WEST L.A. — City Hall officials and a group of residents concerned about noise and safety impacts at Santa Monica Airport are set to meet with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-30th District) today to lobby for a full environmental review of any potential flight path changes the FAA may propose at SMO.
The FAA in July completed a six-month test of a new takeoff route out of SMO for small piston-powered aircraft that residents in Sunset Park and Ocean Park said resulted in a sharp increase in airplane traffic over their homes.
Though the FAA so far hasn’t said whether it will push to make the route permanent, residents have created the group Neighbors for a Safe and Healthy Community to oppose the agency’s possible attempt to do so.
Members of the group point to an interim report on the test, in which the FAA reported significant decreases in flight delays at both LAX and SMO and less pollution as a result of the experimental route.
The test route required the piston-powered planes to take a “250 degree heading” when flying under instrument flight rules, rather than under visual flight rules.
The meeting today, which was organized by concerned residents, is expected to be attended by several City Hall officials including Councilman Kevin McKeown and representatives from the City Manager’s Office and from SMO. Several leaders of neighborhood groups are also set to attend.
“This meeting shows that the city and our congressman take seriously the impacts of diverted flights over Sunset Park and Ocean Park. Our goal is to make sure the FAA takes the issue just as seriously,” McKeown said.
Zina Josephs, of the group Friends of Sunset Park, said the goal is to convince Waxman to lobby the FAA to prepare an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) should the agency seek to change flight rules at SMO. Josephs and other activists are concerned the FAA could simply issue a “Finding of No Significant Impact” instead, allowing it to avoid a lengthy study of the test route.
Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA, declined to comment on the scheduled meeting with Waxman, but said the FAA will comply with every requirement under NEPA if the agency decides to make the takeoff procedure permanent.
Josephs said this is the first meeting she’s aware of that community leaders have arranged with Waxman to discuss airport issues.
“I think it’s not easy to get an appointment with him, so were encouraged,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council, at the urging of Councilman Bill Rosendahl, on Tuesday unanimously called upon the state legislature to approve a bill requesting a review of the environmental impact and safety of flight operations at SMO.
The state bill is known as Assembly Joint Resolution 41, proposed by Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-53rd District) and co-authored by State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-23rd District). It requests a study of the airport’s emissions by expert scientists and asks that those scientists offer remediation options. The resolution passed the state senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee and will head to the full senate for a vote by the end of the month, according to a press release from Rosendahl’s office.
McKeown had placed on the Santa Monica City Council’s agenda for last night a similar request that his colleagues support AJR 41.
He also placed an item on the agenda asking the council to authorize staff “to respond appropriately and immediately should the FAA declare a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) with respect to the contemplated permanent “250 Heading” flight path changes for Instrument Flight Rule piston-driven aircraft” and “to pursue, instead of a FONSI, a comprehensive environmental study as called for under federal law.”