SMO Facing Further Efforts at Airport Closure

 - June 1, 2013, 1:10 AM
The Santa Monica city council listened to pro- and anti-airport commenters on April 30 before deciding to double the landing fees for all aircraft (based and transient). The move, perhaps a precursor to a plan to dramatically reduce all operations at the airport, is particulary noteworthy because the city touts its aviation heritage, with an official seal that includes images of two globe-girdling Douglas World Cruisers that were built at Santa Monica Airport.

On July 1, 2015, Santa Monica Airport in southern California may be a completely different airfield, if the city of Santa Monica has its way. On that date, the city wants to end all fuel sales, not renew any aviation-related leases and cut 2,000 feet from the airport’s 4,973-foot runway.

Whether that can happen is debatable, but the city took a first step at discouraging traffic at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) on April 30, when the city council voted to impose a new landing fee schedule that not only more than doubles the fees but also applies them to all traffic–including based aircraft–and not just transient aircraft, which have been paying landing fees for many years. Even SMO-based flight schools will have to pay for every landing. A lesson of 10 touch-and-goes in a Cessna 172 will add $109.60 to the student’s bill for airplane rental and instruction. Nearly every aircraft based at SMO will have to pay the landing fee, although light sport airplanes, which weigh less than typical four-seat Cessnas and Pipers, will pay about $5 per landing. After voting to impose the new fees, the city council agreed to consider exempting charitable and emergency flights from the fees before the upcoming deadline.

The new landing-fee schedule takes effect on August 1, raising fees to $5.48 from $2.07 per thousand pounds of “certificated maximum gross landing weight.” (See chart on page XX.) For a Gulfstream IV, the fee climbs to $323.32 from $122.13. A Hawker 800XP owner will pay $120.56, up from $45.54. Every time a Cessna 172 pilot lands the pilot will have to pay $10.96. NetJets, a frequent flier at SMO, had 142 operations in March or 71 takeoffs and landings. If these were all in a G200-sized airplane, the landing fee will climb to $164.40 each from today’s $62.10. The 71 March operations–if all were in a G200–cost NetJets $4,409.10. That number will climb to $11,672.40 after August 1. (NetJets did not respond to AIN’s queries for this article.)

A California flight department that regularly uses SMO “will be affected a great deal,” according to the department manager. The company flies turboprops and light jets into SMO. “I will need to evaluate the actual [cost] once this changes and determine if we will consider [Van Nuys] as the option,” he told AIN. “This is an interesting step in pushing people out.”

Revenue Stream for Airports

Santa Monica is not the only U.S. airport that assesses landing fees on based tenants. The practice is common at airports outside the U.S., of course, and aviation advocates blame high landing, airways and even instrument approach fees for the low level of general aviation activity in Europe and elsewhere.

Airports where both based and transient aircraft pay landing fees include Teterboro in New Jersey and Republic Airport in Farmingdale, N.Y. Teterboro pilots in sub-6,000-pound aircraft pay $17 per takeoff, then fees vary according to mtow. There are no flight schools based at Teterboro. At Republic, the minimum fee for every landing, including each touch-and-go by airport-based flight school aircraft, is $2.50. Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Mich., exempts aircraft weighing less than 6,000 pounds, but all heavier based and transient aircraft pay $1.75 per 1,000 pounds. “That is a responsible thing to do,” said Willow Run airport manager Sean Brosnan. “You’ve got to pay your way. Snow removal is awful doggone expensive. It’s fair and it’s equitable that all users share [the costs].”

At SMO, the issue that prompted the city council to vote for the higher landing fees is the cost of running the airport. The city said that it needs the increased fees to cover airport operating expenses, which are about $13 million in the red. Bill Dunn, AOPA’s vice president of airport advocacy, disputes the city’s claims about the airport’s financial status. Dunn met with city staff, the city manager, the director of public works and the airport manager on April 8. “I conveyed to them that their numbers are flawed,” he said. “The airport is not losing money. The documents that they’re providing don’t really show it to be the case either way. We view this latest proposed increase as a way to reduce operations at the airport, and the city has a long and historical record of seeking ways it could do that. They denied it.” The city representatives claimed that the airport is being subsidized from the city’s general fund. Dunn, who has reviewed all the financial data that the city would provide, said, “I’m still not convinced. We’re not done looking at the finances. As an association we’re committed long-term on this, we’re not going down without a fight.”

