The Planes Of Summer Burden Our Sky…

Friday, 20 Jul 2012, 11:00:00 PM

Steve Stajich

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

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