Planes Over Venice, or Santa Monica?

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By Laura Silagi, Stephanie Body, Ingrid Mueller, Joan Miner and Mindy Taylor-Ross.

Santa Monica residents have received a lot of press lately about the FAA test flight path of a few propeller planes over Santa Monica.  The test is over and the residents of Santa Monica are happy that all flights again have returned to departing over Venice. But what about those who live in Venice? Are we a dumping ground for Santa Monica?

We have no say in where the planes fly.  Despite years of calls and meetings with the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) officials, Venice receives no relief; we are in the same situation as before.

Here are some facts:

In 2009, there were on average 153 flights per day out of Santa Monica Airport (SMO), of which jets accounted for 19 operations per day, according to Robert Trimborn, Airport Director. During the FAA test period of flights over Santa Monica approximately 10 planes per day were rerouted over the Sunset and Ocean Park areas of Santa Monica, according to a 3 month interim evaluation by the FAA.

This caused the residents in Santa Monica to organize, petition and call the airport with the official tally for May being at least 3,500 complaints.  The City of Santa Monica was very supportive of its own residents, and even Congressman Henry Waxman wrote a letter to the FAA protesting this egregious intrusion into the quality of life to his Santa Monica constituents.

In Venice, there is an average of over 150 flights per day flying over our homes.  All the jets that depart out of SMO fly over Penmar Golf Course and down Rose and the sound and fuel pollution is spread out over the adjacent densely populated neighborhoods.

The noisy prop planes flying east are recommended to turn south at Lincoln and head east near Venice Boulevard.  SMO calls this their “ Fly Neighborly” program. It is certainly friendly to Santa Monica.  Now the residents of Santa Monica want to make the flight path over Venice mandatory. SMO benefits the City of Santa Monica with no benefit to those in Los Angeles.

Airport departure hours are weekdays from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and weekends starting at 8 a.m. Basically, Venice is assaulted from early morning to late at night. And there is no curfew on landings.

In addition, the six flight schools that are housed at SMO use the airways over Venice for practicing. They circle over the homes, schools and businesses all day and evening. They practice what is called “touch and goes.” Student pilots take off from SMO and circle around to the south of the airport and then head east, returning to the airport to land and then take off again. They practice the same procedure over and over again. And on weekends they practice “taxi back” procedures which simply means they land and then go to the end of the runway before starting the procedure again.

In a recent report by a team of Pediatric Residents at UCLA entitled  “Santa Monica Airport Health Impact Assessment,” the doctors analyzed other studies regarding negative impacts of other airports and assessed the results with Santa Monica Airport. One example cited from England showed that sound pollution above 55 decibels can affect the learning abilities and hearing of children. This is well below the noise level of jet plane take-offs.

Researchers from this study suggest aiming for noise exposure maximum values of 55 decibels during the daytime in order to protect the more sensitive segments of the population, such as children and the elderly. The report also details other potential negative health effects of Santa Monica Airport on the surrounding community especially to children, older adults and people with cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, or diabetes.

In the Venice and Mar Vista area alone, there are over 11 schools, from elementary through high school, as well as adult schools that lie in the flight path of both props and jets. There are also many daycare centers and young children at home, at the beach and in local parks exposed to sound pollution.

A recent UCLA research team led by Dr. Suzanne Paulson, published a study in which the area downwind, east of the airport was monitored for air pollution. High levels of Black Carbon particulates and very high concentrations of Ultra-fine particles were found.

Ultra-fine particles can enter a cell wall and travel virtually anywhere in the body. There is anecdotal evidence of high concentration of cancers in that area. Pollution levels associated with jet idle and jet blast measured in the Los Angeles neighborhood east of the airport can be as high as most anywhere in Los Angeles.  Although this study did not include Venice, we can assume that there are health risks here from air pollution caused by departing jets in particular.

And there are safety and quality of life issues. Student pilots flying over densely populated areas scare many people. Old planes and vintage planes are not restricted from SMO. There is no buffer zone required for jets. For more than twenty years, the FAA waived the runway length requirements for jets at SMO. Pilot error or mechanical malfunction can lead to tragedy.

Meanwhile, Congressman Henry Waxman and the City of Santa Monica continue to ignore the noise and pollution complaints that come from neighboring residents of Venice, Mar Vista and West Los Angeles.

What can be done?

There are now groups organized to fight this environmental injustice, and the new Venice Neighborhood Council’s Santa Monica Airport Committee is open to all those who are interested.  This committee has a survey on the VNC website for those in Venice who are adversely affected by the airport. Go to http://www.grvnc.org/node/1419.   Comments from those who participated so far include: inability to carry on a conversation in the home; work at home without constant noise; house shaking with vibrations as planes going overhead; blackened leaves on plants and fruit trees; children living in fear of planes crashing into their bedrooms; and the constant irritation of noise pollution.

The VNC group is trying to assess the number of people and areas in Venice where residents are affected by the SMO. That information will be publicized and used to pressure politicians to pay attention and change the situation for Venice and its neighbors. Venetians need to organize to fight for clear skies, especially targeting Federal representatives and the FAA.  The VNC Santa Monica Airport Committee meetings are held every third Wednesday, 9 a.m. at the Rose Café. Check the VNC website for upcoming dates, agenda items and minutes.

City councilman, Bill Rosendahl, has spoken out repeatedly about the problems SMO causes for Los Angeles residents. He has said he is willing to lie on the runway to make his point. Perhaps we should take him up on this offer and join him.  And please join in the struggle to stop Santa Monica Airport abuse.  It is also time to again complain to SMO regarding noise since they send these complaints to the FAA.  Santa Monica Airport 24 hour noise reporting: 458-8692.

Websites for further information:

VNC Santa Monica Airport Ad-Hoc Committee http://www.grvnc.org/node/1420

Concerned Citizens Residents Against Airport Pollution http://jetairpollution.com/ (a great resource for past and current information and actions.)

Santa Monica Airport Health Impact Assessment http://www.ph.ucla.edu/hs/hiaclic/pdfs/SM_Airport_Health_Impact_Assessment.pdf

Aircraft Emission Impacts in a Neighborhood Adjacent to a General Aviation Airport in Southern California http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/es900975f?cookieSet=1

Santa Monica Airport Noise Complaint Form

http://www.smgov.net/departments/airport/form.aspx?ekfrm=8886

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