The EAA pointed out the obvious result of the increased landing fees at SMO: fewer operations and thus lower revenues to pay for the airport. “As municipalities continue to look for new revenue sources, they have to be careful not to destroy already established revenue streams,” a spokesman noted. While this may seem to fit the desires of the anti-airport crowd–to reduce the number of operations–that may be true for piston aircraft owners and pilots who are more sensitive to costs, but it could also result in no reduction in jet operations.

The landing fee increase is “unreasonable and unlawful,” NBAA said, adding that it is “considering legal measures to halt the [plan].”

Noise and Air Pollution Concerns

Before 1981, Santa Monica banned all jet operations, and many homeowners who purchased houses close to the airport never expected that ban to be lifted. However, such a ban discriminates against a type of aircraft, which is not permitted by the FAA, and the ban was lifted after airport proponents challenged it. Since then, jet traffic has grown considerably. In 1990, jets averaged about three movements per day, according to Martin Rubin, president of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP). More recent statistics from a Rand study conducted for the city’s Airport Visioning process showed that the recession had a significant effect on airport operations. Jet traffic dropped to 12,414 (34/day) during 2012, from a high of 18,575 (50/day) in 2007. Total operations were 142,859 in 2003, and this number fell to 102,675 last year. A study of typical operations conducted for this report during a two-week period found that 81 percent were “propeller” aircraft, 15 percent jet and 5 percent helicopters. (The report doesn’t clarify whether a turboprop is counted as a propeller or a jet.) Pattern flying accounted for 26 percent of all operations, and 41 percent of all operations were by flight schools.

In addition to noise caused by the jets and repetitive pattern flights, local residents (both in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, which borders the eastern side of SMO) have long expressed concerns about pollution generated by SMO operations. The CRAAP website links to a YouTube video that captures a 1995 takeoff by a loud, fume-spewing JetStar, a type of aircraft that is not representative of the modern jets that currently fly into SMO but that illustrates what residents don’t like about the airport.

More recently, several studies about airport pollution have been done at and around SMO. While the key findings are that particulate matter emitted by turbine engines at SMO does not exceed federal standards, the amount of ultrafine particles is a concern, according to Philip Fine, atmospheric measurements manager at the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “This is an issue at Santa Monica airport,” he said during the Nov. 30, 2011 California Senate Select Committee on Air Quality hearing. “These [ultrafine particles] are currently unregulated, but there’s a growing body of scientific research that suggests that these particles have their own toxicity and may be more toxic than what is currently regulated under what’s known as particulate matter.” Ultrafine particles measure 0.1 microns but aren’t regulated, while fine particles of 10 microns or fewer are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fine went on to explain “We know from Santa Monica studies, even LAX, that the numbers of ultrafine particles coming out of jets are very, very high. They are very efficient ultrafine particle generators. A typical concentration right now might be 5,000 to 10,000 in a sugar cube-[size volume]. If you’re anywhere near a jet, that can get up to one or five million. There haven’t been many studies on the relative health impacts of ultrafines from jets versus ultrafines from diesel trucks [or] from cars, so this is still kind of unanswered.”

Residents are also concerned about lead emissions from piston aircraft flying into SMO, because piston engines run mostly on 100LL avgas, which uses tetraethyl lead as an anti-detonation compound. SMO does not provide any fueling facilities for the unleaded autogas that is permitted in some aircraft, including many light sport aircraft.

A 2011 Duke University study conducted in North Carolina tried to assess any connection between lead in avgas and blood lead levels in children in six counties. “Our results suggest that children living within 500 meters of an airport at which airplanes use leaded avgas have higher blood lead levels than other children,” the study’s authors concluded.

While scientists say there is no safe blood level of lead for humans, the Duke study didn’t find as much of an effect as anti-SMO proponents might suggest in their complaints about pollution. According to the study, “Based on the geospatial and statistical analysis presented above, lead from avgas may have a small (2.1-4.4 percent) but significant impact on blood lead levels in children who live in proximity to airports where avgas is used.” It also found that, “Our finding that living beyond 1,000 meters of an airport using avgas does not have a significant relationship with blood lead levels is reasonably consistent with previous research suggesting that lead drops to background levels beyond 1,000 meters from an airport.”

At SMO there are many houses near the airport. As the Rand study noted, “The airport was first built in an agricultural field; today, 90 years later, it is surrounded by dense residential neighborhoods on three sides; and its runway ends are less than 300 feet from homes.”

