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War of Words Continues After Santa Monica Airport Pact

 
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

October 3, 2017 -- City officials thought they’d brokered peace in January with a decree closing Santa Monica's embattled municipal airport by the end of 2028, while slashing jet traffic in the meantime.

But it still doesn’t take much to set off a war of words when it comes to the century old airport and the communities in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles that have fought for decades to see SMO closed to aviation.

Take last Friday, when a reporter for a local news organization asked anti-SMO neighbors in an email, “Why did you guys buy houses next to an airport if you hate airport pollution and noise?”

“I understand that air traffic has increased, but surely that was a given,” Jennifer Eden of the Santa Monica Mirror said in her September 29 email. “And if you really don't like it -- why not just sell up and move?”

The replies were quick.

“Jennifer, do you really want an answer to your insanely stupid question?” said one recipient of her email. “Just say yes, and I'll be more than happy to answer in detail (again).”

Another recipient dismissed the reporter as a “troll,” and others were also critical.

The offensive did not surprise Nelson Hernandez, who dealt with anti-SMO groups frequently as the City Manager’s Senior Advisor on the Airport.

He said tempers still flair on all the sides of the airport issue, which includes a multitude of chapters from the long battle, suspicion of everyone else and heated emotions needing a chance to heal.

Hernandez said some of the bitterness among neighborhood groups might ease when SMO’s runway is shortened by 1,500 feet –- a move, allowed by the decree, that City officials say will ground a substantial amount of jet traffic ("Santa Monica City Council Approves Contract to Shorten Municipal Airport Runway," August 10, 2017).

But no one knows for sure yet how the war over SMO’s closure will end, or even why it continues to fuel such animosity, Hernandez said.

“You want me to explain the Israeli Palestinian conflict too? I don’t know the answer.”

Hernandez retires from his City post October 6. His successor is Suja Lowenthal, currently the Community and Government Engagement Manager for the Big Blue Bus ("Santa Monica City Manager Names New Airport Advisor," October 2, 2017).

In the flurry of emails, a few replies did offer answers to the question –- one frequently asked during the long battle against SMO by surrounding communities.

“The airport was once small and cute, used by many locals in their own small planes," said one response. "Now it is a mini LAX with huge corporate jets! Uber Jets.

“Many rock stars, celebrities, politicians avoid the hassle at LAX and NOW with all their billions use SMO. “It’s like living near a little league field that has become a Dodger Stadium.”

Zina Josephs of the neighborhood association Friends of Sunset Park replied with a less combative tone.

“Genuine curiosity is a wonderful thing. Here are my thoughts, for what
they're worth:

"In the 1970's, there was a huge 'N JETS' sign embedded in the hillside at the east end of the Santa Monica Airport runway. It was clearly visible to anyone who drove on Bundy Drive between Ocean Park Blvd. and National.

"Are you suggesting that all of us should have known that the city would be sued and the sign removed?"

Josephs then lists other unknowns at the time -- including airport use by "fractional jet companies" and charter air carriers with 30 passengers.

In the meantime, jet traffic has increased from 1,176 landings and takeoffs in 1983 to 17,338 in 2016, Josephs said.

It was difficult to see these things at the time Josephs said.

And while City officials are confident the airport will close by the end of 2028, they would likely agree the future is always hard to predict.

 

 


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