A bill that would require Santa Monica Airport to monitor and record the taxi and idle times of jet operations for one year as well as make the data available to the public was approved by the California State Assembly Natural Resources Committee Monday, April 24th.
If signed into law, Assembly Bill 2501, authored by Assemblyman Ted Lieu of the 53rd District, will direct the state to gather data on air pollution around Santa Monica Airport.
Lieu’s district spans an area from West Los Angeles to the South Bay cities.
“About one third of the residents in the 90405 zip code live under the flight path of Santa Monica Airport,” Lieu said. “Ocean breezes carry the jet emissions into the residential neighborhoods to the east of Santa Monica Airport, replacing the ocean breeze with the odor and harmfulness of jet kerosene.”
Jet operations have increased at Santa Monica Airport from 1,000 operations in 1983 to an estimated 18,000 operations in recent years.
The figure represents about 9,000 jet takeoffs and 9,000 jet landings.
Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, an organization of neighbors who live near Santa Monica Airport and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), believes that one of many factors for air pollution is that jets idle at Santa Monica Airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that airplanes taking off from Santa Monica Airport wait for permission from the LAX control tower.
Engines are running when planes wait or idle on the runways. Fumes from burning fuel rise up into the air.
Assembly Bill 2501 will provide data to receive a more accurate picture of how long airplanes have to idle.
The bill would also help the state gather information for further studies on how specific jet operations are affecting residences near Santa Monica Airport.
The State Assembly Appropriations Committee will hear the bill in the next few weeks.
Other Assembly committees will then hear the bill before it goes to the full Assembly, State Senate committees, the full Senate, and Governor Arnold Sch-warzenegger’s desk.
Santa Monica Airport is on the east edge of the City of Santa Monica, bordering Los Angeles. The airport is managed by Santa Monica, with the FAA providing oversight and regulatory approval on decisions made by the city.
“Our efforts to have our concerns addressed by the City of Santa Monica have not gone well at all,” said Martin Rubin, foun-der and director of Concerned Residents. “As the pollution problems continue to get worse, this side of the airport [Sardis Avenue in Los Angeles] gets 90 percent of the problems.”
Rubin arranged for Congresswoman Jane Harman and Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl to speak to West Los Angeles residents about Santa Monica Airport during a walking tour of the neighborhood Thursday, April 20th.
West Los Angeles is represented by Harman in the U.S. House 36th District and by Rosendahl in Los Angeles City Council District 11.
Lieu was scheduled to appear at the walking tour, but was in Sacramento at the time.
Rubin said Lieu has previously walked with Concerned Residents through several neighborhoods that surround Santa Monica Airport.
“No other comparable airport is positioned so closely to highly populated communities,” Rubin said. “Residents cannot afford the years it will take for health studies to come back that will count the illnesses and deaths attributed to Santa Monica Airport operations.”
Rubin said Rosendahl has been a good ally in helping Concerned Residents bring its issues into public policy discourse.
“Santa Monica Airport is a city [Los Angeles and Santa Monica], county, state, and federal issue,” Rosendahl said.
“Assembly Bill 2501 will be an extremely helpful tool in allowing us to assess the situation.”
Rosendahl said Los Angeles County has discussed the possibility of conducting air quality studies before Assembly Bill 2501 is approved.
Harman met with Rosendahl, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday, April 19th, to discuss Santa Monica Airport and LAX.
Communities that surround LAX have the same noise pollution and air pollution concerns as residents who live near Santa Monica Airport, Harman said.
“We need to build a regional airport system, which is the insurance policy against LAX ever getting bigger,” Harman said.
“The people who live in Playa del Rey, Westchester, and other neighborhoods are going through a lot of the same things as Santa Monica Airport neighbors.
“I am absolutely confident that we are going to solve problems associated with LAX, and we are also going to solve Santa Monica Airport problems.”
At the federal level, Harman said she is working with the FAA on several issues such as runway safety and idling at Santa Monica Airport.
“The FAA has a direct role in deciding whether or not the control tower at LAX has to give permission for all the planes to take off from Santa Monica Airport,” Harman said.
One way to solve the problem, Harman said, is to change the flight paths of planes taking off from Santa Monica Airport so that they would not interfere with the paths of planes to and from LAX.
Planes from Santa Monica Airport take off in a northwest direction instead of southwest to avoid flying into LAX’s three-mile distance requirements.
On the walking tour was Virginia Ernst, who lives 300 feet from Santa Monica Airport in West Los Angeles.
She said she and her neighbors are “subjected to blasts of noise and fumes” when jets are landing and that the noise shakes the doors and windows in her home.
Harman said the United States could invest in environmentally friendly technology such as alternative fuels for airplanes and new types of engines that are quieter.
“We can reduce our dependency on foreign oil, which makes us vulnerable to terrorist attacks, and create high-skill, high-wage jobs by changing the way the engines work,” Harman said.
West Los Angeles residents said their top concerns are noise pollution and air pollution from jets at Santa Monica Airport.
“We are concerned about the health of our children,” said Leane Vandeman, who has two daughters Phoebe Vandeman, age 21 months, and Claire Vandeman, age three and a half.
“The smell and noise combination from jets is a public nuisance. We never thought so many jets would be at the airport.”
A family with newborn twins recently moved out of the neighborhood because of the airport, Luis Becerra said.
Becerra has lived near the airport for 30 years and at his current residence in West Los Angeles for two years.
His wife Leslie Becerra, six-year-old daughter Alexandra Becerra, and three-year-old son Mateo Becerra also dislike living near the airport.
Luis Becerra said his children are bothered by the noise and air quality, and will often come inside early from playing in the backyard.
“They [the jets] are too loud,” Alexandra Becerra said. “I don’t like them at all.”