Stakeholder Feedback

At the April 30 city council meeting, about 100 people stood up to give two-minute comments about SMO, and the meeting lasted about four hours, ending just before midnight. Airport proponents, many of whom live close to the airport, were unanimous in their support. Maintenance shop owner Kim Davidson and flight school owner Joe Justice mentioned the many good jobs that would be lost if the airport closes or leases aren’t extended. Other commenters warned that the city council’s decision would lead to legal actions that would continue to tie up the airport.

“The city council meeting wasn’t held so members could listen to anyone,” said Santa Monica Flyers owner Charlie Thompson. “They had their minds thoroughly made up before the meeting started.”

Rymann Winter, president of Proteus Air Services, another SMO flight school, wrote a letter to the FAA: “These fees are nothing more than a veiled attempt by the city to get around the previous judgments against them that have kept the airport operating. As the fees will inevitably rise each year, the airport will slowly die. All due to the relentlesspressure from the city council, which seems to think a park or residential development would better serve its citizens (numerous polls have indicated the exact opposite–the majority of Santa Monica residents want theairport to stay).”

Charitable flying organization AngelFlight West has had an office at Santa Monica Airport since 1983 and averages about 350 flights per year. “I think the council has its mind made up,” said executive director Alan Dias. “They’re listening to a vocal minority. What’s going to happen is, unfortunately, we’ll see several legal filings, and attorneys will make a lot of money. We’re hoping that AngelFlight will continue to be able to operate. It’s both a benefit to the community and logistically makes sense.”

As to the economic benefits that SMO offers, the Rand study outlined these in its report: 894 airport jobs and 1,487 jobs in Santa Monica, making it a top-10 employer for the city; $275 million annual economic impact to the city; 231 indirect and induced jobs and $53.9 million economic impact in the city of Los Angeles.

At a Venice Neighborhood Council meeting about SMO on March 27, David Goddard, chairman of the SMO airport commission, which has no pilot members, outlined possible futures for SMO. While a 1984 agreement with the FAA expires in 2015, the city of Santa Monica did agree when it took over the airport from the federal government in 1948 to keep the airport open in perpetuity. The 1984 agreement included three key areas, Goddard explained, “the 5,000-foot runway, fuel sales and renting space to aviation tenants. Those three rights clearly expire with that agreement.” But he doesn’t believe that the agreement covers a portion of the 227-acre airport property that wasn’t included in the 1948 transfer. And this means that the city could cut 2,000 feet off SMO’s runway on July 2, 2015, according to Goddard. The result might be a shadow of today’s airport, a 3,000-foot runway with no fuel, no services, no aviation-related businesses.

At that meeting, vocal anti-airport Los Angeles city council member Bill Rosendahl was asked, during a discussion of how Chicago’s mayor Daley illegally destroyed Meigs Field’s runway, “Bill, you’re going to be around to sit on a bulldozer to render that [SMO] runway unusable, aren’t you?”

Rosendahl answered: “Yes, I am.”

Comments

Martin Rubin's picture

This is a good article about a rather complex and unique situation.
When the airport was first built in an agricultural field, it was just an oiled down grass runway that occupied a narrow and short segment of what exists today.
CRAAP (www.jetairpollution.com) was founded in June of 2003 to address air and noise pollution as well as safety concerns for all impacted by SMO. Ten years on, we have made great gains in gathering science to back the rather obvious toxic air pollution blown into and over the downwind and other neighboring communities.
The 2011 Duke University study :
Conclusions: We estimated a significant association between potential exposure to lead emissions from avgas and blood lead levels in children. Although the estimated increase was not especially large, the results of this study are nonetheless directly relevant to the policy debate surrounding the regulation of leaded avgas.
If these results were found in North Carolina, one can reasonably assume that SMO, the busiest single runway airport in the country, and an airport where one third of all operations are pattern flights conducted in aircraft that burn avgas, and circle over a defined loop impacting a focused region, would have an even greater risk of increased blood lead levels in children.c
Let's be crystal clear; we Americans and other peoples on our Mother Earth all have a right to breath air and drink water that will not poison us, our families, and our neighbors. We have a right to a quality of life that is not like a war zone.
The community around SMO sacrificed for the war effort, but the community should not be asked to sacrifice their health and well being of thousands for the privilege of a relative few to use SMO. We can and must do much better.

