Blog: City Vision on SMO Is Biased

Airport Commission and the community want more information from the city.

Residents in both Santa Monica and Los Angeles have expressed great concern that Santa Monica's vision process for the future of Santa Monica Airport has been a biased process, and it has not begun to determine uses of the land if the airport were to be closed or even if it could be scaled back in size. And yet City Council members have asked for the community's trust.

Although the Santa Monica Airport Commission has repeatedly asked to be included in a more participatory role in the Santa Monica Airport vision process, they have been basically ignored. At the last Airport Commission meeting, an ad-hoc committee's request that the item be placed on a City Council agenda was not successful.

For years, community concerns regarding air pollution have fallen under the City Council's radar and continues to do so to this day. Trust the City?

If SM City Council wants the community's trust they need to actually respond to both the Commission's and the community concerns. Hopefully, now with two new CRAAP-endorsed Council Members, Tony Vazquez and Ted Winterer, they will now start.

Below is an email that was sent, on behalf of the Airport Commission, to City Council requesting again that the Airport Commission's recent recommendation be placed on the City Council's agenda for an upcoming meeting.

[Dear Mayor O'Connor and Council Members,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Airport Commission with an urgent request to place an item on the City Council Agenda on an expedited basis.  The item relates to a motion passed by the Airport Commission at a special meeting on December 11, 2012, relating to Phase III of the Airport Visioning Process. Because Phase III of the Airport Visioning Process is scheduled to be concluded in late March or early April of this year, the Airport Commission is requesting that Council consider the matter on an expedited basis, before it is too late.

Background information

At the May 8, 2012, City Council meeting, based on the body of information received during Phase II, Council directed staff to proceed with the following objectives for Phase III of the Santa Monica Airport Visioning Process:

1. Address concerns about transparency, communications and trust.
2. Transform Santa Monica Airport into a model Green Airport.
3. Pursue making Santa Monica Airport a better neighbor with greater community benefit.
4. Evaluate possible design improvements for non-aviation land.
5. Continue on-going dialogue with the FAA to assess possibilities for voluntarily reducing adverse impacts of Airport operations, recommending to City Council that Council concerning the scope of the  recommendation that the City Council.

Staff was directed to hold two meetings during Phase III to provide updates and obtain feedback from the public and the Airport Commission; the first meeting was held during the Airport Commission Workshops on November 26, 2012.

The Airport Commission took public input after Staff's presentation of their report on the direction and progress of Phase III of the Visioning Process.  Based upon the public's input, the Airport Commission asked Staff if it could incorporate some of the public's various requests and address some of the public's concerns as Staff completed Phase III of the Visioning process. 

Staff responded that it would need to investigate whether accommodating those requests and concerns was within the parameters of the direction given to Staff by Council at the May 8, 2012 meeting.  Therefore, the Airport Commission scheduled a special meeting for December 11, 2012 to hear and consider Staff's response as to whether it would address the public's requests and concerns as a part of Phase III of the Visioning Process.  On December 11, 2012, Staff informed the Airport Commission that Staff did not believe that it could accommodate the public's requests and concerns as a part of Phase III of the Visioning Process without further direction from City Council.  Therefore, on December 11, 2012, based upon public input, the Airport Commission passed the following motion:

"The Airport Commission recommends that City Council request that staff provide the following: 
1. The information matrix that was previously presented as a part of the Phase III Visioning Workshop be augmented to include:
a. any additional information on flight school operations, and analysis of same, as staff can provide;
b. information concerning the number of tie-downs spaces at the airport;
c. the number of aircraft permanently housed at the airport; and
d. the number of transient aircraft that regularly require tie-downs from city owned tie-downs, if any;

2. A survey of the best practices and proprietary rights concerning the sale of fuels at other similarly situated airports, which shall mean airports either having a comparable  number of annual operations; or of comparable size in terms of acreage of airport property; or in terms of runway length; so limited to those three factors and general aviation airports; and

3. A copy of the “City’s facilities survey” reflecting condition, useful life, and square footage of the facilities that house aviation related operations at the airport and copies of the leases for those businesses that occupy the buildings.

The Airport Commission also recommends that City Council provide direction to staff to clarify and expand the scope of City Council’s previous instructions to staff on May 8, 2012 regarding the Phase III Airport Visioning Process to include:

1. That staff examine, analyze, and include in its report to City Council, and the Community Workshops, how all aviation related operations might be conducted after the expiration of the 1984 Santa Monica Airport Agreement to mitigate negative effects of the airport, including, but not limited to, evaluating:

a. whether that aviation related operation is subject to a FAA claim for further legal obligations and the source of that FAA claim;
b. the cost and benefit of altering those operations and the potential neighborhood effects on altering those operations (the analysis can include expanding as well as reducing aviation related operations), evaluating flight school operations, tie-down spaces, the sale of fuel, continued ownership and/or other issues related to the actual building spaces on the airport, reducing or eliminating the number of fixed based operators (FBOs) and other aviation related businesses, operating a FBO as a City owned business;
c. removal from aviation use of the western portion of the runway quit claimed to the City in 1949, (the non-1984 Instrument of Transfer parcel); and
d. the types of leases currently at the airport, including those of aviation businesses and review whether those businesses are paying a fair market rent, what the fair market rent for that space occupied by the business would be, or is; whether its current use is the best use for that space, and if there are public policies that might dictate another use other than the best space used for that leased spaced."

