This letter is to correct claims made by Airport Commission Joseph Schmitz in his March 28, 2022 letter, to shed light on the Airport Commission’s Brown Act violations and as a plea to City Council for a change to the composition, conduct and accountability of the Airport Commission.
The Commissioner’s statement that Santa Monica has failed to curb children’s lead poisoning by toxic avgas is not supported by the Santa Clara study and reflects a motive dressed up as a pretext of health concerns for children. The Santa Clara Study found: the statewide average for blood lead levels in children ages 0-18 is between 1.5% and 2.6% depending on age. Of the Santa Clara children residing within 1.5 miles of the airport, 1.7% had elevated blood lead levels which is consistent with the state average. The study does not support the Commissioner’s claims.
Most general aviation airplanes are required to use 100 octane low lead (100LL) aviation fuel, which admittedly contains two milliliters of lead per gallon. Using 100LL is an FAA requirement, not a pilot choice. Despite pressure from pilots, the FAA has not yet approved unleaded 100 fuel. The importance of ensuring a pilot can self-fuel his or her own aircraft is so critical to safety that Santa Monica incorporated it into its Municipal Code at 10.04.06.140(a), “The right of a pilot to fuel his or her own aircraft pursuant to Federal law shall be respected.”
As a resident of Sunset Park and a general aviation pilot who flies for public benefit, I am a member of the class most highly exposed to lead. As a mother, I too am concerned for the health and welfare of children. Like virtually everyone in the aviation community proverbially, “waiting in the wings”, the switch to unleaded aviation fuel cannot come soon enough which is why the Commissioner’s misleading statements suggest something much bigger is at play.
While City Council’s composition has changed since the September 2015 statement identifying closing the airport as a priority ahead of homelessness and infrastructure, concerns that certain members of City Council receive developer incentives to close the airport remain. Because the airport provides approximate $250 million in annual economic impact, 1,500 jobs, not to mention the critical emergency relief role it plays if a natural disaster occurs such as an earthquake or wildfire and as the airport closest to UCLA, it serves numerous charitable organizations that use the airport to transport patients for specialized medical care, serves veterans, delivers rescued animals to new homes and the search and rescue missions conducted by the Civil Air Patrol squadron based at the airport , concerns about developer incentives remain.
The Commissioner “…plead for transparency” reporting the minutes sanitized his comments related to “Item 7) Commissioner Items.” However, the agenda contains no “Item 7” nor any “Commissioner Items.” Despite it not being on the agenda, the Commission permitted the discussion nonetheless, a Brown violation.
During the meeting (at 1:28:27) Chair Andrew Wilder shared his screen, displaying an email sent to him from Alan Levenson confirming Chair Wilder’s “similar take on the City Manager report” and, “Between us I have a call scheduled with David White in a couple of weeks” and “Ben (Wang) found a clause in the Atlantic lease regarding the north fuel farm and leak remediation and more that demonstrates, at least to me, that there are paths out of the below ground fuel farm.” At 1:39:40, Chair Wilder mentioned that Ben Wang had sent several messages in “the chat” during the Airport Commission meeting. The chat is not accessible to the public. This raises questions of why the Airport Commissioners are having back door communications with a sleuth lawyer employed by a real estate firm at all, let alone during Airport Commission meetings.
Commissioner Schmitz plea for transparency asks, “The City Council should now direct the City Manager to stop enabling Atlantic Aviation’s sale of leaded avgas” just as the undisclosed communications between Alan Levenson and attorney Ben Wang surreptitiously discussed. These communications should do more than raise eyebrows. Commissioner’s Schmitz and Chair Wilder should be immediately removed from the Airport Commission and the City Attorney investigate whether acts prohibited by Government Code §54959 have occurred.
The Airport Commission is void of any women, tenants of the airport and pilots who actually fly airplanes in/out of the Airport. This imbalance is not right. It is not just. It is not the progressive principles upon which Santa Monica prides itself. It is exclusionary. It is discriminatory. It is wrong.
City Council should disband the Airport Commission, direct the City Attorney to investigate the violations and/or require, effective immediately, the Airport Commission be comprised of residents who possess skills and expertise in professional fields of aviation or aviation related fields of benefit to SMO.
Eve Lopez, Santa Monica