Nan Waldman's picture

Mr. Rubin of www.jetairpollution.com is correct. The impacts on our communities from the airport-related emissions cannot be underestimated.

Children with learning disabilities are, too frequently, children exposed to toxic elements during gestation and in their early years of development. Elderly residents within a mile or so of the airport, and people with allergies, immune-compromised, with chronic lung disease, or other respiratory ailments, are also finding their conditions exacerbated.

I have served as counsel for parents of students with disabilities in this area for over twenty years. I see firsthand the impacts of learning disabilities and health issues on our families. I see increasingly greater consumption of educational and health resources -- resources which could best be spent taking care of distress we don't intentionally cause ourselves by allowing continued toxic uses of public places (like the Santa Monica Airport at Clover Field).

Nan Waldman's picture

Mr. Rubin of www.jetairpollution.com is correct. The impacts on our communities from the airport-related emissions cannot be underestimated.

Children with learning disabilities are, too frequently, children exposed to toxic elements during gestation and in their early years of development. Elderly residents within a mile or so of the airport, and people with allergies, immune-compromised, with chronic lung disease, or other respiratory ailments, are also finding their conditions exacerbated.

I have served as counsel for parents of students with disabilities in this area for over twenty years. I see firsthand the impacts of learning disabilities and health issues on our families. I see increasingly greater consumption of educational and health resources -- resources which could best be spent taking care of distress we don't intentionally cause ourselves by allowing continued toxic uses of public places (like the Santa Monica Airport at Clover Field).

Charles's picture

Thank you so much Martin for what you have done to help our community from saftey (SMO's too short buffer zones), air, and noise pollution. The findings of independent researchers all sustain that the best option for SMO is for its closing. That this agrees with what the 1000s of residents that surround the airport, does not undermine the researchers' findings, regardless of what the privileged few who want to fly their jets in and out of SMO want to say on the matter.

Our society so often is lost in the moment and of what it can have now and does not consider the next year or god forbid, the next generation. What we leave our children and their children's children is too far in future to consider, until it is too late.

Closing SMO is a huge opportunity for our culture to take a step into a new place where we think about instead of creating more paved areas and buildings, instead we consider pulling up the cement and asphalt and replace it with a botanical garden for all to experience and appreciate for centuries.

Around the botanical gardens we could have senior housing and preschools so that both our retired elderly and children can work together in the gardens to care for the plants and learn from each other.

No air or noise pollution and run way buffer zones are a distant memory. Imagine the shift in what this could do for everyone in the Los Angeles area. This could be a destination place for many to come, visit, and walk around.

Now, that is something we could be proud to leave our children and even our grandchildren's grandchildren.

C.V. Beck's picture

Have been living near this airport now for 21 years. In the last 10, air traffic has increased unbelievably as have the uncaring attitude of the pilots and the privileged for whom this is convenient. However, for the residents nearby, it has become almost nightmarish and stressful. It is time for this airport to be relocated to a more isolated place and for this airport to become something more suitable, like truly affordable housing and a park.

C.V. Beck's picture

Have been living near this airport now for 21 years. In the last 10, air traffic has increased unbelievably as have the uncaring attitude of the pilots and the privileged for whom this is convenient. However, for the residents nearby, it has become almost nightmarish and stressful. It is time for this airport to be relocated to a more isolated place and for this airport to become something more suitable, like truly affordable housing and a park.

Randall Barnwell's picture

We live in the landing path of the airport. Probably less than 1 mile. It would be nice not to wake up and breathe deeply only to discover the air is filled with the essence of jet fuel. We live in Los Angeles not Santa Monica. I can only surmise that some under the table arrangement between the two cities keeps this health hazard in operation. Having been here since 2008 flight traffic is certainly UP.

Thank you for all your hard work regarding this airport. It will be good news for local families and everyone in the area when it is closed.

Jim Redden's picture

There is no mention in the article that there is no runout at either end of the airport. Large transport category aircraft (jets) use the full length for touchdown. Any jet over run and it's down a very steep bluff into a residential neighborhood. The airport as is simply could not be built based on current FAA standards as there is no safety runout.

Touch and go practice is just a short run up to Camarillo... It's a nice field up there. And there is also Hawthorne to the South for a new home base.

The safety conscious jet pilots much prefer Van Nuys anyway, for the longer runway and better weather with no unpredictable marine layer. They come to SMO because of client demand and not preference.

