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Opinion, Santa Monica, Columnist, Santa Monica Airport

The Planes Of Summer Burden Our Sky…

Steve Stajich, Columnist
Santa Monica Mirror Archives
Steve Stajich, Columnist

Posted Jul. 20, 2012, 11:00 pm

Steve Stajich / Mirror Columnist

In the mix with the buzzing insects, the jangly nursery rhyme music announcing the ice cream truck, and the occasional stray firecracker left over from the 4th, many Santa Monica residents hear the gas-burping accelerations and decelerations of the planes of summer.

And fall. And winter. And spring.

While some might have argued it never had a chance, a program to reduce traffic from Santa Monica Airport by paying flight schools to take their students to other airports at least had a hearing in front of the City Council, who then voted to table the proposal indefinitely.

Opposition from cities that might have been taking on the relocated flights didn’t help, and an ever-building tension between residents living near the airport and the city didn’t help either.

Flight schools located at Santa Monica airport generate a level of repetitive take-offs and landing.

My father was a private pilot and used to take me with him on such exercises, which he called “touch and go.”

Small plane pilots practice take-off and landings by landing then immediately taking-off again. It’s great for pilots and air safety.

But it can also be understood to be torment for those living in the area immediately adjacent the airport. Imagine your neighbor owning a noisy lawnmower.

Only instead of mowing his lawn once a week and getting it over with he starts the mower, revs it, cuts a few rows of grass, then turns off the mower.

Then he starts it again, mows, stops itÉ and this keeps going day after day, week after week.

Residents living near Santa Monica Airport credibly assert that the flight school activity disrupts their lives and impacts their health.

For anyone doubting that, I’m more than happy to send my neighbor over with his mower to demonstrate the effect I described above. But the residents shouldn’t pretend that they don’t have a larger goal in view.

Many of them are lobbying for outright closure of the airport in 2015.

It is then that City Hall may regain a measure of control over airport operations after certain obligations to the federal government expire.

When able to express themselves online and otherwise, voices on both sides present some strong arguments.

These arguments come largely from the intersection of two divergent philosophies: That once something is in place, say a nuclear reactor or a tanning factory, you either put-up and shut-up or you try fighting city hall figuratively and literally.

This column has addressed the airport previously and observed that there’s a real possibility that the air traffic at SMO has now so exceeded any expectation the original urban architects might have had for the airport that something must change.

We live in a region where everyone is ordered to stay home one day so that needed expansion of our freeways can take place without the current levels of auto traffic making construction impossible. How is it we can get our minds around that, but the City of Santa Monica isn’t able to see that SMO is in need of.

Well, this is where we kind of cluster up and get red-faced about the airport. Should we be looking at its closure, or steps to mitigate the undeniable negatives of noise and pollution and safety concerns voiced by citizens who have found crashed planes in their neighborhood?

We’re currently talking about relocating homes and house trailers and citizens to accommodate mass transit. We have the will there, it appears.

Dig big holes in the ground to park the cars that keep crunching and squeezing toward our beaches? Again, the will seems to be there.

Cut down beautiful trees so that sidewalks are flatter and the view of retail store fronts -- I’ll stop now.

Meanwhile, there still lingers this thing with the corporate jets in and out of SMO.

I’m certain there’s revenue realized by allowing our Santa Monica Airport to function as the landing strip to the stars -- of show business and industry of all sorts.

But hasn’t providing all that convenient service for those not willing to deal with getting in and out of LAX hit something of a wall by now?

I’m sorry, but there’s a level of just plain rudeness when a one per-center’s jet whines over my home that I don’t see as reflective of the true spirit of Santa Monica.

At its most basic, our conflict with Santa Monica Airport is that a facility meant to deal with the needs of a certain time has now become outdated.

Unfortunately, that’s not often enough to get people to deal with making changes.

The dialog in America on infrastructure was kept at a low boil until bridges started collapsing.

Public schools had to begin falling apart before words like “crisis” started to have weight. Santa Monica has a reputation for looking forward and looking ahead.

With all the information we have about SMO and its impacts -- why are we looking away?

Post a comment


Jul. 21, 2012, 6:28:17 am

Meg said...

Thank you for this column. SMO is a far different airport than when I first bought my house, and the current situation is no longer sustainable. I used to think fondly of the airport, but now the private jets and their exhaust have made my yard unusable. Cancer is rampant on these streets, even with the children. People in the community are about to snap. I'm so sick of out-of-town pilots telling us there's nothing we can do about it. Well there is. Last I checked our government officials were elected, and if the SM City Council won't take up the issue, we'll vote in folks who will.

Jul. 20, 2012, 12:45:53 pm

Bob Abernethy said...

Great sympathy is owed to certain SAMO and WLA homeowners located in the vicinity of SAMO Airport. Specifically, such sympathy is reserved for and restricted to those who have owned their properties since 1919. As to all the other bleating sheep, let me remind them that the airport was there when they made their presumedly informed decision to purchase their property. If they don't like living near the airport, they can simply sell their homes and move elsewhere. Shame on them for even having the gall to complain about a condition that was both open and obvious at the time they moved into the neighborhood.

Jul. 20, 2012, 10:51:12 pm

stewart said...

this is a really well written pov, what a great job! But you can have my aircraft when you take the yolk from my cold dead fingers like guns some would say no? Or when Tacos are outlawed then only outlaws will have tacos which was once the battle cry on Mains st some years ago? Like the bumper sticker once read, I am queer, I am here, get used to it! Same goes of the airport I guess, its here, its not illegal to fly, Get used to it.

