More Recommendations for Reducing Santa Monica Airport's Impact

Santa Monica's Airport Commission urges city to give notice on ending leases, and to bar a key part of airport land from aviation use in 2015.

Santa Monica's Airport Commission has sent the City Council five additional recommendations for action to lessen 's impact on surrounding residential areas.

One recommendation asks the city to serve notice that in 2015 the city will terminate existing leases and discontinue leasing space to aviation and industrial tenants "engaged in activities incompatible with neighboring land uses including the sale of aviation fuel and other hazardous materials."

That's the year the city says its agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the airport in its current configuration will expire. The FAA, however, contends the true expiration date is 2023, and that another agreement compels the city to operate the airport "in perpetuity."

Another recommendation, similar to one the commission sent the council earlier this year, calls for the removal from aviation use "as soon as practicable after July 1, 2015" one of three parcels comprising the current airport. It's the 18.6-acre "1949 Quitclaim Parcel" at the airport's west end that contains about 40 percent of the runway.

"These two recommendations are really critical to positioning the city to have more power to direct the future of the airport than any measures I've seen up to now," commissioner Stephen Mark said of the lease termination and parcel removal recommendations.


The commission's other three recommendations Monday night included:

  • Having the city stop all non-essential aviation-related capital expenditures until the council determines the future of Santa Monica Airport.
  • Install runway safety areas at each end of the runway as soon as possible.
  • Make any future airport land use subject to a "no additional trip generation" policy, so current land use cannot be intensified.
  • The common theme in the five-item package was that the city, as owner of the airport land, has the right "to reduce the city's liability for nuisance and to enhance the community's human environment."

Commissioner David Goddard insists the actions are similar to past actions taken by the city and upheld by courts, such as the nighttime curfew and noise limits.

The recommendations passed unanimously despite some disagreement among the four commissioners on the practical effect of the capital expenditure and trip-generation items.

In a separate action, the commission asked the City Council to formally endorse a community group's request for the Southern California Air Quality Management District to review the airport's air quality, with an eye to imposing controls.

The initial request to SCAQMD came from Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution in a March 2012 letter. The group's attorney, Mitchell Tsai, says the request needs Santa Monica's support to be effective.

"Santa Monica Airport is too small for SCAQMD to study without [the city] saying it wants action, Tsai told the commission.

The council's endorsement could put the city in the position of asking that it be ordered to reduce SMO's emissions, possibly putting it at odds with both the FAA and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

But Tsai argues that SCAQMD, with approval from the California Air Resources Board, can regulate aircraft emissions under the Federal Clean Air Act.

Click here for more coverage of the Santa Monica Airport.

