Comments on Titmouse Park

To the Editor:

Mr. [Craig] Fraulino, architect and observer of the traffic on Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey (Argonaut January 7th issue) should know that “emotional attachments” to small green parks in urban spaces are even more important than parking spaces. To call it a “false emotional attachment” is unconscionable for an architect.

Does the AIA know about this? And, what about the small acknowledgement in this delightful little park of the former indigenous peoples who were once so “attached”?

Ina Jo Scheid, Culver City

To the Editor:

A story in the Argonaut January 7th issue made it obvious that Titmouse Park in Playa del Rey will not become a parking lot. However, there is a proper solution, but it’s not easy.

Before 1902 when plotting out the Playa del Rey town site, Henry P. Barbour, president of the Beach Land Co., erred greatly in planning narrow 25-foot business lots along Culver Boulevard. Especially without even an alley behind properties on the north side.

Aside from Titmouse Park, the only long-term workable solution for all of the 25-foot-wide commercial lots on the north side of Culver Boulevard is a large, very carefully designed, illuminated and well-regulated parking lot just behind those properties.

It would encompass substantial improvements to what, 30 years ago, was the old horse stables, which at one time, was considered the location for senior citizens’ housing. Certainly, it would enhance the business/commercial potential on the north, wetlands-side of Culver Boulevard.

Suggestions include: costs to be incurred by local business owners/developers; regarding, so that all drainage flows to the existing four-foot drain under Culver Boulevard, west to the Pacific Ocean; double entrance/exits using existing dedicated streets; full pavement, with curbing and night lighting; parking limited to shoppers, businesses, delivery truck unloading; no vans, motor homes; any overnight parking by permit only; chain-link fencing with no access to the wetlands; existing space behind Gordon’s Market designated for the wetlands volunteer workers and visitors; and other wetland concessions.

Who would own, who would insure, and who would be responsible for up-keep?

It’s a sure winner for all of Playa del Rey, if it can be achieved.

Robert A. Krauch, Playa del Rey

Venice Penguin Swim

To the Editor:

Our seaside community is fortunate to have Ms. Mary McGurk as our neighbor.

Ms. McGurk has for decades encouraged people to swim to improve their health and has organized the Venice Penguin Swim for many, many years. Her children, grandchildren, other relatives and friends have immersed themselves in making it happen.

This year more than 100 participated on New Year’s Day and crowds cheered them on. Thank you, Ms. McGurk for all your efforts over the years in making this happen.

Julian Myers, Marina del Rey

Santa Monica Airport

To the Editor:

Regarding: “Santa Monica Airport: Neighborhood anti-pollution advocates seek to clear the air using UCLA toxin study” (Argonaut January 7th issue):

Thank you, Gary Walker and The Argonaut, for writing this article. As the president of the North Westdale Neighborhood Association, I would like to expand on a couple of items mentioned in the article.

First, the primary goal in holding the forum is to inform those directly impacted by the results of the study. The fact that the study shows the air is polluted comes as no surprise to anyone in our community; it is the extent of the pollution that is alarming.

Second, as stated in the article, I believe there should be cooperation between the cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles. However, cooperation needs to start with Santa Monica acknowledging that the jet operation at SMO (Santa Monica Airport) is polluting the air in our neighborhood and a solution should be sought to eliminate that pollution.

There are those who use the old-school ground argument, “the Santa Monica Airport was here first,” as though seniority somehow negates our communal responsibility to keep the air clean.

I find it difficult to understand, in an era where there is an unprecedented effort to protect our environment, that any of the responsible parties would choose to continue down a path of polluting the air and harming those that breathe it.

Bahaa Mikhail, Mar Vista

To the Editor:

Regarding: “Santa Monica Airport: Neighborhood anti-pollution advocates seek to clear the air using UCLA toxin study” (Argonaut January 7th issue):

This is another article by Gary Walker that is exemplary when it comes to reporting about Santa Monica Airport (SMO). One point of clarification and some comments.

To clarify: readers should understand that the reason why no increased cancer risk was found by the UCLA study was that the study’s intent did not include a health risk assessment. On the other hand, the 1999 Los Angeles Unified School District’s study by Bill Piazza was a health risk assessment that did show elevated cancer risks into the North Westdale neighborhood east of SMO due to aircraft operations.

Santa Monica City Councilman Kevin McKeown and his colleagues have had ample opportunities over the past several years to “take the lead in demanding a toxicity study.” When planning the new Airport Park, they ignored the advice of their Task Force on the Environment to do a health risk assessment.