Lastly, for what it is, the vocal minority are some local pilots and related stakeholders, who appreciate the short relatively traffic free drive from the Westside, but it comes at too great an expense, with plenty of externalities, costs that are borne and burden others.

Clearly majority of the voting population wants the airport curtailed and shuttered. It is a postwar industrial relic; the wide expanse of land is better used for other more broad based regional community needs, such as an ocean view bluff park, open space common areas with native habitat plantings, and perhaps some carful redevelopment focusing on technology and education with an integral transit corridor.

So kindly, to the SMO aviation community, I suggest seeing things as they are, and pursue plans to relocate to Van Nuys, Hawthorne, or Pacoima, etc. That is what is coming... Really.

Natalie 's picture

I find it interesting that we classify the airport as a top 10 employer. The fact is that there are a number of businesses that are airport related - some mentioned above - Justice Aviation, Net Jets, etc., which are individual companies with employees. Grouping them all together is like saying the Third Street Promenade is the top employer in Santa Monica and on the basis of this type of analysis it might well be. According to Wikipedia and a 2011 city analysis, the top 10 employers are the City, SM College, St Johns, UCLA, RAND, UMG, Beachbody, Activision, ET Whitehall (Casa del mar and Shutters), Viacom, Loews, Lionsgate and Yahoo. The fact that the airport was classified this way shows the bias of that city visioning process. What was left unexplored, even though it was supposed to be the point of the study, is how many jobs could be created and revenue generated by what could replace the airport. And this does not mean multi-million dollar development that causes parking issues. There are limits on what can be put there by the nature of the grant underlying the property - much of it is park land. What is notable about the actual top 10 employers is that none of them are causing people to get sick and/or die or at best, just suffer diminished capacity the way that the lead and the ultrafine particles from SMO are doing. In fact, many of them are actually institutions that help people. The airport has to go. Something better will replace it. Those who lose jobs can find others - LAX is just a few miles away. Those of us being polluted should not have to suffer or move as the insensitive and selfish airport proponents continue to assert.

Rick Taylor's picture

I would to see the Torrance Airport closed down and turned into a dog park with a lake.

After reading this artcle I know it will happen.

Rick

Rick Taylor's picture

I would to see the Torrance Airport closed down and turned into a dog park with a lake.

After reading this artcle I know it will happen.

Rick

B.A. Johnson's picture

I have lived just east of SMO in West LA since 1994.

Not only has the noise due to air traffic increased exponentially during that period, but they now fly overhead at all hours of the day and night. It is no longer uncommon to hear jets flying into SMO at 3:00am. I have not slept through the night in years.

The arrogance and lack of consideration for residents has led us to this point. If people insist on flying their own planes, let them take off and land in the desert.

SMO needs to be bulldozed. It has outlived its usefulness.

Daniel Wang's picture

I have moved to LA since 1991. My house is on the East extension of the runway. The noise has increased yearly. The airport should check the noise level of each and every aircraft. Those selfish people enjoy the fun of flighting and the left noise to the homeowners will be cursed daily.

Andrew Henry's picture

I agree with many of the comments here and as a local resident I am fully behind the closing of SMO. It's time for the quality of life and health of those effected to be taken into consideration.

Poncious Pilot's picture

To those who live near SMO: if you didn't want to live near an airport, then why did you buy a house near one in the first place? You knew the airport was there when you moved in, so just deal with living near an airport. If you don't like it, then move. The airport has been there long before you were.

John's picture

I bought a house next to the airport. I can't believe how noisy it is! I couldn't afford a house that wasn't next to a noisy airport, so I had to settle. Now, I want this airport closed. Even though I chose to live next to a noisy airport, I shouldn't be responsible for my decision. I could move, but why should I do that? Let's just close the airport.

John's picture

KSAN is the busiest single runway airport in the country.

Bob's picture

Ok first.

"I bought a house next to an airport and there are planes everywhere."
Well then don't buy a house next to the airport? If I bought a house next to a sewage plant and then complained about the smell should the sewage plant be shut down?

"I hear planes and I can't sleep"
Then don't buy a house next to the airport? And also cars and trains also cause noise (even during the night) should we get rid of all the roads and tracks as well? Oh wait no that would be retarded.

"Planes cause pollution"
So do cars, factories, trains, cows, power stations, etc etc etc. Let's just get rid of all electricity right? All cars too. Cows are a major contributor to CO2 emissions, we should kill them all too. It's estimated that 2% of total worldwide pollution emissions are from air travel (both domestic and international). That's a tiny percentage when you consider how many people travel by plane on a daily basis. TINY.

