Rep. Ted Lieu will have locals speak directly to the FAA about SMO

By Gary Walker

As a state senator, Rep.  Ted Lieu called a hearing on aviation fuel pollution

As a state senator, Rep.
Ted Lieu called a hearing on aviation fuel pollution

A select group of Santa Monica and Venice residents will be traveling to the nation’s capital next week to meet with federal lawmakers and aviation officials about the future of Santa Monica Airport.

While representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration have met with residents in local settings in prior years, this is the first time in years that a face-to-face meeting will happen in Washington D.C., said Rep. Ted Lieu (D- Torrance), who arranged the gathering.

“I want the FAA to hear firsthand the concerns of residents living near Santa Monica Airport and those who are in its flight path and to see what possible solutions can be discussed,” said Lieu, who represents Venice and Santa Monica.

FAA Associate Administrator of Airports Eduardo Angeles, a former senior assistant Los Angeles city attorney, will represent the federal government at the meetings, according to Lieu’s office. The agency will be in “listen- only” mode, said FAA spokeswoman Marcia Alexander-Adams.

Karen Bass (D- Los Angeles), whose district includes Mar Vista, is also expected to attend.

Jonathan Stein, a Century City attorney who lives in Santa Monica, said the meeting could have serious consequences for the airport’s future.

“The purpose of this meeting is for our two members of Congress to help the FAA make an informed decision to waive its rights to keep Santa Monica Airport open. I anticipate that this effort will be successful based in part on Ted Lieu’s relationship with President Obama and the fact that the president appoints the key leadership of the FAA,” Stein said.

Mark Smith, a Santa Monica resident and a board member of the Santa Monica Airport Association, has been invited to attend the meeting in Washington. Smith said he plans to clarify for Lieu and Bass what he says is negative misinformation about the airport.

“It’s important to share with them the reality of the situation with the airport and not the drama associated with it,” Smith said.

Lieu has also invited Venice resident Mindy Taylor-Ross to the Capitol. She called the meeting with FAA representatives “a breakthrough” in residents’ fight to be heard at the federal level after years of inaction from Washington.

“This is the first time that Venice will be at the table,” she said. “I want to commend Rep. Lieu for holding meetings with scientists in Venice and Westchester as a state representative to create a record and confirm what so many experts have said about air quality and pollution from Santa Monica Airport.”

The future of SMO has been a polarizing topic in Santa Monica for more than a decade, with advocates for closing the airport and supporters of keeping it open continuously trading accusations and barbs.

Santa Monica officials are seeking more control over the airport but anticipate a fight
with the FAA if they attempt to impose additional flight traffic restrictions.

Lieu has invited Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown will represent the city at next week’s meeting.

“The primary message I’ll be carrying is not my own, but that of Santa Monica voters who overwhelmingly supported Measure LC, calling for local control of the land we own that is currently being used as an airport,” McKeown said. “With the support of our congressional representatives, we hope to impress upon the FAA our community’s resolve to end the increasingly unacceptable impacts of jet and other aircraft operations.”

Smith said emerging technologies, including cleaner-burning airplane fuels, can mitigate noise, air pollution, safety and other complaints about the airport.

“The airport is not going away anytime soon,” Smith said. “The question is: How can you better manage the airport so that it’s quieter and cleaner?”

Taylor-Ross, chair of the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Santa Monica Airport Committee, said she wants to convey to the FAA that Venice residents have suffered equal if not greater harm than Santa Monica residents because the current SMO flight path sends aircrafts over Venice. Harrison Ford’s recent crash at Penmar Golf Course was no small reminder, she said.

“My community would like to end Santa Monica’s ‘Fly Neighborly’ program [a city policy that recommends propeller planes depart from the airport over Venice]. It’s certainly not been very neighborly to us,” she said.

Taylor-Ross wants the FAA to reconsider its decision on the 250-degree heading path, where airplanes would make a right turn after take-off and head over Santa Monica.

The FAA experimented with that approach for six months in 2009. During that trial period, Santa Monica residents bombarded airport officials with noise complaints.

“We don’t want to pit anyone against each other, but we think the impacts should be more equitable. If we don’t impact Santa Monica residents, we
won’t get anywhere,” Taylor-Ross said.