The motion also approved formation of an ad hoc committee charged with contacting City Council to request that the item be placed on an upcoming City Council Meeting, on an expedited basis, and presenting a brief report to City Council regarding the motion.

The ad hoc committee was unable to have the matter placed on a City Council Meeting Agenda and, as of the date of the January 28, 2013 Airport Commission meeting, Staff indicated that it had not received any further direction from City Council regarding the scope of Phase III of the Visioning Process. During the course of that meeting, the Airport Commission and Staff were able to work out an understanding, wherein Staff agreed to do what it could relating to the additional information that the Commission sought to be included in the previously presented information matrix, regarding fuel sale practices at similarly situated airports and some of the information requested concerning the buildings located on the aviation side of the Airport.  However, Staff reiterated its position that none of the other matters could be addressed in Phase III of the Visioning Process absent further direction from City Council.

Request that Item be Placed on Upcoming City Council Agenda

The Airport Commission feels very strongly that as presently formulated, Phase III of the Santa Monica Airport Visioning Process does not adequately address the issues of transparency, communications and trust that City Council enumerated as its first objective for Phase III.

The public has strongly voiced concern that as presently formulated, Phase III of the Santa Monica Airport Visioning Process does not adequately address City Council's next two objectives for Phase III, which were to explore how to transform Santa Monica Airport into a model Green Airport and pursue making Santa Monica Airport a better neighbor with greater community benefit.

In order to address the public's concerns regarding issues of transparency, communications, trust and the adequacy of Phase III of the Visioning process in exploring how to transform Santa Monica Airport into a model Green Airport and pursue making Santa Monica Airport a better neighbor with greater community benefit, the Airport Commission believes that it is essential that City Council at least consider the motion set forth above prior to conclusion of Phase III of the Visioning Process.  Unless the public's concerned can be aired before City Council prior to the conclusion of  Phase III, the process is likely to lose its credibility and the benefit that could be derived from the Visioning Process will be diminished.

Therefore, the Airport Commission hereby requests that the City Council place this item on an upcoming agenda on an expedited basis.  We know how busy you are and how packed your Agendas are with other time sensitive issues.  To that end, our report will be short, five minutes or less.

Thank you for your consideration.

Peter Donald,
Vice-Chair Airport Commission

Ofer Grossman,
Airport Commissioner]




This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mike February 14, 2013 at 06:12 PM
Sorry, aio, I'll try not to befuddle you with sarcasm. My point is that I'm mocking the oft heard argument that the airport was here first. I don't see how the long procession of development in the area that led to the present situation can be doled out an eternal judgement against any sort of future change. I was here before most of the pilots at SMO...it doesn't matter. What matters is the present situation and where we go from here. The majority of the local community is frustrated with the airport. The involved aircraft have outgrown the airport footprint, as has the community swelled in size. Today's jets burn a cleaner fuel than ever before, and yet jets now have a thrust capable of dispersing exhaust throughout Mar Vista. Come sit in my yard on a Sunday and see if you can breathe. I assure you, prior to the last fifteen-to-twenty years, it was not like that at my house. I recognize there is value to the airport. I'm happy for Pilot Dave that he should be employed there. But is my place in this community any less important? I've been a homeowner for many years, I employ multiple people in the immediate area, I've grown a family here, I volunteer on many community organizations. To suggest that I'm in this for a "real estate grab" is enraging. There is room for an airport here if the pro-aviation community would wake up to change. But to rail against any sort of reform discussion simply entrenches both sides for a long and bitter battle.
B. Price February 14, 2013 at 06:41 PM
Mike you have been sniffing jet fuel a little too long. My advise is buy an iron lung or move. The SM airport isn't going anywhere soon. What kind of nut job buys a home in the flight path of an airport. This is what you get when you buy cheep housing.
Mike February 14, 2013 at 08:17 PM
Who said I live in the flight path?
Pilot Dave February 15, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Mike, Thank you for being happy I am able to work at my profession, as many others have for the last 100 years in Santa Monica. Because you seem somewhat reasonable I will not banish you to Pitcairn island. Unfortunately you will need to attend a 5 year re-education camp. You still spew the same lies many of the airport opponents claim. First of all SMO does not pollute. I will be happy to sit on your yard during a Sunday and we can breathe in all the pollution that comes from cars. What your smelling (as proved by mutliple academic studies) is car exhaust emitted by the millions of cars that travel through la. Also, the local community is not frustrated with the airport. There are just a few whiny residents who want to increase their property values and/or are secret agents for fat cat developers. Last year 90% of the so-called "noise complaints" were made by just 12 people. So basically to answer your question... Yes, your position in the community is less important that those of freedom loving airport supports who want to get America moving again! It's time you support the airport. It's time to support extending the runway and support larger jets and greater air traffic.
michael derek mccoy April 24, 2013 at 10:40 PM
The side opposing the airport, is extreme in their thinking. Resembles a ''Hippie'', type thinking.


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