WEST L.A. — Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Santa Monica) shied away from direct statements about the fate of Santa Monica Airport when he met with potential new constituents Thursday night in a West Los Angeles church.
The congressman, a fixture in the federal government since 1975, fielded questions from the West L.A. Democratic Club on local, national and international issues.
He could be representing the group in 2013 if he wins a seat in the newly-drawn 33rd Congressional District, which scooped up Santa Monica, pieces of West L.A. and much of the south bay region down to the Palos Verdes peninsula.
The election would put Waxman squarely in the middle of a contentious battle over the fate of Santa Monica Airport, which sits in the middle of a populated area on the east side of Santa Monica near West L.A. and Mar Vista.
While the airport has admirers and opponents within Santa Monica, most communities immediately around it have formed committees to advocate against SMO.
A common theme in their discussions: Santa Monica gets all of the money from the businesses on the sparsely developed 227-acre parcel, while communities around must deal with the pollution and noise from jet engines and prop planes that frequent the area.
Bill Nuttle, a member of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAPP) who attended the club meeting, lives just outside the new 33rd District, but within the influence of the airport.
“These big jets are coming in and they don’t have adequate runoff space at the end of the runway,” Nuttle said. “If it should overshoot, and end up on Walgrove (Avenue) or beyond, it would be very nasty.”
Some of the concerns were familiar, Waxman told the Daily Press Friday, like the length of the runway and worries about toxic fumes.
What he doesn’t understand is the position of the Federal Aviation Administration, which has steadfastly held that the airport must be operated in perpetuity despite short runways and lack of crash protection at the end of the runways.
“They are very supportive of that airport, which is why I don’t understand their unwillingness to make accommodations with regard to safety, air and sound pollution,” Waxman said.
Waxman was also unaware of the disagreement between the FAA and City Hall about when local government gains more latitude over the operations at the airport.
An agreement penned in 1984, the last time City Hall received federal money for improvements at the site, gave the FAA control over aspects of the airport operations.
That’s typical at most airports, which take money frequently from the FAA and therefore are continuously living under those contract terms.
Santa Monica city officials hold that their obligations under the 1984 agreement expire in 2015, a date which has been receiving increasing attention from activists and residents who would like to see the airport shut down or at least have its operations curtailed.
The FAA, however, believes that City Hall last received money in 2003, which pushes the obligation date to 2023.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and State Sen. Ted Lieu have come out strongly against the airport.
Waxman has met with Rosendahl on the issue, and says that should they both be reelected, he will sit down with Rosendahl and Lieu to work on a solution.
He was unwilling to make definitive statements on Thursday night about the policies he might pursue regarding the airport except to say that he’d already sent letters and expressed concerns to the FAA.