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Activists Noisy About Making Airport Property Quiet  

Activists Noisy About Making Airport Property Quiet

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

September 21, 2010 -- It is quiet at Santa Monica Airport (SMO), which is closed through Friday morning for routine maintenance. In recognition of this, activists and local leaders got noisy at a Venice street corner on Monday to call for SMO’s permanent closure, or at least for a radical reduction in use.

Also on Monday, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Santa Monica) and Rep. Jane Harman (D-West Los Angeles) issued a letter to FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbit demanding an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be completed if the FAA decides to permanently adopt a recently tested controversial flight pattern for single-engine, piston-powered planes. The EIS is the most intense form of review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

“We wanted to let people know that the quiet they hear, or don’t hear, is a temporary thing … and how nice it is to appreciate how it would be if they didn’t have these 100 planes going over them every day,” said Braden Stephens, a Venice resident who was one of about 50 people at the rally.

Stephens wants SMO permanently closed in 2015, the year the FAA’s airport operation agreement with Santa Monica expires. Political observers say the FAA will not allow the closure to happen without a fight, despite the site being a City-owned property. Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl also wants the airport to close.

“Yesterday is over,” Rosendahl said. “We’re living today. We’ve had enough. In 2015, they should permanently shut down this airport and create all kinds of wonderful things in that beautiful space … The private planes can go to some other area where there is not this dense, urban environment.”

While Rosendahl can wait until 2015 for the airport to close, he wants the jets removed from SMO immediately.

“The toxicity in the lungs of my constituents is not acceptable,” he said. Rosendahl continued, “It’s only 15 minutes away in your limo to get to Imperial Terminal at LAX.”

Most of the people at the rally favored airport closure or at least a reduction in use, including Santa Monica Council member Kevin McKeown, who is running for re-election, and council candidates Susan Hartley and Robert Kronovet. But there were counter-protestors at the event. Michael Caponnetto, a Mar Vista resident who flies out of SMO every week for business and pleasure, said most of the people at the rally were not educated about SMO and aviation in general.

“I think they have no idea,” he said. “I think they should educate themselves before they come out and make all this noise.”

A friend of Caponnetto who declined to give his name said he spoke with Rosendahl, and the councilman was unaware of basic issues regarding flight paths and how aircraft operate.

“He should get a little better educated,” Caponnetto said. “For a very small group of people, he is going out on a limb.”

Another woman shouted “The airport was here first. Why did you move here?”

Martin Rubin, director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP), said that was a “ridiculous argument.”

“The airport today is not what it was in 1919 when it was a dirt runway,” he said. “Right now this is a general aviation airport that caters basically to the rich and famous and for the recreation pilot. There are too many people living around here for it to be safe anymore. And they certainly can find better usage for this land.”

Martin said he wants at least a significant portion of the property turned into a park.

“The residents around the airport have been suffering for 20, 30 years,” he said. “They deserve relief, and that would be a good way of a gesture. Plus, we need parkland.”

Those attending the rally were from a variety of neighborhoods surrounding SMO. Although they were united on Monday, these people are not always in agreement. An example of this is with the recently tested flight path, which many in West Los Angeles support, including Rosendahl, and most Santa Monica residents oppose.

The test was completed to determine whether a new flight route for the small planes could reduce delays at SMO and LAX. It took the aircraft over the Sunset Park and Ocean Park neighborhoods toward the pier.

Rosendahl announced in July that he favored making that route permanent because it “diminished conflicts” between SMO and LAX traffic, “reducing the idling of propeller aircraft that creates a cloud of aircraft emissions that hovers over homes just hundreds of feet away in Venice, Mar Vista and West L.A.”

See: L.A._Councilman_Endorses_Controversial_Plane_Route.html, July 6, 2010.

The FAA is still determining whether it will make the route permanent. Rep. Waxman is opposed to the it, and in June that an EIS be completed. Harman seconded this demand on Monday in the letter signed by both House members.

“It is imperative that the FAA produce a complete and thorough EIS and hold public meetings to explain the purpose and results of the recent flight-path test, hear from affected homeowners and assess the broader safety, noise and air quality impacts of air traffic in the midst of densely populated neighborhoods,” the letter states.

 

"We wanted to let people know that the quiet they hear, or don't hear, is a temporary thing . and how nice it is to appreciate how it would be if they didn't have these 100 planes going over them every day."
    Braden Stephens,
   Venice resident

 

“The toxicity in the lungs of my constituents is not acceptable.”
    Councilman Bill    Rosendahl

 

 

 

 


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