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Congressman Wants FAA Forum on Santa Monica Airport's Future

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

July 18, 2013 -- Opponents of Santa Monica Airport (SMO) were heartened Wednesday when Congressman Henry Waxman called for a forum to discuss the future of the controversial airport.

Waxman addressed a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta inviting the Federal agency to participate in a forum in the bayside city to talk with residents about options for the 96-year-old airport.

The letter specifically cites as the reason for the summit the impending 2015 expiration of Santa Monica's agreement with the Federal agency that has governed operations at the airport for nearly 30 years.

“The operating agreement with the FAA is due to expire in 2015, and the future of the airport is at a critical juncture,” Waxman said in an official statement Wednesday.

“It’s time to start having frank conversation with the FAA about SMO post-2015. I am asking the FAA to participate in a forum to hear from local residents and the City about their priorities for the airport,” he said.

Long-time opponents of SMO, many of whom oppose the airport because they see it as a health hazard and a source of noise pollution, were happy to hear about Waxman's letter.

“It's critical that all the concerns regarding SMO be aired out at a thorough forum that would include testimony from all stakeholders,” said Marty Rubin, founder of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP).

Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day agreed.

“It would be really beneficial for the FAA to host such a forum so they can hear directly what we hear from residents about airport operations,” he said.

Rubin, who lives near the southern side of the airport in Los Angeles, has advocated for closure of SMO for several years.

“My concern is public health,” he said. “The issue of public health has not been addressed by either the City of Santa Monica nor the FAA.”

“This issue needs to be addressed at the Federal level,” he said.

Waxman, whose district includes Santa Monica and Venice, has positioned himself as a champion of neighbors concerned with airport safety and pollution.

“The Santa Monica Airport is just feet from many homes in Santa Monica,” he said. “For years, residents have had to live with safety, noise, and pollution issues at the airport.

“I share the concerns of the residents living around the airport and have been fighting for improvements for many years,” he said.

While Waxman has never called for closure of the airport, he highlighted his numerous efforts at improving safety at SMO, including lobbying the FAA to reduce jet traffic and require the use of unleaded fuel in planes.

Rubin is cautiously optimistic about Waxman's call for a forum.

“The meeting itself would probably not bring about the closure (of the airport) but it's another step,” he said.

Rubin and other opponents have pinned their hopes for closure on the expiration of the operating agreement, established in 1984 after the FAA successfully challenged City-established caps on plane operations.

The move for closure has picked up momentum, according to Rubin.

During last year's election, nearly all of the candidates vying for a position on Santa Monica's City Council advocated either for closing the airport or significantly reducing its size.

While the FAA has a large amount of discretion over whether the airport stays open, O'Day said that 1984 agreement shows that the City's position, while limited by Federal law, is also strong.

“I think that as a City Coucnil we are all in touch with the concerns of our residents regarding the airport,” said O'Day.

“We've been thinking quite critically about the future of the airport,” he said.

As of press time, Waxman's office hadn't received a response from the FAA.

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