Mark H August 29, 2012 at 07:35 PM
These people bought their house knowing an airport was there and now they want it shut down? If you didn't want to live next to an airport, you shouldn't have bought next to an airport. I have zero concern for someone who moves in next to an airport and then wants it shut down. And yes, the exhaust from planes at SMO is a drop in the ocean compared to car exhaust in the area. Don't be dishonest. It's about noise or it's about making money off the land development. Pollution is clearly a disingenous excuse. And no, it's not about what's best for most people. It's about contracts agreed to when they accepted federal money. If it were about what's best for most people, why wouldn't we move about ten homeless people into your house mama? Wouldn't the needs of the ten out weigh your needs? If it were about what's best for most people we would have mob rule. Whatever restrictions SM agreed to over the years are the contractual obligations they should live by now.
Dan Michaelson August 29, 2012 at 08:04 PM
The FAA has the final authority on the future of SMO. It will have nothing to do with the city counsel. If the FAA wants SMO to be an airport then it will remain so beyond 2015 and 2023. It will take a lot more than residents screaming to change the FAA mind. Personally I can't stand SMO and will avoid it at all costs. TOA is a much better airport.
PB August 29, 2012 at 08:18 PM
The 'proposed uses' are frivolous dreams - someone has to pay for all of this dreamtime development. There is no redevelopment agency now - eliminated by the State of California. The Great Park in Irvine has been scuttled and will be a basic residential development now since the state pulled one billion dollars of redevelopment money from the project. Santa Monica Airport will not be a park - the only way to fund this is through development fees, and you'll have a mixed development of condos, movies theaters and restaurants, high rise office and dense traffic. The proposed uses are fictional and will never happen because the economic realities prevent it. Meigs Field in Chicago is to be turned into a camping ground now - paid for with a combination of state and federal funds. Perhaps the Council can send in bulldozers at midnight, as Chicago did, and pay a fine to the FAA for the privilege? This is all about money - and a parcel as valuable as this one will not go undeveloped ...... Other issues play - air ambulance, police helicopters, FEMA emergency vehicles, and more. Where will these critical services go? LAX is not available for these services. What do the nimbys plan to do to accommodate critical services? When you are having a coronary are you satisfied to be in an ambulance stuck in traffic for 45 minutes where you could have been airlifted had there been an airport. Think it through and test the hypothesis presented by the anti-airport people.
PB August 29, 2012 at 08:23 PM
What's best for the majority is to keep the airport. Only a vocal minority want to close it. Consider the loss of jobs, and density and pollution created by what replaces it?
sm mama August 29, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Mark H, it's not called mob rule, it's called democracy. The airport is on city land. If it had been on privately owned land, it would have been sold decades ago due to market forces.
David Ewing August 29, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Mark H said: "Pollution is clearly a disingenous excuse." Unfortunately, it is not. I've spent time in the neighborhood just east of the runway, and the fumes can be overpowering. Residents make the point that the amount of jet traffic and the size of the jets has increased a great deal, greatly increasing the pollution problem that existed when they moved into the neighborhood.
PB August 29, 2012 at 09:51 PM
David: Re your post about pollution, they way pollution is measured renders the airport a low emission site. The occurrences are for a short period, measured over a large area, and are intermittent. Tonnages are very light, despite smelling an occasional exhaust. I read a pollution analysis posted by a nimby, which was interesting, and the measured result showed low pollution at the edge of the east side of the airport and higher pollution on the east side of the road along the east perimeter. In other words, the pollution was caused by cars, not planes. The arguments to close the airport are irrational and unsound, echoed by a minority, but made loudly to a sympathetic council.
Ellis Kirschenbaum August 29, 2012 at 10:23 PM
There are arguments for and against closing airport. The one comment I wish to add is in response to those who argue the airport was here before most residents so we accepted this as part of the reality of our home purchases. I researched the airport decades ago when purchasing my home. I knew it was there but also knew the lease expired in 2015. It is the FAA that is seeking to change reality, not those advocating closure.
Pete Smith August 30, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Let's move all the flight schools out of Santa Monica Airport and put them at LAX. That has the added benefit of reducing jet flights into and out of LA. With far fewer flights there will be very long waiting times on the tarmac combined with substantial increase and prices BUT at least there will be fewer compaints from the residents of Santa Monica and Venice.
Oscar Goldman August 30, 2012 at 12:52 AM
