The Mar Vista Community Council voted unanimously to support Assembly Bill (AB) 700, on Tuesday, May 8th, joining other area community organizations that allege that their neighborhoods are adversely affected by pollution from airplanes. The Mar Vista Community Council is the city-certified Neighborhood Council for Mar Vista, which is in the City of Los Angeles.

The organization’s board sent an official letter of support to the sponsor of the legislation, Assemblyman Ted Lieu. The council had backed an earlier bill that the assemblyman proposed, and supporting the latest version was “like a refresher course for us,” said Tom Ponton, the Neighborhood Council’s first vice-chair.

Because Santa Monica Airport is adjacent to Mar Vista, residents like Ponton are also affected by emissions from airplane engines.

“Depending on how the winds are blowing, the fumes are in our backyards,” he pointed out.

AB 700, if approved by the State Legislature, would require the California State Air Resources Board to complete a study of air pollution caused by jets and turboprop airplanes that land and depart from Santa Monica Airport.

The Santa Monica Airport Commission voted last month to recommend that the Santa Monica City Council get behind the bill, and the board of the Friends of Sunset Park also signaled its support last week.

“AB 700 will provide data on idle and taxi times [considered the chief source of airport-related pollution in the community due to incomplete burning of fuel] as well as aircraft type, that can be used in a cost-effective mathematical modeling study to determine health risk and scenarios for reducing pollution in the community,” the Mar Vista Community Council board wrote in its May 8th position statement.

Martin Rubin, who heads a grassroots neighborhood organization, Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, is pleased that several groups have added their support to AB 700.

“We are continuing to educate the public that airport pollution is a health risk,” Rubin said.

William Scheding, the Mar Vista council’s treasurer, says that he has done “quite a bit of research” on the airport toxins and feels that backing Lieu’s bill is critical to improving air quality in the region.

“Measuring pollutants is the first step in getting a handle on what’s coming out of the airport,” said Scheding, who also heads the council’s transportation committee. “This is the first positive thing that could be done to [improve air quality from the airport].”

To date, some members of the surrounding neighborhoods in Santa Monica, like Rubin, have complained that Santa Monica City Council has not been as attentive as they would like it to be regarding jet emissions emanating from Santa Monica Airport.

“I think that they’ve been a little soft on air pollution,” Rubin said after a protest he led at the airport on April 21st. In a recent interview, he alleged that the City Council’s hesitation in supporting the bill is “a cozy delay tactic that shows a continued disregard for the necessary performance of a health-risk assessment.”

“The primary opposition [[to AB 700] is with the owners of large corporate jets,” Ponton asserted.

The jets are considered the primary source of the unhealthy air quality that neighborhood activists say is having a detrimental effect on their lives. Many allege that the number of cancer, asthma and respiratory ailments have increased since the larger jets have become a constant presence at the airport.

To date, Santa Monica City Councilman Kevin McKeown is the only member of the council to openly endorse the proposed bill.

“This is basically a free study for [the council],” said Rubin, who said that his organization sponsored AB 700.

Congresswoman Jane Harman and Congressman Howard Berman, along with Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, have publicly voiced their collective support for AB 700.

The Santa Monica City Council is slated to discuss the bill this summer.

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