CITY HALL — After a long contentious relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration over regulations at Santa Monica Airport, local officials have formed a new committee to better position themselves when it comes to legislation.

The Airport Commission on Monday formed a two-member ad hoc committee that will identify issues, policies and legislative advocacy positions which they believe will be important to City Hall when it concerns SMO, a facility that has put city officials at odds with the FAA for years on matters including the now-suspended ban on the fastest jets.

“If they feel a certain position or legislative discussion should be advocated, then they can make a recommendation to the City Council because the council does the advocacy,” Airport Manager Bob Trimborn said.

Commissioners Peter Donald and Jean Gebman have been appointed to serve on the committee, which is scheduled to meet monthly.

The committee is also expected to discuss the expiration of the 1984 settlement agreement between the FAA and City Hall keeping the airport functioning as such.

The agreement is set to expire in 2015, though the year has also been a subject of dispute.

“A personal observation is that a number of general aviation airports are morphing into more of a commercial operation and a number of us have been wondering for some time whether or not we should take a close look at the laws and regulations to make sure they keep pace with the changing times,” Gebman said.

Gebman said the disagreement concerning the ban on categories C and D jet aircraft at the airport, which is currently being battled in court, is a symptom of a deeper issue of laws that govern the use of commercial aircraft at a general aviation airport.

“Rather than continually fight with the symptoms of a more fundamental underlying issue, it is the hope of the commission that we will find some suggestions that we might make to the City Council moving forward, which may include asking for some federal relief from our local congressional representatives,” he said.

Improvement

A series of new construction projects to improve the airport could be on the way.

Asked by the council to come up with $50,000 worth of capital expenditures, the commission identified three possible project areas, including added landscaping, installation of surveillance cameras and construction of sound walls to replace the chain-link fence separating the airport and the residences.

Airport staff will do a cost analysis for the three different projects and report back to the commission at its next meeting.

“We have a lot of homes surrounding the airport and many of the fencing between the airport and those homes are the 1930s chain-link fence, which is rusted and doesn’t provide any sound (protection),” Trimborn said. “The installation of a wall will create a more aesthetic appearance and noise buffer between the airport and the homes.”

The commission is also interested in adding more landscaping around the airport, which is one of the larger areas of open space in the city with 227 acres.

Many of the plants and trees along Bundy Drive and 23rd Street have suffered in the drought, Trimborn said.

“Since so many people see those areas going to and from wherever they’re going, we would like to improve and maintain that with landscape materials,” he said.

Monument coming along

The homage to the DC-3 and Donald Douglas Aircraft, which was founded in Santa Monica, will be unveiled next month.

Located at 3100 Airport Ave., the monument includes a mounted DC-3 aircraft that was manufactured and delivered in 1942, called “The Spirit of Santa Monica.”

The monument is being funded through the Employees Community Fund of Boeing California and other sponsors, which contributed an upward $580,000 toward the project, which will also include a statue of Donald Douglas and his dog, Bar.

The DC-3 plane was recently mounted.

“It’s looking pretty good,” Trimborn said. “It’s a show stopper.”

melodyh@smdp.com

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