SMO — Residents of three communities reiterated their concerns about Santa Monica Airport Sunday with a midday protest focused on noise, pollution and, above all, safety.
Protesters from Santa Monica, West Los Angeles and Venice lined the sidewalks at the intersection of National Boulevard and Bundy Drive, hoisting signs that read “Fly Clean or Don’t Fly” and “Santa Monica: No on cigarettes, soft on jet pollution” as motorists buzzed by, many signaling their support with rhythmic honking.
Extra signs lay waiting for willing hands, like one man who set down his groceries and joined the protest.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl also attended to show his support for closing SMO, which the councilmember has said negatively impacts his constituents without any of the economic gains that Santa Monica enjoys.
“We’re trying to let the public and the airport know that we’re concerned about safety issues,” said Roger Allen, of Sunset Park.
Allen moved into his home near Penmar Golf Course 15 years ago. Despite an overall drop in operations, Allen said, the noise and pollution emitted in large part by jets flying into SMO has impacted his quality of life.
“We want to be able to sit outside and relax, or sleep in on the weekends,” Allen said.
Pollution also remains a major concern for protesters, who find the exhaust emitted by the jets and the leaded fuel used by the small propeller planes at odds with Santa Monica’s reputation as a “green” city.
The protest capped a weekend of events for activists, several of whom had attended the West Los Angeles stop of the Aviation Justice Express the night before hosted by the Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, led by West Los Angeles resident Martin Rubin.
Aviation Justice Express was originally envisioned as a speaking tour for United Kingdom activists John Stewart and Dan Glass.
Stewart headed up a group that successfully scuttled plans for a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport after almost a decade of pressure, while Glass is an environmental activist best known for his creative ways of drawing attention to his cause, like super-gluing himself to then Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Neither man made it into the United States for their anticipated speaking tour. According to British media outlets, Glass was never given a visa, and Stewart actually landed in New York before being turned around and flown back to London.
The FBI, who allegedly questioned Stewart in New York, did not return a call for comment.
They did manage to teleconference in, said Stephanie Body, a 20-year resident of Venice who attended the event, and impart some of their experience on the crowd.
The talk covered five main points, Body said.
Glass and Stewart encouraged the group to make their coalition as broad as possible, engage politicians in the cause, back their positions up with hard facts like economic analyses, keep up a constant presence and present a “positive alternative” to the problem.
Local activists have been working regularly for the last 10 years to close the airport or minimally change some of the aviation operations located there, like the presence of large jets, so the methods, at least, were nothing new, said Santa Monica resident Virginia Ernst.
The results of those efforts, however, were inspiring.
“They were able to accomplish a great deal,” Ernst said.
Although residents have been raising hue and cry against SMO for several years now, they now feel there’s reason to believe they might be successful, Body said.
An increasing number of politicians like Rosendahl, Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Torrance.) and State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) have voiced either opposition to the airport, some airport activities or its environmental impacts.
And, as politicians begin lining up behind anti-SMO activists, the year 2015 inches closer.
That date has a great deal of significance to Santa Monica officials, who believe that both an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration and a grant obligation to the federal government expire in 2015, giving them more latitude over operations at the airport and the use of SMO land.
The FAA holds that the actual expiration of the grant obligations is 2023, and that the airport must be operated “in perpetuity,” no matter what.
Either way, the date has prompted Santa Monica officials to begin a visioning process for the airport, and galvanized those that oppose it, even if it means simply a reduction in the air traffic that many believe put their lives and peace of mind in danger.
“A lot of people have a lot of hope that the airport will close at that point,” Allen said.