They resisted efforts by California Assemblyman Ted Lieu that called for Santa Monica to collect data on SMO operations. That data would have been used in conjunction with a health risk assessment via computer models.

In order for Santa Monica to support one of Lieu’s bills, the bill had to be stripped down and amended to simply require that a series of meetings be held with all the stakeholders invited to the table for discussions.

Immediately after the bill passed on committee, Santa Monica offered to host the meetings. What they did not say was that they expected the state to reimburse them. Santa Monica estimated the cost of hosting the meetings to be $100,000.

Due to the high cost, the state Senate Appropriations Committee did not consider the bill and the bill died. I can’t imagine why Santa Monica volunteered to host the committee and yet not fund it. And really, $100,000; did they plan to print on gold leaf?

In The Argonaut article, McKeown says, “And I’m hoping Los Angeles will join us.” He and his colleagues could certainly have learned from Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl about leadership. Rosendahl, along with Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP), held two excellent town halls dealing with Santa Monica Airport air pollution.

I invited all Santa Monica City Council members, but they did not even acknowledge my invitations. Rosendahl, along with CRAAP, convened a “panel of scientific experts” that met four times over a one-year period. The panel delved into the topic of air pollution at Santa Monica Airport.

Although establishing standards for ultrafine particle levels is certainly necessary, and I fully support efforts to do so, North Westdale residents should not be asked to continue to be guinea pigs and sit back continuing to breathe these toxic fumes for many more years while studies are commenced to determine their toxicity levels.

One might easily hypothesize that if second-hand cigarette smoke has been proven to be harmful, certainly the enormous volume of exhaust coming out of jet engines must be a major health concern.

It does not take rocket science to understand that air is not supposed to smell like a mixture of half raw and half burnt jet fuel. At the very least, the City of Santa Monica should be capable of speaking out strongly to prominent government officials on behalf of the airport’s neighbors and demand immediate attention to this critical issue.

Again, the city could have “led the way” a long time ago. I have been bringing the issue of jet air pollution from SMO to the city’s attention for more than a decade.

Martin Rubin, Los Angeles Director, Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution

To the Editor:

A very good question raised at this important forum by Los Angeles city officials and residents: Why do most of the aircraft using Santa Monica Airport fly over Los Angeles and not Santa Monica? Why doesn’t Santa Monica Airport use the skies above Santa Monica?

Given the placement of Santa Monica Airport next to Los Angeles on the east end, arriving flights will use Los Angeles for most approaches to the airport. Hence the recent study showing elevated, dangerous air pollution in those neighborhoods.

Don’t be surprised, however, if more and more departing flights fly out over wider areas of Santa Monica, not Los Angeles, in the future. They have already started doing that. Pilots and the FAA use the skies like they are in the Old West thinking they can go where they damn well please. That has to stop. Concomitant with these deviations from the recommended flight paths will be the dispersion of these same toxic air pollutants identified in the UCLA study over wider and wider areas of Santa Monica.

Maybe when cancer rates increase in Santa Monica like they reportedly have east of Santa Monica Airport, Santa Monica will get its act together and close the airport instead of permitting its de facto expansion all over Santa Monica and the Westside. Maybe Santa Monica’s little coterie of council members who mostly live in the small northwest corner of Santa Monica, far from SMO, will take action. Right now they treat the problems of Santa Monica Airport like it was in Pomona.

True, Santa Monica is engaged in litigation against the FAA to stop the large C and D aircraft from using Santa Monica Airport given the physical limitation of the runway and the likelihood of an overrun and disaster. Always hopeful about the success of the litigation, residents realize that that litigation is an important step not necessarily in being successful in stopping the C and D aircraft, but in supporting Santa Monica’s arguments against its liability should a crash occur. Santa Monica can say, we tried and it’s all the court’s and the FAA’s fault.

That’s not good enough. Santa Monica needs to step up its actions now against the FAA’s de facto expansion of the flight paths. Santa Monica needs to quit fighting air quality and health risk studies around the airport. Santa Monica needs to quit blocking studies of the emissions from the aircraft. Santa Monica needs to act like it’s serious about closing the airport.

Airport staff needs to stop protecting the pilots and the FAA, quit lying to the residents affected by the airport, and quit spending revenue earned at the airport to make improvements for the pilots. The focus now should be on closing down the airport in 2015. Most of the revenue earned at the airport absolutely needs to go to funding projects to protect the people whose lives and health are threatened daily by the airport’s existence in their midst, not to protecting and perpetuating the airport. It’s time that Los Angeles and Santa Monica families, not runways, prevail.

Susan Hartley, Santa Monica