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Fight Continues Over Airport Visioning Process

Goal of study's Phase 3—transparency and trust—remains elusive as clock moves toward 2015.

Nearly seven months into the third phase of Santa Monica Airport’s "visioning process," the struggle continues between the Airport Commission and city staffers over how comprehensive the process should be.

Specifically, the commission wants staff to be more assertive in studying scenarios for closing the airport in mid-2015, upon the expiration of the city’s operating agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration, or mitigating its negative impacts even sooner. (The FAA insists the 1984 agreement is binding until 2023).

The commission and a large segment of the public want city staffers, and the consultants the city hires, to consider scenarios the commission has recommended for a reduction of flight operations.

But no such scenarios were in the staff progress report presented Monday night at the first of two public workshops that are part of Phase 3, bringing criticism from more than a dozen members of the public and several commissioners.

See also: Airport Visioning Phase 2 Finale Reflects Unease

Public Works Director Martin Pastucha pointedly reminded the commission—as he has before—that the staff doesn’t work for the commission and answers only to the City Council.

Pastucha assured Chairman David Goddard that the commission’s recommendations for interim efforts to reduce flight operations had all been passed on to the City Council.

"Staff has not been given any direction to follow through on those," Pastucha said. "If [the council] decide[s] not to act upon it, it’s not our responsibility."

Goddard took exception, saying staffers had not brought commission recommendations to the council.

"You chose five recommendations during the visioning process that were the five talking points of the pilots, who constituted about 20 percent of the participants," Goddard said, referring to the Phase 2 outreach/survey groups in which more than 300 people participated.

By contrast, Goddard said, 80 percent of the participants asked the city to study the airport's closure or reduction in its flight operations.

"Not one of the reduction items were recommended by staff to city council," Goddard said. "They were ignored."

See also:

Commissioner Ofer Grossman, referring to the council’s May directive that opened Phase 3, said one listed goal was to look at ways to make SMO a "better neighbor." He interpreted that to mean staff could consider the kinds of actions the commission wants explored, such as possible reduction of flight school operations.

Pastucha suggested such a discussion could incur the legal wrath of the FAA. The city attorney has said the city’s legal strategies cannot be revealed.

With the visioning process scheduled to end in spring of next year, Grossman said it’s time for the city to tell the public that it is at least considering the closure of the airport or reducing flight operations, or risk completely discrediting the visioning process.

At Pastucha’s suggestion, the commission will hold a special December meeting to ask the city to allow and direct staff to study options for SMO that go beyond voluntary flight reductions and fly-neighborly programs.

Sunset Park resident Cathy Larson praised the staff, but said, "on this particular issue, the community really, really, feels—you’re deaf."

It was the closest anyone came to actually mentioning the city’s stated Goal No. 1 for Phase 3: "Address concerns about transparency, communications and trust."