"Only the privileged fly"
That's horse-crap. Yes people who own business jets are probably privileged, but generally most pilots / people who own GA aircraft aren't multi-millionaires living in mansions. You'll find that a lot of student pilots / CFI survive of ramen while being crippled with student loans.

"Those who lose jobs can find others"
Oh that's a great way of thinking. Who the hell gives a crap about the high unemployment of this country right? They can all go find jobs right? I'm sure if you and/or your family lost their job tomorrow you'll be saying just that. "Oh I can find another one. No big deal at all."

Bob's picture

Ok first.

"I bought a house next to an airport and there are planes everywhere."
Well then don't buy a house next to the airport? If I bought a house next to a sewage plant and then complained about the smell should the sewage plant be shut down?

"I hear planes and I can't sleep"
Then don't buy a house next to the airport? And also cars and trains also cause noise (even during the night) should we get rid of all the roads and tracks as well? Oh wait no that would be retarded.

"Planes cause pollution"
So do cars, factories, trains, cows, power stations, etc etc etc. Let's just get rid of all electricity right? All cars too. Cows are a major contributor to CO2 emissions, we should kill them all too. It's estimated that 2% of total worldwide pollution emissions are from air travel (both domestic and international). That's a tiny percentage when you consider how many people travel by plane on a daily basis. TINY.

"Only the privileged fly"
That's horse-crap. Yes people who own business jets are probably privileged, but generally most pilots / people who own GA aircraft aren't multi-millionaires living in mansions. You'll find that a lot of student pilots / CFI survive of ramen while being crippled with student loans.

"The airport should be demolished and made into a park. Those who lose jobs can find others"
Oh that's a great way of thinking. Who the hell gives a crap about the high unemployment of this country right? They can all go find jobs right? I'm sure if you and/or your family lost their job tomorrow you'll be saying just that. "Oh I can find another one. No big deal at all." Maybe your houses should be demolished and made into parks. Because you can find another house too right?

Martin Rubin's picture

I stand corrected, thank you.
SMO, the busiest single runway "general aviation airport" in the country.
San Diego International Airport (KSAN) is the busiest single runway commercial airport.
I appreciate your pointing that out; very helpful.

Bob's picture

"I stand corrected, thank you.
SMO, the busiest single runway "general aviation airport" in the country.
San Diego International Airport (KSAN) is the busiest single runway commercial airport.
I appreciate your pointing that out; very helpful."

So? What does it being a single runway airport got to do with anything?

Daytona Beach, Grand Forks, Hillsboro, Van Nuys all have more than double the flight ops that SMO has (mostly general aviation). And that's not even including major commercial airports. People over there aren't growing a second head from all this so "pollution."

Like I already mentioned, it's estimated that 2% of TOTAL global emissions comes from airplanes. So why not get rid of cars? They cause more pollution. Same thing with factories, power plants etc. We should just get rid of everything technological and go back to living in caves like our long lost ancestors. Then there would be no pollution right?

