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"Council Mulls Future of Santa Monica Airport"



Friday, May 3, 2013

Council Mulls Future of Santa Monica Airport 
Following a four-hour hearing, council members direct city staff to continue
to explore options for the Santa Monica Airport. 
By Jessica E. Davis 
Santa Monica (CA) Patch
  

The Santa Monica City Council directed city staff Tuesday to continue
exploring options for the future of the Santa Monica Airport, including the
possible impacts of a partial or complete closure.

In a unanimous vote, council members voted to focus on finding ways to
reduce airport noise, air pollution and safety risks through revised leasing
policies, voluntary agreements and restrictions. Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day
was absent.

"What we need to do is to determine if there is a way to make the airport a
better neighbor," Councilwoman Gleam Davis said

City staff were also directed to continue to assess the potential risks and
benefits of a full or partial closure of the airport. They will bring back a
report to the council in March 2014.

The council also asked staff to go back and evaluate five recommendations
from the Santa Monica Airport Commission and to continue talks with the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

City staff acknowledged in a staff report that although a city-wide resident
satisfaction survey shows that airport impacts are not a major concern to
most residents, the airport's neighbors will not accept the status quo.

During the meeting, Councilman Bob Holbrook called for change.

"I don't think we can leave it as it is. We have to make changes. We have to
move forward with the future. We have to think of future generations and
what would be best for them," Holbrook said.

Councilman Kevin McKeown said public testimony about health concerns
troubled him and that he wanted to see a reduction of flights, particularly
training and test flights over neighborhoods in Santa Monica, Venice and Mar
Vista.

"It doesn't make sense to me to have some of those operations taking place
in this particular geographical physical location with the number of people
who live under these flight paths," McKeown said.

McKeown said he wants a 1984 agreement with the FAA and other leases to
expire in 2015.

Legal concerns

Early on in the meeting, City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie outlined the
city's legal options in the exploration of the future of the Santa Monica
Airport.

Moutrie said city staff met with representatives from the FAA to convey
community sentiment about noise, safety and air quality, but did not reach a
deal.

"We did stress that council is coming to a decision point about the airport
and the community is demanding change," Moutrie said.

She said the city owns the airport, but the city's choices are limited by
federal law and several agreements, adding that the FAA has both legislative
and judicial powers.

The city believes its agreement with the FAA expires in 2015, while the FAA
maintains the date is 2023.

Moutrie outlined the city's options in exploring the questions about the
future of the airport and encouraged the council to consider the best
options for the community. She said the city could likely not afford to put
in a park. She also said that any reuse would likely be more dense.

Airport concerns

As a four-hour public hearing featuring nearly 100 speakers got underway,
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl told the council he used to live
in the flight path of the airport and that he has since moved.

"We've got to work together," Rosendahl said. "I support the closure. I want
to make that very clear. I think we have a strategy that could work."

He encouraged the Santa Monica City Council to take leadership and explore
the question on whether the airport can be closed in 2015.

Santa Monica Airport Commissioner David Goddard said in a presentation that
the city can close 2,000 feet of runway by repaying $250,000 in grant
assurance funds. He pointed to Chicago's closure of Meigs Field as a
successful example.

Only a small Class-B airport would be left with limited operations in Santa
Monica, Goddard said.

Jerry Rubin, a Santa Monica activist, asked for a moment of silence for two
people killed in a plane crash in the Santa Monica Mountains.

One opponent of the airport pointed to neighborhood and community surveys
that show support for reducing air traffic or shutting down the airport.

"The community has spoken," the woman said. Others pointed out noise and
health concerns, with one man explaining that he plans to get his children
tested for lead exposure.

Frank Gruber, a former Santa Monica City Council candidate, called on the
council to consider shuttering the airport and converting it into a park.

Pilot opposition

Several pilots, mechanics and others spoke out against any plans to
partially or completely close the airport.

Steve Brown, representing the National Business Aviation Association, said
its members use the airport.

"Santa Monica is one of the greatest airports," Brown said. "We hope to
preserve that in the future."

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