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Paul Rich November 27, 2012 at 03:26 PM
So public input to reduce flights -- and thus noise and pollution -- were not kicked upstairs. They were "ignored." " Commissioner Ofer Grossman, referring to the council’s May directive to... consider the kinds of actions the commission wants explored, such as possible reduction of flight school operations." Might I throw in reduction of jet traffic, the main culprit. "Pastucha suggested such a discussion could incur the legal wrath of the FAA. The city attorney has said the city’s legal strategies cannot be revealed. " "Grossman said it’s time for the city to tell the public that it is at least considering the closure of the airport or reducing flight operations, or risk completely discrediting the visioning process. " This is depressing although, sadly, not surprising that money is at the root of all ... well, you know. That's my prior experience when large corporations, federal agencies and city councils try to placate it's pesky citizenry who muck up their revenue streams. "Not one of the reduction items were recommended by staff to city council," Goddard said. "They were ignored." See also: Tension Escalates Between Airport Commission, City
Glenn E Grab November 27, 2012 at 04:07 PM
these people who claim to speak for the "community" are a very small, and misguided, percentage of the population.... backed by greedy councilmen and councilwomen who are only interested in real estate taxes that will ensue from building thousands of condos on the airport land...look what they did to the trailer park.....almost 400 condos and apartments....if you think the airport causes traffic, wait until they tear it down and start building gated condo complexes....
Gavin Scott November 27, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Shame on city council staff for interposing themselves between the people of the city and the council. The simple fact is that Santa Monica Airport makes lives miserable for local people and needs to be closed. Santa Monica Council needs to stand up to the FAA on behalf of its citizens. Have some courage, Santa Monica: don't let yourselves be bullied by uncaring federal officials and vested interests.
Mike November 27, 2012 at 05:41 PM
The public clearly voiced a heavy-majority opinion in a workshop survey commissioned by the city itself, and yet the city staff continue to ignore these results. Regardless of where you stand on the airport itself, this failure of the city to represent the will of the people is a complete breakdown of democracy.
Glenn E Grab November 27, 2012 at 07:12 PM
the airport has been there for almost 100 years, long before the houses were....everybody who lives near the airport bought their house knowng the airport was there..besides, the FAA will never allow the Santa Monica Airport to be eliminated, it's too important to the safety of the Westside of LA...Mike, where's your "will of the people" argument when it come to Christmas decorations on Ocean Ave?.....1% of the city(the spoilsport atheists) got their way over the 99% that wants them!!!...
Pilot Dave November 27, 2012 at 09:02 PM
"The will of the people" is of course for the airport to remain. There are about 20 families who purchased homes near the airport and want it eliminated so their houses increase in value. There was a recent city wide study that showed Santa Monica Airport was one of little concern to the majority of Santa Monica residents. Yet there is a small but vocal group of whiny homeowners who say their lives "have been ruined" by the airport. If that's the case my suggestion to them is just move! I'd recommend Pitcairn Island where no airport exists. Nobody is forced to live near the airport. It's not like the airport sprung up in the middle of the night. It has been in operation for over 80 years. Jets have been landing there for over 50 year! And lots of airport neighbors, myself include, like living next to an airport. We like watching and hearing the planes! What about us? What about the lives of all of the workers at Santa Monica Airport? What about their children? In these tough economic times it seems criminal for a bunch of spoiled, rich, whiny home owners to try and shut down one of the city's largest employers. Talk about NIMBYism at its finest. If the city council had any guts they would purchase the homes of the whiny neighbors and extend the runway, that way we could land much larger heavier aircraft there.
Glenn E Grab November 27, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Dave, you're absolutely right...
Henry Hall November 27, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Why don't the residents of Santa Monica campaign to close LAX. The endless pollution from that facility spills over to our city and the noise to adjacent communities is extreme. Closing Santa Monic airport and LAX would finally bring peace to the Westside. We could then go back and live simple lives without airplanes.
John Londono November 27, 2012 at 10:14 PM
If there are truly only a few "whiners" who are asking for change, then the pilots and airport supporters have nothing to worry about. I have noticed that they are quick to post negative comments about those seeking increases in safety and decreases in pollution. I have a feeling they are quite nervous about the changes that are coming; if not in 2015, then certainly some other time in the future. The airport is inconsistent with Santa Monica's motto: "A Sustainable Community" and cannot continue indefinitely as is. I cannot understand why pilots and airport supporters do not work together to make SMO the "greenest" airport in the country, thereby securing its existence. Instead, the keep their antagonism keeps the specter of closure ever-present.