David Shaby's picture

Those who advocate for the closure of Santa Monica airport should take heed as the law of unintended consequences may deliver an outcome that is equivalent to them of jumping "out of the frying pay and into the fire". The 1948 instrument of transfer from the federal government to the city of Santa Monica requires that the land be operated as an airport in perpetuity. The verbiage in the instrument of transfer also prohibits discriminatory practices or the imposition of unreasonable restrictions on the use of the airport. In the event of a breach of the conditions of the instrument of transfer, the federal government (FAA) has the right to retake the property and to continue operating it as an airport. Currently, Santa Monica airport has the most stringent use operations (in terms of time curfews, noise, etc.) in the country. If the FAA were to take the airport back, it would do so free of any obligations on the part of the pilots to comply with the current rules and regulations imposed by the city. The Santa Monica airport is a major reliever airport for LAX. If the Santa Monica airport were closed, jet traffic into LAX will increase substantially, causing a greater strain on an already overtaxed LAX system. The result will be greater delays for all commercial traffic flying into or out of LAX. This fact is not lost on the FAA, which will assuredly do whatever is necessary to maintain the integrity of the Santa Monica airport.
The new planned imposition of draconian landing fees on all aircraft is part of a long term plan to curtail the use of the airport to the point that closure becomes the only viable choice. The city of Santa Monica has sounded the popular mantra that the airport need to pay its own way and not depend on the general fund for subsidies. From having reviewed the city financial documents, I am of the opinion that this argument has little or no merit. In order to support its argument the city opines that it costs money to maintain the runway, taxiways and apron of the airport. Since the runway, taxiways and apron generate no funds, the airport must be running at a deficit. The city's solution is to impose unreasonably high landing fees on all aircraft so that the runway, taxiways and apron will generate income. The city's calculation of the cost of the airport currently does not include the monies generated by the business located at the airport or the rents collected by the city from airport tenants. If it did include those monies, the airport would be paying for itself, or nearly so. The argument used by the city is tantamount to the owner of a rent controlled building, who is looking for a way to increase his revenue. Since he can't raise the rent on an apartment, he simply chooses to charge for the use of the hallways, the walkways, the driveway and the garage. No court would stand for that, and I do not believe that the newly proposed landing fees will pass legal muster. If the landing fees are added to the airport fund along with the monies already being collected, then the airport will make a profit. If the landing fees caused the airport to run at a profit, it would constitute an illegal tax and the probability that such a tax will be stricken by the courts is very high. Let us not forget that the airport generates many millions of dollars (some estimates are in the hundreds of millions) for the city and the surrounding areas, thus increasing the economic quality of life for all around. Many have proposed closing the airport and turning it into a park. Assuming that that were even legally viable, the city could not afford to maintain a 118 acre park. It would cost the city millions to keep the grounds beautiful and safe and to police the area. Parks do not generate income. Let us not be swayed by those vocal airport neighbors. Their arguments of air and noise pollution is nothing more than an attempt to make money at the expense of any other gullible person who will listen to them. The airport neighbors all purchased their homes at prices that were reflective of the fact that the airport was in close proximity. If the airport were closed, those homeowners would make a windfall. The FAA has offered to purchase their homes at fair market value and the association that represents them refused to consider such an offer. The homeowners complain that the airport is used by a "privileged few". I counter that there is a vocal minority of Santa Monica residents who wish to profit from the closure of the airport at the expense of all others, who benefit from the economic benefits of the airport and the relef that it provides for LAX. It would indeed be a travesty if they were to prevail.

Jim Freeberg's picture

Well said David. I have only one comment was the airport there first or were there houses there first? I do think everyone know the answer to that question.

William's picture

The anti-airport crowd sure is out in force on AIN. Most of you spout CRAAP that is of your "own" doing. If you don't like living next to an airport then don't move there. If you were so concerned about "clean" air then why did you move to the LA area to begin with? Once again you people show a level of ignorance that lacks comprehension. When you finally succeed in getting what you want, I hope that you never need a life saving air ambulance flight because thanks to you it won't be there. Most of you don't seem to understand the impact your idiocy has on other peoples lives by eliminating jobs that contribute millions to your economy. Most of you are probably living on handouts from the government anyway so probably don't really care. For the person that says he can't sleep at 3 in the morning because of all the jet flights. I find that funny as there is a curfew from 11 pm to 7 am except for Lifeguard flights, but then you probably think those people should just have to wait or die so you can sleep.
You people need to take your CRAAP and leave this country and go start your perfect world somewhere else.

alex's picture

At least a few of the locals here are actually complaining about noise not the made up pollution that half the article raves about. Ultrafine or not LA is smog-haven due to being a valley covered in concrete. Nothing to do with the lead, nothing to do with ultrafine, it's the highways. Never mind that lead's only supposed to be a problem for the next couple of years before it's phased out.

Anyways, no poster has yet to answer the question, you knew there was an airport there, why did you buy a house next to the runway?

Sammy's picture

I have to agree with Bob 100%. You idiots move next to an airport and then say I want it out! That is like moving next to the freeway and saying that the freeway should go because my selfish ass is living here. Im only in my teens and am a SM resident but you people that live near the airport make me sick. You people are such idiots. The airport was there long before you were and if you don't like it then move out! simple as that! Maybe the FAA can negotiate and get rid of the jets but not the whole damn airport! how does that make sense. People that are against the airport. I say screw all of you.

crazyzoarhaina's picture

Maybe the Airport Authority should have to make a better plan for it. My Friend who was working at birmingham airport transfers Department was telling me that There are various problems which Airport worker face sometimes.

crazyzoarhaina's picture

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