SMO — It’s only for four days, but residents who live near Santa Monica Airport will be getting a reprieve from aircraft noise this week, as SMO’s runway will shut down for maintenance between Sunday night and Friday morning.
Anti-airport activists are planning to mark the occasion with a “peace and quiet” vigil on Monday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Lincoln Boulevard and Rose Avenue to bring attention to SMO’s impacts on neighboring residential communities.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Venice and other West Los Angeles neighborhoods impacted by SMO, is planning to attend. Invitations also were extended to Santa Monica officials.
“We certainly respect their rights and their opportunity to express their opinions and let the rest of the public know how they feel,” Airport Administrator Rod Merl said of the planned event.
The vigil comes as Santa Monica residents who formed the group Neighbors for a Safe and Healthy Community continue to await an announcement from the FAA about whether the agency will seek to make a controversial takeoff route for propeller planes permanent. During a six-month test run earlier this year, members of the group complained the experimental flight path resulted in a sharp spike in flights over their homes in Sunset Park and Ocean Park, though the FAA said its data showed the test had only a modest impact on Santa Monica residents.
Martin Rubin, director of the group Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, said Monday’s gathering will be a chance to raise awareness about the airport’s noise, air pollution and safety impacts and to consider a future without SMO.
“We want to give residents in the neighborhoods surrounding Santa Monica Airport the opportunity to celebrate the peace that is possible when we’re free of airport pollution and noise,” he said. “We want residents to imagine a future for the Westside where peace, quiet and cleaner air is possible, not just for a few days, but permanently.”
Permanent closure of the airport is likely to be on many vigil attendees’ minds. But that possibility is, at the very least, quite a ways off.
A contract with the FAA signed in 1984 requires City Hall to operate SMO until 2015. It’s unclear exactly what will happen once the agreement expires, but City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said without a contract in place the city will have more flexibility regarding SMO.
“As to whether the city could close the airport or not, I expect that would be a legal dispute between the city and the FAA,” she said.