Paul Rich November 28, 2012 at 12:18 AM
The argument that people bought their homes close to the airport knew what they were getting into is ludicrous. I grew up in a house close to the airport and have recently inherited it. Santa Monica Airport is part of the special legacy of the city. But the airport now is a FAR cry from the sleepy, little charming airport it was when I grew up, the occasional small prop planes taking off. And there were no jets. Jet traffic and the size of corporate jets has grown exponentially. I understand and sympathize with pilots of small planes, but not those who argue "there are 20 home owners who want to increase the value of their homes." Really? Just 20 greedy homeowners selfishly concerned with their home value? Not the quality of their life? The majority of residence in the adjacent community don't necessarily want to close the airport, but simply regulate it more and reduce the air traffic and noise. City council, are you listening? Was that a pin dropping? Crickets?
JeanB November 28, 2012 at 01:43 AM
There are currently over 1,750 signatures on the CASMAT petition - http://www.casmat.org/p/petition.html requesting the city council support the airport recommendations to reduce or eliminate airport impacts/operations. That doesn't sound like '20 families' or 'just a few whiners' to me, it sounds like a major voting block that gets larger as time goes on.
Pilot Dave November 28, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Henry, The few loud mouth residents of Santa Monica won't campaign to close LAX because if it's closed the value of their houses would not increase. The whiny neighbors of Santa Monica only care about the value of their land and not the lives of the many families that depend on the airport for their livelihood. Interestingly the neighbors cannot even agree on why to close the airport. Some people don't like the noise. Others, (falsely) claim it pollutes. Some claim it's a safety hazard (despite the fact that the airport has never harmed a neighbor in over 100 years) Even the founder of CRAAP, Martin Rubin, claimed that limos going to and from the airport are the source of West LA's traffic problems. When you point out that the airport has been operating for nearly 100 years and saw it's first Jets in the 60s, the whiny liberals, such as Paul Rich, claim that argument is "ludicrous". Santa Monica Airport is not only important for the many people who work their and have families that depend on them. It's also a vital part of our nation's infrastructure. You can't expect the liberal, greedy residents to look beyond their backyard to see all of the benefits SMO brings to this city, county and country.
Christina Cox November 28, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Thanks! I just added my rich, whiny signature!
GasMeUp November 28, 2012 at 05:47 AM
(corrected) "Sustainability" is merely a word. Where are the right political actions to go with that? What can SM staff be thinking? Certainly the following new lawsuit should have some environ. or "sustainability" bearing on toxic emissions from piston aircraft and helicopters? Why? Because those mostly use leaded avgas! So, isn't THIS about sustainability? : Environmental Group Sues EPA To Get The Lead Out Of Aviation Gasoline http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2012/environmental-group-sues-epa-to-get-the-lead-out-of-aviation-gasoline Lead is EPA-rated as a "probable human carcinogen" (cancer causing). Leaded avgas emissions have no rightful "sustainable" place around neighborhood airports, in particular!
Jen November 28, 2012 at 07:21 AM
I have a personal story to share regarding the Santa Monica Airport. In my early 20's, just a few months away from graduating college, I began to feel extremely lethargic. It got to the point where I could barely function- just getting up and going to class was enough to knock me out for a few hours afterward. I had no idea what was wrong, and my parents and I were shocked when tests revealed that I was in the beginning stages of congestive heart failure due to gradually progressing valvular disease. I was immediately placed on a transplant list for a new heart. The next few months were agonizing. I stopped going to school and went home to my parents' house to rest. Each day was an ordeal, every hour was spent wondering what was next. One day, we got the phone call we were waiting for-a heart was available, and I was a match! My heart was flown into LA via a small jet that landed at Santa Monica airport, and I received transplant surgery a few hours later. I'm happy to say that I'm now 31, and have been living a full life ever since. I graduated from UCLA, and have a successful career helping others. I am thankful for so many things-and will always have a special place in my heart for the place where my heart arrived: the Santa Monica Airport. :)
Glenn E Grab November 28, 2012 at 02:59 PM
1750 unverified signatures on a petition is less than 2% of the population(over 90,000) of Santa Monica....one more example of the "tail trying to wag the dog" mentality that seems to be prevalent in this City...don't you people get it?....you're being used by the developers who want to build condos and apartments on the Airport land....