Jul. 21, 2012, 7:02:35 am

Adele R said...

I grow tired of people telling me I should have thought more seriously about consequences of buying my house near an airport. There were no toxic fumes entering my house in 1974 when I moved here. There were no jets allowed. Now I am retired here and can't afford to move anywhere else and be close to family. I have cancer caused by air pollution and noise stress probably. I want SMO closed. It is no longer charming or benign.

Jul. 21, 2012, 7:53:56 am

Mary J. said...

This is so well put. No matter what side you are on in this, it all comes down to what you said. This is the reality. And, yet, the city just approved subsidizing the airport in unnecessary expenses to the tune of a few million dollars over the next couple years. Rod Gould and the City Council don't seem to have our backs in this one. Or Mr. Gould is giving City Council misleading information.

Jul. 21, 2012, 8:56:18 am

Will said...

Take your Flight Schools and Fly over Santa Monica!!! Its' their stinking Airport!!! They get the $$$$$ They used to fly out over the Ocean and make their one turn.... Now they circle twice and fly south over Venice and Mar Vista... Fly North and make your circles over Santa Monica!!! I LIKE your idea Steve... Turn on a Lawnmower in front of the flight Schools offices doors every 15 minutes... Gas fumes of course!!!

Jul. 21, 2012, 9:25:01 am

Judith Pickles said...

Thank you for this column. This is one of the bests posts I've read recently concerning the SM airport issue.

Jul. 21, 2012, 12:21:48 pm

stewart said...

UHM Adele? 1974? Guess ya didnt notice McDonald-Douglas, or Lear Aviation did you?

Jul. 21, 2012, 4:28:41 pm

Mike said...

Stewart, My house had asbestos in it in 1974. I've since had it removed. By your argument I suppose I should have left it since it was there first. This airport is not now what it was then. I would be fine living near a small airport with prop planes, as it used to be, but I never signed up for these private jets. This airport seems to be polarizing, like many issues in our country, and that's unfortunate. I think there's a middle ground that could easily be reached, but because the aviation community seems so hell-bent on not giving an inch, the only recourse residents have is to push back with complete closure. It's sad, really.

Jul. 22, 2012, 1:51:24 am

Paulette said...

This is not he home which I bought 20 years ago in serene Santa Monica. The airport asserts itself on every outdoor activity and worse- the lead fuel invades our homes and the lungs of our children. SM City hall just voted to limit the fumes of cigarette smoking. Why are we still having to inhale the fumes from leaded fuel?

Jul. 22, 2012, 3:54:21 am

stewart said...

gee mike, stay in tha asbestos laden house for all I care? I mean really its your house, like the airport perhaps it was hidden from you too? I dunno? Uhm justs sayin? By the way? the jet has been around since WWII, as a matter of fact when I swept Mr Lears hanger in the early 60's there were already jets there too. You know right across the field from McDonnell Douglas? You really need to get out more Mike. Also there are now international efforts to develop more advanced aviation fuels, why even the US Air Force is tesing those in high performance aircraft. I hazard to guess by the time your crowd stops making specious arguments about alleged pollution aviations perpetual progress will have made your argument irrelevent?

Jul. 22, 2012, 7:31:53 am

Colleen said...

Saying the airport was here first is like a doctor saying, "that's the way I've always treated X-disease". Ridiculous. Evidence now clearly shows the ill-effects of jet fumes and lead and constant noise pollution. SMO no longer makes sense in this community. It's time to do what's best for the most people and close this dinosaur down.

Jul. 22, 2012, 8:32:47 am

c.v. BECK said...

Really good article. It's time, it's really, really time for this airport to "pouf, begone!" It could be 20 years past time but it's been the right time now for some time. You could try to put the airport in the ocean, see if that flies!

Jul. 22, 2012, 9:10:04 pm

stewart said...

the argument that because there was an airport here that somehow there remains no place in this community for one today, flies (pun inteneded here) in the face of common sense, as travelers come and go everyday while the facility serves out its intended purpose. shall we also rip out the power lines, water and sewer, roads, and all the other infra structure that serves the general society because of the prerogative of the narrow minded flat earth society says so? when you came here there was and airport, to now demand its deconstruction is preditory conduct by any other name. off you go now to your next stalking horse political issue du jour

Jul. 23, 2012, 6:33:33 am

IMinVenice said...

A courageous handful of my neighbors started informing the local FAA reps in early '90s about noise/danger/soot et al. A monitor was installed on my balcony, yet the readings were never revealed/explained/ followed up on...tons of toxidity has entered all living beings' lungs and our gardens. No, it's NOT OK for you handful of eager pilots to so very negatively impact these surrounding 'hoods! Go live out in the country for the sake of your selfish behaviors! I do not wish you the best. We are angry lots around SMO. SMO GOTTA GO!

Jul. 23, 2012, 3:34:03 am

Susan Griffin said...

Thanks for the forthright editorial. We live in West Los Angeles, which absorbs much of the nuisance of the SMO--jets roaring in to land, or idling at the east end of the runway, whining and spewing fumes our way. We've been complaining to Santa Monica now for years, without getting much response. What frightens me is the response I once got from someone taking noise complaints at the airport, many years ago now, when I asked if the FAA was waiting for some disaster before they shut this airport down. "Well, you know the FAA--they make their policy in blood." Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Mar. 28, 2013, 1:32:44 pm

Steve P said...

Some people here need to get their facts straight. S.M. airport used to have commercial airliners operating there, as well as military aircraft including fighter jets. L.A. Airways helicopters had a base there. If you don't like airplanes and the sounds and smells they make, move. The airport was there first.

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