Seismic safety comments by Bill Worden mistakenly claim our outdated Santa Monica Airport somehow must be retained if only for emergencies. He infers that this exclusive aviation playground for the privileged few (airport) should remain to prepare for “emergency” purposes, yet ignores the truth that this outdated airport failed in our most recent catastrophic earthquake.
On January 16, 1994, the Los Angeles basin was hit by the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake, and Santa Monica Airport was immediately CLOSED for three days. While centered in Northridge, substantial quake damage was inflicted right here in Santa Monica. If we had needed search and rescue operations, the airport was unusable and remained closed for three full days, the critical 72-hour window. And this quake was far from the Big One we can expect.
In a more recent emergency, outdated Santa Monica airport hardly mattered. On November 1, 2013, barely a month after a jet crashed on our runway (killing all four aboard), LAX was locked down when a TSA agent was killed by a rampaging shooter. All LAX flights were stopped and diverted. So did “reliever” airport SMO provide emergency relief per Mr. Worden’s hype? No. Less than 10 additional flights landed at SMO that day, as the vast majority of flights were handled by the existing airports that will remain when our airport closes.
We only have to look at San Francisco to see a world-class city that survives disasters without an airport. There is an “official” SFO airport, but it’s 12 miles outside the SF city limits (LAX is but a few miles away). SF relies on a former airfield that’s been turned into a park called Crissy Field, where US Presidents land when visiting the bay area – sound familiar? Both cities have the in common the coastline, athletic fields and parking lots to handle emergency helicopters.
Let’s stop propping up this airport with myths, and start imagining a great park for all residents to replace this exclusive aviation playground for the few. The greatest cost of a park is already covered – it’s our land! Perhaps with a great open field as a centerpiece, further keeping costs down, the great park could provide emergency use, except without the pollution, noise and exclusivity of outdated Santa Monica Airport.