Editor’s Note: This is a letter dated March 24, 2015 from Congressman Ted Lieu (33rd District) and Congresswoman Karen Bass (37th District) to Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown and the Santa Monica City Council regarding the future of Santa Monica Airport.
Dear Mayor McKeown and City Councilmembers:
As Members of Congress for California’s 33rd and 37th Congressional Districts, we represent constituents living directly adjacent to the Santa Monica Airport (SMO). Over the years, we have met with neighborhood groups and individuals near and around SMO, and we are deeply troubled by the effects that operations at the airport are having on our constituents. As you know, Santa Monica voters expressed their disapproval of the airport by emphatically rejecting Measure D to keep the airport open, despite massive corporate spending in support of that measure.
Aircraft departing from SMO are less than 300 feet from residences. Concerned constituents are directly impacted by environmental and health effects arising from airport operations given SMO’s close proximity to residential areas, including homes, schools and public parks. For decades, homeowners have complained about the odors, excessive noise, and emissions throughout their neighborhoods and within their homes. Further, SMO operations have been linked by scientific evidence to elevated ultrafine particulate concentrations and lead in nearby neighborhoods, including school yards near the Airport.
Additionally, our constituents have been very concerned about the safety risks that accompany the dramatic increase in aircraft operations in the last two decades. Since 1989, 11 airplanes coming and going from Santa Monica have been involved in crashes, including a crash a few weeks ago. On September 29, 2013, a small plane crashed into a hangar at the airport, bursting into flames and collapsing the building.
Based on the ongoing pollution and lead concerns, as well as the recent plane crashes, we have concluded that the current operations of the airport present a danger to the health and safety of surrounding residents. We support the City Council and the residents of Santa Monica and Los Angeles in taking action to remedy this situation. Towards that end, we oppose any extension of the 1984 agreement between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for part of the runway, and we oppose any extension of 3-year leases to jet aviation tenants.
If the Council so chooses, we also can use our positions as Members of Congress to facilitate a meeting in Washington, D.C. between the City and members of the community with the FAA.
We also endorse the 7-point Community Plan developed jointly by residents of Santa Monica and Los Angeles, together with the Santa Monica Airport Commission, and this City Council.
1. All aviation and non-aviation leases on Airport land will be allowed to convert to month-to-month tenancies. Recommended by the Airport Commission in February 2015-1 Leasing Guidelines.
2. All rental rates for month-to-month leases will be adjusted to current Santa Monica commercial market rates to eliminate subsidies. Recommended by the Airport Commission in February 2015-1 Leasing Guidelines.
3. Eliminate Airport tenancies that are incompatible with neighboring residential land uses by December 31, 2015. Recommended by the Airport Commission in April 2013 SMAC Recommendation 2013-1.
4. Eliminate all types of fuel sales at the Airport. Recommended by the Airport Commission in April 2013 SMAC Recommendation 2013-1.
5. “Permanently close to aviation use” and “no new development” for the Non-Aviation Parcel and the Western Parcel. Implements Measure LC, which was adopted by public ballot on November 4, 2014 and amends the City Charter.
6. Begin to develop land use concept plans, with full public participation, for the future use of the Airport land. Adopted by the City Council on March 25, 2015.
7. Commence Phase 1 environmental assessment and remediation process. Adopted by the City Council on March 25, 2015.
Thank you for this opportunity to share our views and we look forward to continuing to work with the Council and the residents in our respective Congressional Districts.
Ted Lieu, Karen Bass
Members of Congress