Santa Monica- Airport Complaints Aired at Meeting

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
SM Airport Complaints Aired at Meeting
By Hannah Heineman
The Santa Monica (CA) Mirror

A town hall meeting was held in West Los Angeles last Thursday to give residents who are affected by Santa Monica Airport operations could voice their concerns. The meeting was organized by Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP) and was moderated by Los Angeles City Council member Bill Rosendahl. A panel consisting of eight experts also took part. They included Jean Ospital from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, aeronautical acoustic engineer Louis Sutherland, Paul Simon M.D. from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, Sara Amir of the California Environmental Protection Agency, Bill Piazza from the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Department of Health and Safety, Environmental consultant Susan Mearns who is a member of the Santa Monica Task Force on the Environment and Richard Jerrett, an Assistant Professor at the USC Medical School.

The meeting opened with a statement by Martin Rubin, the Director of CRAAP, who noted, “Since 1984, when the City of Santa Monica entered into an agreement, a contract with the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, jets have been allowed to use the airport. The agreement was designed to settle noise concerns, and yet jets account for about 90 percent of the recorded noise violations that now occur today. Since the agreement, the total jet operations have increased from about 1,000 to about 18,000 total operations a year.

In the agreement, back in 1984, there is no mention of air pollution from aircraft emissions; it just wasn’t a concern back then. Now jets sit idling, often one after another, waiting for the LAX tower to grant them clearance, that is permission to take off. These awful smelling fumes are carried with the wind mostly into the neighborhoods and into the homes east of the airport.”

Rubin added, “By the FAA’s own standards, Santa Monica Airport lacks the sufficient safety runoff area necessary for many of the jets now using the airport to land and take-off safely, and this airport has homes closer to both ends of the runway than any other comparable airport in the country.”

The panel then heard from people directly affected by the airport’s operations. The majority of the speakers were from West L. A., though a few Santa Monica residents spoke as well. One after another, they stood at the podium and described how the airport has ruined their quality of life. Susan Fallon whose home lies in the airport’s flight path told the panel, “Jets are driving me crazy. I have to keep my front door closed and black soot is settles on everything. I have to pause my phone conversations when planes pass overhead and it disrupts my T.V. viewing.”

Another West Los Angeles resident, Gwen Camenson, stated, “I needed to install air conditioning because I can’t keep my windows open” and “I need double pane windows” to block out the noise. She also claimed the airport pollution has “exacerbated” her bronchitis and that she must keep the closed captioning on her T.V. on all the time in order to comprehend what people are saying.

Janet Ernst, who lives 300 feet from the end of the runway alleged that pilots keep their planes quieter when they go over the airport’s sound monitors and that her house “vibrates from [aircraft] blasts.”

Joan Rubin, the wife of Martin Rubin, said that her once-healthy cat now has to be given “an inhaler every day” to alleviate its breathing problems. She also mentioned her “neighbor’s cat died of lung cancer” and that neighborhood “cats are wheezing when outdoors.”

Another West L.A. resident, Juanita Bernard who lives in the flight path mentioned that she, like many others who spoke, have been attending Santa Monica Airport Commission meetings for years but their complaints haven’t been acknowledged. She stated that the airport “creates anxiety” for nearby residents and that she has noticed “black soot and an oily residue on her garden’s vegetables.”

The panel also heard from two Santa Monica Airport Commissioners. Commission Chair, Ofer Grossman, told the West L.A. residents that if they come, they would get a warm reception. He also mentioned that the “City of Santa Monica has approached the Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) and is in negotiations about an aircraft performance program” which would involve airport safety and restrictions on the size of aircraft that could operate at the airport.

Santa Monica Airport Commissioner Yoram Tal called for the airport to be “shut down” because of all the problems it is causing.

The SCAQMD panel member explained that an air pollution study is being conducted at both the Van Nuys and Santa Monica Airports. The study for the Santa Monica Airport will begin in April and he asked those that were interested to volunteer their homes’ yards so monitors can be placed in them for the study.

After the meeting, Rubin told the Mirror that the panel will be getting together later this year to discuss a plan of action to deal with the airport issues and that another town hall meeting will be held in three or four months.

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