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Airport 'Visioning' Studies Fall Short

Santa Monica Airport Commission Chairman Richard Brown says the city's failure to order better studies produced results that have far less value than residents were entitled to.

Richard Brown, chairman of the Santa Monica Airport Commission, expressed deep disappointment Monday about two studies at the core of the first phase of the city's airport "visioning" process.

The , when its current operational agreement with the Federal Aviation Admistration expires. (The FAA insists its control over SMO will continue after that date).

"I think the studies ... produced far less value than the community was expecting and had a right to expect," Brown told Patch after a Monday night commission workshop. "They did not address some very key questions that members of the community need to understand in order to be knowledgeable participants in the city's visioning process."

During the workshop, representatives of HR&A Advisors and the RAND Corp. recapped data they presented to the city council in October. HR&A focused on the overall economic output at SMO, including non-aviation businesses. RAND concentrated on possible uses for the 40 of 227 acres at not used for aviation purposes.

Brown said the consultants. He faulted the city for not asking that the studies be more comprehensive.

"What are some of the specific costs and economic benefits to particular activities such as flight schools, charters and fixed-base operators that the city might want to increase or decrease, in addition to looking at other kinds of non-aviation activities?'' Brown asked rhetorically.

The HR&A and RAND presentations were followed by a question-the-consultants session that included on-site and emailed inquiries from the public. But the consultants said many questions were beyond the scope of the studies the city requested.

Venice resident Nathan Court said the studies fail to deal with SMO as "a big, dirty, noisy industrial operation that has an impact far beyond its borders."

Paul Silvern, vice-president of HR&A, acknowledged his company's study is not a cost-benefit analysis that shows downsides to the airport, economic or otherwise. Rather, it states that the airport, including its non-aviation businesses, generates $275 million for the community's economy directly and indirectly. Revenue generated for the city government is about equal to the cost of running the airport.

Santa Monica resident Jerry Rubin said he was confident a more comprehensive study would show that Santa Monica's economy would improve if the airport were closed.

"People come to Santa Monica whether they fly on jets or not," Rubin said. "If they didn't have access to the airport with any type of airplane, they'd still come here and spend their money here."

Brown, the commission chair, said reviewing the studies was helpful primarily to examine the methodology used, including the city "specifically requiring (the consultants) not to address aviation operations."

"It's a missed opportunity," Brown said. "I think the city ought to ... commission further study by HR&A and RAND or others to address these issues that really are of prime concern to members of the community."

Related Patch stories:

Martin Rubin January 17, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Stay up-to-date on Santa Monica Airport (SMO) issues and community efforts to get rid of the jet pollution (both air and noise), get rid of leaded Aviation Gasoline, get rid of pattern flying at SMO, and eventually close SMO. Sign-up to be on the CONCERNED RESIDENTS AGAINST AIRPORT POLLUTION contact list at http://www.jetairpollution.com .

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