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Mar Vista Community Groups Urges Strong Effort to Blunt Impact of Santa Monica Airport Changes  

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

May 16, 2017 -- With the consent decree for Santa Monica Airport (SMO) ushering in changes that include a shortened runway, a bordering Westside community is gearing up for the potential impact with a call to head off any additional toxic emissions from idling aircraft.

The Mar Vista Community Council has passed a motion urging the Los Angeles City Council to require the airport's eastern end of the runway be shortened by at least 1,000 feet to "help offset years of exposure to toxic air emissions" from aircraft operations.

The group also called for the council to request the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to alter conflicting flight paths of SMO and the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to "eliminate unnecessary idle/hold times" by aircraft at both airports.

Mar Vista is among the communities that surround Santa Monica Airport, a 227-acre facility created more than a century ago as a grassy landing strip but is now as close as 300 feet to some homes.

Airport opponents say the facility has become a hazard that it too close to densely populated areas and that chartered jets are raining more pollution down on them than ever before.

The surprise SMO compromise between the City of Santa Monica and the FAA -- announced in January -- closes the airport on the last day of 2028 ("City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028," January 28, 2017).

In the interim, it clears the way to drastically reduce jet and other operations at SMO by shortening the sole runway as soon as feasible.

The consent decree allows the City (which owns the land) to reduce the runway from its current 4,937 feet to 3,500 feet of operational length ("Clash Over Shortening Santa Monica Airport Runway Goes to Commission Tonight," May 2, 2017).

How the reduction is crafted has already caused conflict between neighborhood groups and the aviation industry, which has fought to keep SMO open as a relief value for busy LAX.

The motion adopted unanimously on May 9 by the Mar Vista group notes "highly elevated" levels of air pollutants in the 2.9-square-mile L.A. community of an estimated 38,000 people.

Studies "give cause for concern for the public health of the downwind of SMO residents," the motion says.

As a result, the community group says it is requesting supporting efforts by the L.A City Council to require SMO's end of the runway be shortened at least 1,000 feet.

Council Member Mike Bonin and Councilmember Paul Koretz, whose districts 11 and 5, respectively, deal with the SMO, are also to be advised "of the urgency and timeliness to lead a strong effort," along with the L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Attorney.

They are to assure constituents "that SMO impacts are not unjustly burdensome to the City of Los Angeles," the motion said.

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