"Considering the pollution, noise, accidents and costs to tax payers, airport closure is clearly best for most people." Same tired BS from someone who wants to steal from MOST people. Two separate studies have shown that MOST Santa Monicans SUPPORT the airport. MOST people weren't stupid enough to move next door to an airport and then start bitching about it. MOST people don't need yet another piece of our national transportation infrastructure destroyed. And what is all this pollution you're talking about? Again, studies have shown no significant pollution from SMO. Accidents are extremely rare. Flight schools do not practice maneuvers of Santa Monica because they can't; LAX airspace covers the whole area. Maneuvers are practiced over Simi Valley, which you can clearly see on charts. Costs to taxpayers are NEGATIVE. Even without considering the jobs, commerce, and business influx that SMO provides, the airport nearly breaks even! That's an impressive achievement for a small airport in this economy. So you can spew lies as long as you want, but it's just embarrassing at this point. Oh, and for those complaining about jets: If jets are the problem and the excuse for current complaining, then why try to close the flight schools? The flight schools DON'T FLY JETS.
jon_jon August 30, 2012 at 12:55 AM
David Ewing, Sir you are misinformed. The jets today are far cleaner than they were of yesteryear. You are a silly liberal spewing lies to all to see. It is time to stop the lies and support Santa Monica airport! this goes for you too sm mama
Oscar Goldman August 30, 2012 at 12:55 AM
A park! HA HA HA! Here we have people bellyaching about the cost of SMO, which BRINGS IN money. They think Santa Monica can afford to turn the airport into a park? If they could afford that, a bunch of that land would ALREADY be a park! How infantile are these people?
PB August 30, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Please, be serious. This is a serious topic and deserves serious input. Just in case you are serious about moving flight schools to LAX, the security provisions at such a facility make flight trainlng in light aircraft there absurd.
PB August 30, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Ellis, that was an error in judgment, apparently. While the lease is said to expire, there was no assurance that the airport would disappear, but, regardless, did you not contemplate what would replace it? Did you dream of a park with birds and butterflies, or did you contemplate that it would be replaced with high rise condos and office, movie theaters and a mall with enormous density, vehicular traffic and consequent pollution? I read the ElToro proposed airport EIR, and the alternatives and analysis, and I can assure you that, using the same application, that you will rather live near a regional airport then the alternative.
Hans Laetz August 30, 2012 at 02:50 AM
The airport was there first. Therefore, no land use policy can be enacted that restricts its original, intended use. Therefore, no aircraft built after 1949 can use it. Fair is fair.
Hans Laetz August 30, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Uh, selling a third of it would generate a nice little kitty for parks and other beneficial uses.
Jim G August 30, 2012 at 05:52 AM
SMO's airspace goes up to 5,000 ft. It keeps LAX heavy jets above 5,000 ft over Santa Monica/Venice/Culver City. If SMO closes, the LAX airspace could be lowered to 2,500 feet or less (just like the area to the east). Who wants heavy jets over Santa Monica, Venice and Culver City at 2,500 ft?
Jim G August 30, 2012 at 06:03 AM
LAX recently annexed airspace over Marina del Rey, Culver City, and El Segundo down to 700 feet above sea level. It can happen to Santa Monica, too.
PB August 30, 2012 at 03:21 PM
"Uh, selling a third of it would generate a nice little kitty for parks and other beneficial uses." Hans - this is the kind of remark that puzzles me. The city and state have no money for this purchase so private enterprise will have to fund it - and private enterprise requires a fiscal return. The FAA can legally prohibit development that impedes safety near an active runway, so profitable development is unlikely on 1/3rd of an airport. Will you buy the 1/3rd for us Hans? Turn it into a park? Will you do that for us Hans? Give the butterflies and birds a home, Hans.
Jim G August 30, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Even if Santa Monica sells the western portion of the property, it will still be subject to severe restrictions on its use--it will be at the end of an active runway. So no parks, no theaters, no shopping centers, no homes, no condo units, no office parks.
Paul August 31, 2012 at 11:57 AM
A $10,000 fine for jets taking off after hours is not even a tank of gas. How many people are awake now because of the 4am takeoff that will surely influence my performance today. Luckily I am not a bus driver or Edison lineman but would hate to have them lose 3 hours of sleep.
Greg Fry September 03, 2012 at 06:18 PM
The usual lies predominate. The citizens of Santa Monica subsidize flight operations to the tune of more than $800,000 a year--for what? So an elite few can have an extra plaything? Airplanes using this airport not only pollute homes nearby, but schools as well, with elevated lead levels at an elementary and a junior high school. Don't believe the "we were here first" crap by those whose enormous sense of entitlement is exceeded only by their arrogance--so what? You don't allow any danger to continue to affect the health and safety of nearby areas regardless of when it was built--and SMO is a dangerous, dirty, expensive albatross whose existence should have been phased out decades ago.
PB September 04, 2012 at 01:12 PM
This tired argument again! Unleaded aviation fuel is available and (apparently) the City of Santa Monica is slooowly looking at introducing it to SMO. Why not just introduce it and put naysayers like you out of your pain? Statistically, the amount of lead in avgas is so low as to be almost irrelevant, but it grants naysayers complaining rights. Training aircraft use about 7 GPH, the exhaust of which is dispersed over a wide area - but why not use your energy to have unleaded fuel made available? As for the "expensive albatross" crack - this airport brings jobs and business to the city. Airports are necessary for police and air ambulance and other emergency services. and without it a lot of people would be unnecessarily hurt. For them, you might moderate your attitude!
