Airport Commission no place for pilots
March 15, 2011 SMO — As city officials begin to look toward the possibilities of a post-2015 Santa Monica Airport, the commission that is meant to advise them on all things aviation received its fifth member, who has a history of involvement with an anti-airport neighborhood group and, like his four colleagues, has no background in aviation.
David Goddard, a real estate executive and the lone council nominee, received unanimous support from the council to fill a vacant seat on the commission with a term ending June 30. (Calpilots Editor’s Note: – a Real Estate Executive is the last thing required to watch over the airport – Santa Monica is no longer even trying to hide its intentions to eventually close the airport).
He will replace former Commissioner Jean Gebman, who worked for the RAND Corporation, and was knowledgable about aviation matters.
Several other candidates with applications on file with the city had extensive flight experience, including one former military pilot.
Honing their competitive edge Councilmember Kevin McKeown nominated Goddard on recommendation from Sunset Park residents.
“David Goddard came highly recommended from neighborhood activists who have been working on airport issues for many years,” McKeown wrote in an e-mail. “He is a Sunset Park resident with a perspective on airport impacts that can be valuable to us in the just-begun process of clarifying practical options and community intentions for the airport after 2015.”
Goddard’s appointment rounds out the five member board, including UCLA health policy professor Richard Brown, music produer Peter Donald, television and movie editor Stephen Mark and civil attorney Ofer Moshe Grossman.
All but two of the five commissioners wrote that they work with Friends of Sunset Park, a neighborhood group that has taken an opposing stance to many airport activities, including flight paths over the neighborhood, pollution, noise and concerns over the safety of jets on short runways.
None of them have flight experience, a background which can be helpful, but is not necessary said Airport Manager Bob Trimborn.
“It can be helpful to have aviation experience, but it’s not a requirement because that’s what we’re here for,” Trimborn said. “Any commissioner can call us up. We are a wealth of information.”
It doesn’t take a pilot to discuss the economic and land use analysis an outside firm will be conducting in the coming months, said Cathy Larson, of FOSP.
Larson wrote a letter of support for Goddard’s nomination to the City Council on behalf of FOSP.
“The issues that come before the airport commission aren’t necessarily operational in nature. The fact that the commissioners do not have a pilot’s license is not necessarily a detriment to qualifications,” Larson said.
In fact, much of what will come before the commission will deal with real estate and land use when the leases that govern much of the airport expire in 2015, one of several reasons FOSP backed Goddard.
That year also marks what City Hall believes to be the end of its operation agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration, although the FAA protests that the agreements will not expire at least until 2023, and that continuous operation of the airport will be required after that.
Despite the FAA’s position, the council approved the $79,500 study examining the economic impacts of the airport, which will lead into a series of community meetings about the future of the airport in coming months.
Goddard’s background in real estate led the community to believe he would be a good representative of its interests, said Sunset Park resident Ping Ho.
“He’s knowledgeable in dealing with the FAA, and his knowledge as a real estate executive could be helpful in making the determinations that have to be made,” Ho said.
Goddard, who refused to comment for this story, will be sworn in at the next regular commission meeting on March 28.
Although residents may stand for one candidate or another, it is ultimately the City Council that appoints commissioners to the board in question.
The voice of airport proponents will be heard through pilots, who are well-organized, and the FAA, which continues to dominate the discussion for the future of the airport, McKeown said.
“It is our beleaguered residents who need to have a more consistent and effective voice,” he wrote.
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association spokesperson Chris Dancy, whose organization has lobbied in support of the airport in the face of local opposition, said that no matter who’s on the commission, AOPA will continue to advocate to keep the airport open and operational.
“In general, it’s beneficial to have a person with flight experience on the board or commission,” Dancy said. “However, AOPA will continue to be a strong supporter of the airport.”
Others believe membership on the commission should open up even further.
A portion of SMO lies in Los Angeles, and the airport is bordered by Mar Vista, Venice Beach and West L.A., but because the commission has a Santa Monica residency requirement, the Los Angeles-dwellers have no representation.
The idea of including even a non-voting member from the other communities has not been popular with incumbents, said Martin Rubin, a West L.A. resident involved with Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, or CRAAP.
“I’ve mentioned sitting in an advisory capacity,” Rubin said. “I think unique things could be brought up by Venice and Mar Vista residents.”