The wonderfully named CRAAP (Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution) group drew 11 of the 16 candidates on the November 2nd ballot seeking four Santa Monica City Council seats to a Monday candidate forum at Ken Edwards Center.
The airport in question here is not Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) but the general aviation Santa Monica Airport.
And the “concerned residents” include not only residents of Santa Monica but neighbors in the City of Los Angeles who live near and who are impacted by the Santa Monica Airport.
As for the host’s delightful name, a CRAAP member reminded us that you’ve gotta have a gimmick if you want to get attention these days.
CRAAP is headed by Martin Rubin, brother of Santa Monica activist Jerry Rubin.
Bill Rosendahl emceed the forum.
JURISDICTION ISSUE — The big problem, of course, is that Santa Monica faces the same jurisdiction issues at its airport that Los Angeles has at LAX.
But even worse for Santa Monica, the city entered into a long agreement with the federal government through the Federal Aviation Administration in 1988 that pretty well limits the city’s authority over its airport until the agreement ends in 2015.
None of the present City Council members were on the council when that odious agreement was signed in 1988.
But the incumbents have been on the City Council all, if not most, of the time since 1999 and since 1999 jet traffic at Santa Monica Airport has increased 69 percent.
Ouch. No wonder the natives are upset.
So what are the Santa Monica City Council candidates going to do about this noise and pollution issue at their aiport?
Kathryn Morea is a database analyst and admitted up front that she is not an expert about airports.
“But I’m anxious to learn more about it,” she said.
Morea wants to know why so little is done between elections about airport issues.
Matteo Dinolfo is a physician and university teacher and says his medical expertise can help the city define health problems created by the airport. Dinolfo says the city needs to compile strong evidence of the health impacts on neighbors caused by the airport if the city is to overturn or mitigate the present agreement with the FAA.
Jonathan Mann, a flight attendant, wants to close the airport altogether, saying it is now dangerous for planes to land at the airport.
“We have had at least one crash in the near past,” he noted.
Maria Loya, a public policy director, wants a new commission to do a health study on the impact of the airport. She would support an ad hoc committee of residents, the city and the FAA to study the impact of the airport.
Herb Katz, an architect and City Council member, was a member of an owners association that sued the airport, trying to get it closed.
“We didn’t succeed,” he admits.
Katz says he is in total accord with the idea of forming a committee to study airport issues and to do it with rationale.
Bobby Shriver, a state parks commissioner, and brother-in-law of Governor Arnold Schwarze-negger, thinks the Santa Monica Airport is a federal problem
Shriver says that with his connections in Washington, D.C. — his father, after all, was a nominee for vice president — he could help the city negotiate with the feds.
Ken Genser, a City Council member, says that years ago he served as a liaison between the city and the city airport commission. From his perspective, Genser doesn’t believe that at that time there was much interest from neighbors about airport issues.
There sure is now.
Genser thinks the new airport commission is much better than its earlier predecessors.
Genser said that with Mayor Richard Bloom, “we increased fines” for noise and pollution violations at the airport. Genser would welcome a study with the FAA “because it gives us more credibility.”
Richard Bloom, mayor, pointed out that the city now has an airport commission that is dominated by residents and now has a city staff that is aware of the impact on residents of the airport.
“We now make the airport safer with buffers,” but he admits that the airport is now being impacted by commercial firms flying jets in and out of the airport.
Michael Feinstein, a City Council member and author, offered a bit of history on how the city got the airport.
“We got the airport because we had support for a park and the city later said that an airport is a park.”
Feinstein supports stronger fines against planes that violate existing noise and pollution standards.
He says he wants to ensure that Los Angeles International Airport doesn’t send its unwanted planes to Santa Monica.
Patricia Hoffman, a director of a nonprofit organization, says “we need to elect (John) Kerry so we could have a more favorable FAA.”
She favors studies such as one with the FAA and believes the city should start working now to be ready when the present 1988 agreement ends in 2015.
Linda Armstrong, a data entry operator, wants the city to adopt an emergency closure of the airport.
“I don’t think you need any more studies,” Armstrong said.
SO WHAT CAN BE DONE? — Is there anything the city can do now to mitigate the noise and pollution problems at Santa Monica Airport?
Katz admits “we don’t have the jurisdiction. The FAA keeps stepping on us.
“I think the way is to prove that the jets are far too noisy.
“We have to really lobby the FAA.”
Genser agrees that the city signed away a lot of its authority in the 1988 agreement that is binding until 2015.
“We have to be creative. We need to shorten the runway,” Genser said.
Bloom says, “We can’t allow the airport to be hospitable to the jets. We just have to keep working on it.
“We need to come up with unique and creative ideas.”
Feinstein suggests that at the federal level, the FAA tells the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), “go away.”
“Since that is a problem, we think the Kerry Administration will be more favorable to us.”
Mann says the City Council should be held accountable for the agreement they signed (in 1988).
“We can raise fees.”
Mann also believes the larger jets — called C and D jets — are too big for the Santa Monica Airport.
Hoffman replied that the contract the city signed in 1988 actually lowered the rate of noise decibels for the Santa Monica Airport to 95, lower than at other airports.
Shriver scoffed at the impact of higher airport fees.
“Jets don’t land at this airport. People land the jets and there are a lot of people who live in this city who are coming in on those planes,” Shriver said, adding that many of those who are flying in in jets are rich and higher fees won’t make any difference to those who are rich.