Greg Fry September 05, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Well, let's examine those claims: --Switching to unleaded fuel would only apply to small planes. Big jets--by far the biggest polluters--would not be affected, as they rely on an entirely different--and highly toxic--fuel formula. --Santa Monica is not an island or isolated rural community. There are plenty of local transportation options to get into town. SMO with its too-short runway in a densely packed urban area just doesn't fit. A shortened or shrunken SMO would still provide helicopter access, which is all one needs for true emergencies. --You failed to address the subsidy issue. There are many pressing needs and wants for Santa Monicans which are beyond the ability of current revenues to fund. Again: why should the people of Santa Monica waste close to a million dollars a year to keep a dangerous, dirty, and obsolete facility open when there are so many other pressing wants and needs?
PB September 05, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Again - misinformation by a minority of stakeholders. In this case, a group of one. Jet fuel is kerosene with antifreeze additive. There is no lead in jet fuel (kerosene) - and lead was the thrust of your complaint! Now you are changing your complaint! If you want a heliport instead of an airport, I imagine that you'll emotionally object to the jet fuel burned by the helicopters which, incidentally, focus their noise directly at near surrounds and are more noise objectionable than fixed wing aircraft. I disagree that only helicopters need to be used during emergencies - I remember reading the ElToro Airport EIR and noise studies, and what I learned is that emergency services are typically turbo prop fixed wing aircraft. Helicopters have relatively little lift capacity and cannot transport volumes of people. I think that you'll agree with that if you objectively think it through.
PB September 05, 2012 at 11:28 PM
As for the subsidy - I've read of this but I don't know how the City allocates costs? The FAA (paid for through fuel taxes on aircraft) pays for the control tower and staff. Runways and taxiway construction and maintenance are paid for by the FAA through the same fund. Internal improvements (tiedown areas, hangars, police, airport management staff) are paid for by the City. But there is income to offset these costs - fuel flowage fees and taxes and hangar and tiedown rents. - the bulk of the areas is roadway and open space with some hangars and buildings and is not difficult to police. The deficit figure that has been published (that I have seen in print) is $80,000, and that could be due to cost allocation so as to create a deficit. I can't accurately address this, although with the multitude of taxes and grants I find it incomprehensible that the airport is really run at a deficit. It is possible that the fuel taxes and flowage fees go into the general fund and not the airport fund, and that the airport really runs at a surplus? All I can judge by are other airports with lower taxes that run at a surplus, and I've often wondered why SMO is reported to have a deficit.
PB September 05, 2012 at 11:40 PM
I strongly disagree with your contention that it is a dangerous, dirty and obsolete use. If you compare aircraft movements and fatalities to automotive movements, the auto use is vastly more dangerous. Your replacing aircraft use with auto use will, consequently, increase the death rate from transportation. Dirty? Auto emissions are created everywhere - plane emissions are generated in a very small area, although a jet emits a lot. But the jet emissions are cleaner then in past years, and getting even cleaner. An airport is NOT a dirty use. Airport emissions are small when the large area is considered. Obsolete? Of course not. It is a valuable community transportation service and more airports are needed, not fewer. The elimination of jobs and taxes and having the open space of an airport replaced with 40 condos to the acre, movie theaters and high rise offices, with the street clogging traffic and emissions, will be missed by the citizens of the area.
Greg Fry September 06, 2012 at 01:38 AM
More misinformation: jet fuel consists of over A THOUSAND chemical components: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation_fuel Please respond honestly to evidence opposed to your perspective--thanks! I have ample evidence of the extremely toxic residue that exhaust from jet planes leaves in surrounding neighborhoods!
Greg Fry September 06, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Well, let's examine your further false claims: http://www.smgov.net/Departments/Airport/Commission_Meetings/2012/20120227/02-27-12_Commissioner_Goddard_Item_re_SMO_Budget_Eval.aspx Again: flight operations--as separate from any revenue accrued from the airport campus, and not in the least dependent on flight operations--are an albatross which cost Santa Monica residents in excess of $800,000 a year. Any other "rents" and "fees" incidental to flight operations (and not dependent on them) earn Santa Monica money. So: shut down money-losing flight operations, continue to realize revenue on non-flight-related operations, and further increase municipal revenue through actualizing space now occupied by this dirty and dangerous facility!
Greg Fry September 06, 2012 at 02:04 AM
"I strongly disagree with your contention that it is a dangerous, dirty and obsolete use." What part of unwarranted subsidies by Santa Monica residents from a limited and shrinking tax pool, plus the danger of ANY flight crashing into the homes, schools, businesses or other local property--not to mention pollution deposits as a result of EVERY flight--have to do with your false claim? Regardless of your attempts to misdirect our attention elsewhere, shutting down SMO--the plaything of an elite few--would have an immediate impact for the benefit of ALL residents in Santa Monica and the entire Westside!


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