Glenn E Grab November 28, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Jen., wonderful anecdote....thank you....congratulations...
JeanB November 28, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Just for reference, the anti-Miramar petition gathered "over 1,000" signatures, the dog beach petition got 1,238, the save the nativity scenes petition had 1,721 signatures, and the petition to preserve Chez Jay got 1,700 signatures. In Santa Monica politics, over 1,750 signatures is a lot. This argument has nothing to do with developers, it is about quality of life. If you don't believe that the people who are fighting to reduce airport impacts are capable of preventing a developer takeover should the airport actually close, then you underestimate us.
Pilot Dave November 28, 2012 at 07:50 PM
JeanB, Santa Monica Airport is part of our nation's infrastructure. Although located in the city of Santa Monica, it actually serves the entire country. Santa Monica airport is important to many jobs here and also in other states. In true Santa Monica NIMBYism the neighbors have no comprehension of this. Their local "petition" is meaningless. It is completely unverified, unscientific and is meaningless. I could start a website tomorrow and claim I have 30,000 signatures that agree the sky is green! Just because a few neighbors clicked an online website a few hundred times means only that they have too much time on their hands and should find something better to do than constantly complain about Santa Monica Airport! An actual scientific survey was conducted earlier this year (by APCO insight) that found Santa Monica Airport was basically of no concern to most of the residents in Santa Monica. It also concluded most people in Santa Monica thought the airport's benefits outweighed its costs. Unfortunately using logic and real data usually does not satisfy the opposition. Even such a simple claim, as "if you are so opposed to the airport why did you move next to it?" draws retorts like that argument is "ludicrous" like Paul Rich mentioned.
Martin Rubin November 28, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Pilot Dave, According to an Airport Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) May 16, 2012 online poll by Bruce Landsberg Bruce Landsberg, President of the AOPA Foundation 72% think SMO is a nuisance. Check for yourself at: Fire at SMO and what just what is a contract anyway? ( http://blog.aopa.org/leadingedge/?p=2628 )
GasMeUp November 28, 2012 at 10:50 PM
JeanB and Martin: Please try not to confuse us with facts. You know how unsettling those can be to many of us. Especially to the "Visioning" and "Sustainability" processes which seem to prefer omissions of fact and details that present challenging questions about quality of life issues. :)
Pilot Dave November 28, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Comrade Rubin, I see yet again you are spreading your CRAAPY lies to try and close Santa Monica Airport, just so you can increase the value of your residence (not in Santa Monica) and put tens of thousands of hard working Americans out of work and severely cripple our nation's infrastructure! The link you provided is not a scientific study, but just an informal web poll, most likely skewed by communist infiltration, probably under your direction. The real scientific study performed by an outside consulting group last year concluded that the airport is of little or no concern to the residents of Santa Monica. http://www.aopa.org/advocacy/articles/2012/120517santa-monica-airport-not-key-issue.html The lies you and your website spin are frequent and it's time someone takes a stand against your pseudo science and fiction! Over the last 15 years there have been over 17 different studies by various organizations that conclude Santa Monica Airport is NOT an emitter of air pollution. You fail to link to any of these studies on your CRAAPY website. Do you know what does emit a lot of hot air?... Your CRAAPY website. Comrade Rubin, Please stop with all of the lies! I think you would be much happier on Pitcairn Island. There is no airport in sight and we won't have to deal with all of your hot air!
Glenn E Grab November 29, 2012 at 12:50 AM
jeanB and Martin....you're like the Palestinians, doing the dirty work for Iran and Hamas,and getting nothing but killed for their efforts..... only you two do it unwittingly for the developers and the SM City Council....step back and take a look, the City Council is playing you like a cheap violin....they won't ever really commit to you....the same thing happened in Agua Dulce, guess what?....the airport's still there....Mike Antonovich gave the complainers lip-service, just like you're getting, because he knew that the airport wouldn't be closed...the FAA won't allow it...
stewart resmer November 29, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Pilot Dave, I must admit a while ago I ran a tail # @ flightaware.com when some one alleged that an aircraft had executed touch and go or some other percieved nusance that the anti airport crowd was on about. And guess what? That aircraft had not left the Camarillo airport for weeks prior to and after the alleged incident. I quoted the data to the SMDP in the comment section at the time in the interests of fair play. No data of any kind represented by the anti-airport crowd can ever be taken at face value by me any longer because after all its, well, you know? Crapp.

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