It seems that the major local “Issue of the Moment” is future operations at Santa Monica Airport.

SMO, as it’s known to aviators, has its detractors. Anti-airport rhetoric and feelings increased dramatically after an unnamed novice pilot in a rented Cessna 172 crashed shortly after taking off from SMO around 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 29.

The small, single-engine plane dropped into a backyard of an unoccupied home in Sunset Park. The pilot and a person on the ground were injured, but not seriously.

Since the crash, lots of people are speaking out (shall we say shouting?) about closing the airport, shuttering flight schools and eliminating jets.

Noise and pollution from airplane exhaust has been a sore subject for those living around SMO for decades. After private jets arrived at SMO about 20 years ago, the complaints proliferated. The business jets also raised fears about safety. Sunset Park residents worried that if a corporate jet overshot SMO’s short, 4,973 foot long runway, lives would be lost and homes would be destroyed.

Some of the dialog is becoming nasty and rude. Referring to “pilot’s association” as “pilots ass” isn’t winning friends. Insulting and berating operators of airport flight schools at a “Flight School Forum” hosted by the Santa Monica Airport Commission last month was unnecessary and boorish.

Carping about who came first — houses or airplanes — is counterproductive. Snarky comments about SMO’s neighbors wanting to increase their property values by closing SMO down are irrelevant .

Residents living in Venice to the southwest, Mar Vista to the south and West Los Angeles to the east of SMO have joined the chorus of complaints.

Various politicians such as Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl (who lives in Mar Vista a few blocks south of SMO), former L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, and 28th District State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who neither live in or represent Santa Monica, have requested research on pollution emanating from SMO from various agencies. While there’s nothing wrong with studying aviation-related pollution effects on the environment, why single out only Santa Monica Airport?

I guess airports in these politicians own backyards such as Northrop Field/Hawthorne Municipal Airport, Zamperini Field/Torrance, Compton/Woodley Airport and LAX aren’t under environmental scrutiny because, obviously, they don’t pollute. In our own 23rd District, State Senator Fran Pavley has jumped on the bandwagon. Like the others, no other airport in the state was included in her 2010 pollution study resolution.

It would appear that all the political involvement is nothing more than sucking up to airport hating voters in their respective districts.

Neither the city of L.A. or state of California have any authority over aviation operations at SMO which is under the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration. Singling out SMO as if it’s the only airport in California for special ecological scrutiny is much more about politics than the environment — and the cheapest of shots.

Meanwhile, the Santa Monica City Council holds public scoping meetings up the gazoo and spend millions of dollars on its own studies concerning SMO’s future. Some believe that all this public input is to allow airport detractors an opportunity to vent. Whatever, the bottom line is that the future of the airport is really in the hands of the FAA. Substantial changes are many years off..

Nevertheless. those unhappy with airport operations, including grandstanding politicians, must learn to work together with City Hall, the FAA and airport/aviation interests to come up with a quicker solution to noise and pollution problems.

It’s that or exchange insults, waste time and money for years and years which is how long I think it will take to close down SMO’s aviation activity — if ever.

Did ARB overstep its authority?

Remember that single-story retail store with the glass front facade and vaulted glass roof/ceiling rumored to be the new Santa Monica home of Apple, Inc. that was supposed to replace the old Borders Books and Music building?

After Planning Commission’s enthusiastic approval, the project was recently forwarded to the Architectural Review Board. Even though its design was described as “unusual,” “striking” and “beautiful,” it didn’t stop some ARB commissioners from nit-picking like a bunch of fuss budgets.

They questioned “sustainability” and energy efficiency because the glass roof/ceiling allows hot “direct afternoon sun” to heat the interior of the structure. Commissioners quibbled about breaking ceiling glass and air circulation. ARB Chair Michael Folonis criticized the façade. “Just because it’s all glass doesn’t make it a great building,” he stated.

Architect Folonis should know that the appropriate exterior materials are integral to good architectural design. The bold use of glass in an audaciously designed structure does make this a great building.

The ARB is charged with reviewing aesthetic conditions such as natural beauty, cultural importance, good taste and harmony with surrounding developments according its mission. It’s also responsible for eliminating “conditions, structures and signs… which tend to degrade health, safety and the general welfare of the community.” Don’t see anything about “sustainability” or energy use.

Nevertheless, they finally approved the project.

Bill can be reached at

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