be Van Nuys which is much further for them to go meaning much more is burning out of control. The airport has served not only SM but the surrounding communities for decades and should continue to serve them well into the future.
Tom Jackson November 26, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Val Unfortunately the anti-airport crowd does not care about what is good about the airport. In their minds the airport serves no useful purpose. They hang their hats on studies that are bias at best. Just read the UCLA study where it discusses the airport pollution but fails to compare it in any way to the Automobile pollution. Had they compared it they would have had to admit that the airport represents a fraction of the total pollution picture. They also choose to discount the studies that clearly show the airport as a economic plus to the City. They again hang their hat on one set of numbers and ignore the numbers that give the total picture. They are of the mob mentality that refuses to acknowledge the long standing rights of the pilots in the community and think that by bully tactics they can take control of this valuable asset. The city managers have long sense been sabotaging the businesses on the airport with not giving long term leases for improvements and have even refused the recommendation of the FAA for safety improvements fearing it would throw rocks in their plan to close the airport. Their thinking is why improve the safety when we can use the potential danger as a tool to get rid of it. Its the same old political game that goes on in Washington. Don't fix it, just get rid of it. A few zealots have spend millions over the years of tax payers money to eliminate this valuable asset. They use every trick in the book with fear being their number one tool. Hundreds die every year in car accidents. Cars represent the biggest threat to the community in death and pollution, but don't plan on touching that subject with them, because to quote them their car is necessary and your plane is not. So we will wait and see. I have several good friends in the Western Region of the FAA. Word has it that the FAA will not back off on this and they are going the distance. They are also working on actually taking the airport from the city in the interest of saving a most valuable asset to our transportation infrastructure. So I hope the city managers and their few zealots are ready to spend the local tax payers money on a witch hunt.
JeanB November 26, 2013 at 11:56 AM
The 9 million obligated the City until 2014. In 2003 the City accepted already allocated grant money for planned phase 2 improvements to slurry the taxiways and build the blast wall. The FAA contends that this starts another 20 years, the City disagrees. Even if the FAA prevails in this argument, the obligations end after 20 years OR with the useful life of the improvements. The taxiways have already been re-slurried at City expense, which just leaves the blast wall. The City could choose simply to pay back that portion so ending the agreement, but in 2015 the City's obligation to maintain a 5,000 ft runway clearly ends. At that time the Western 2,000 ft of runway which is not covered by the instrument of transfer can be re-claimed for non-aviation use. At that time also the City can install runway safety areas (since the 5,000 foot obligation no longer prevents it). Installing just the minimum FAA required 300 ft safety area at either end of the remaining 3,000 runway reduces it to 2,400 feet - too small for the larger jets. At the same time the blast wall by Bundy is no longer required and can be demolished, thereby ending any FAA 2023 claim. The lawsuit concerns only the land agreements for the eastern 3,000 ft of runway. If the City prevails then the entire airport can be removed immediately after July 1, 2015, not just the eastern 2,000 ft. In 2015, the airport at a minimum will be much smaller, and hopefully may be gone completely. There is nothing the FAA bogey man can do to stop it, since the City as the proprietor and under all its agreements with the FAA has every right to do all of these things. As to fabricated numbers, I have provided a reference for every number quoted. You have provided none. If you want to be taken seriously, please provide a credible reference to substantiate the 'facts' you claim, otherwise I am sure everyone reading this chain is quite capable of drawing their own conclusions.
Tom Jackson November 26, 2013 at 12:20 PM
JeanB You comment about my facts is very humorous in that I use the same numbers available to you and your followers which you choose to ignore. I didn't make up the 275,000,000 dollar number it came from the same studies you quote from. Its just the part you don't like. You have what I call selective reading disability. Its a syndrome where you choose to select tidbits of data that support your claim. Its like editing out a recording to make it say what you want to hear. Same exact thing the media did with the Trevon Martin case in Florida. Then when all the facts come to court everyone wonders why the defendant is found innocent. So I am going to hang my hat on the defendants table on this one and wait to see the law prevail. I can't believe that the government would waste money to save the airport if it was so cut and dry as you make out. In regards to your the airport can just repay the 9 million statement. My next question is who's pocket are you going to pull that out of? And please also explain to all us simple minded people out here, who in the world is going to pay for this park you are all talking about. It takes money and money the City does not have. Please don't use the "we can use the money the city looses on the airport every year and build a beautiful park" it just is not so!! You sound almost like a politician when they say where there is a will there is a way. In this case I don't see a way.
JeanB November 26, 2013 at 12:43 PM
The blast wall cost around $300K, that is all that needs to be repaid - a tiny fraction of annual losses at the airport. Oh and I can read just fine thank you very much. At the risk of repeating myself. If the City simply close the airport and leave it alone (i.e., no park development) to turn wild, and rent out existing buildings at market rates, they would realize a net annual income gain of well over $7 million ($5m from rents, $2 million from reduced running costs, plus millions from property taxes). No development whatsoever. That is exactly what they did at Germany's Tempelhofer park which is now widely acclaimed as one of the most inspirational open spaces parks around. It doesn't have to cost a penny, indeed it will generate income. Contrary to what you say, I absolutely is just so! If we want to spend more money on it later, perhaps by floating a park bond to add more formal park features, then we can do that too. There have been hundreds of US airports closed in the past decades, it happens all the time. Your bluster won't convince us it is impossible, we know that closing airports and other industrial relics is commonplace.
andy k. liberman December 15, 2013 at 05:51 PM
turn the airport into a park, with moderate and low income housing--what better use can you think of?
pilot_rick December 16, 2013 at 04:55 PM
An airport!
andy k. liberman December 16, 2013 at 06:41 PM
greater needs than that...let the rich play elsewhere
Val Streit December 17, 2013 at 11:07 AM
It's not an airport for the rich. It is an airport for anyone wishing to use it. It is also a valuable resource in an emergency. You want a park, go to Clover Park. It is really nice and enough park for everyone.
pilot_rick December 17, 2013 at 11:40 AM
Andy, I get the sense that you are also against the absurd new landing fees at Santa Monica Airport. I fly myself out of Santa Monica and cannot afford to pay the new landing fees because I am not rich. What I do is just ignore the bills and threading letters. The landing fees are basically totally voluntary. There is no legal repercussions for not paying them and the city has no way of actually collecting. So I agree the rich can play elsewhere... let the airport serve all!

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