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A plan to pay SMO flight schools to conduct repetitive takeoff and landing practice at other area airports during weekends and federal holidays has been tabled indefinitely.
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A plan to pay SMO flight schools to conduct repetitive takeoff and landing practice at other area airports during weekends and federal holidays has been tabled indefinitely.

News, City Council, Santa Monica, Santa Monica Airport

Santa Monica Airport's Flight School Relocation Plan Crashes And Burns

Posted Jul. 11, 2012, 3:16 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

A proposed plan to provide flight schools at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) a cash incentive to their respective programs at nearby airports has been indefinitely tabled by council members Tuesday evening.

Just two weeks ago, four council members thought they had approved the incentive program. However, within the first few minutes of the council’s July 10 public meeting, the four council members present approved a staff request to table the proposal indefinitely.

“Staff has received considerable public input in the last several days,” City Manager Rod Gould told the bare quorum moments before closed session.

“Although the experiment was intended to reduce patterned flying above and around Santa Monica and our neighboring cities … with little impact on surround airports, I’ve concluded that our public fears and perceptions have escalated to the point that it is impossible to imagine that this test would be able to receive fair and objective evaluation.”

A June 26 council vote did not garner enough votes to approved the test program, which would have created a pay program to have SMO’s flight schools train at other Southern California airports.

However, a dissenting vote by Council member Bob Holbrook invoked a rarely used technicality. Since the proposed incentive program was an appropriation, at least five council members were required to be in favor of the proposal.

With only five council members present at the June 26 meeting, Holbrook’s dissent meant that there were only four votes in favor of the proposed incentive program, not enough to force flight schools to consider operating elsewhere.

According to city council procedure, appropriation measures must have at least five members on the dais vote in its favor. It is essentially a rule that requires support in excess of two-thirds, not a simple majority, of the entire council (not just those present) to be approved.

With two council members June 26, the pay to train elsewhere initiative could only have been formally adopted with a unanimous 5-0 vote.

After the 4-1 vote, council members and staff agreed to table the agenda item until July 10.

As council members and members of the public prepared for Tuesday night’s meeting, staff had proposed to the dais that the agenda item be tabled indefinitely.

The proposed incentive program would have, if approved, appropriated $90,000 over a six-month period to be paid to SMO’s flight schools. The money was to be used as a reimbursement “who conduct repetitive takeoff and landing practice” to do so “at other area airports during weekends and federal holidays only.”

As part of the test program, flight schools would have been reimbursed $150 per qualifying flight to cover the costs of flying to an airport other than SMO.

Staff hoped that by creating such a program where flight schools trained at other airports on weekends and federal holidays, residents of Santa Monica, Mar Vista, and Venice would enjoy a reduction in airplane noise and the risk of crashes into local neighborhoods would be minimized.

In his June 26 dissent, Holbrook said he believed there was not enough public support in favor of the proposed pay to train elsewhere program.

“To date, not one single person who I’ve received an email from or talked to, including leadership of the different groups around the airport, wants us to do this,” Holbrook said two weeks ago. “The people just don’t want us to do it.”

If it were approved, the test program would have gone into effect on July 1 and continued through December 31.

According to City staff, nearly 40 percent of SMO traffic is local flights.

Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis and Council members Bobby Shriver and Pam O’Connor were not present during the vote, which took place just prior to closed session.

Post a comment


Aug. 4, 2012, 2:48:21 pm

Jim Alger said...

I find it interesting how many people move into a neighborhood that has an airport, and then complain about the airport. Of course the real thing folks want is to develop the land the airport is on so one must really question who is behind the "grassroots" push of NIMBYism on steroids. What is going on here, if we take opponents at face value, is a bunch of wealthy homeowners are trying to force out students and small business owners so they can have a more "exclusive" neighborhood... all while screaming chicken little over "safety". It's appalling and shameful. If you didn't want to live by an airport you shouldn't have moved their. What's next? Wall off the beach because you don't like the noise of the waves or "dangers" of sea life? What causes more disruption, pollution, and safety issues in Santa Monica? Santa Monica Pier/beach or Santa Monica Airport. People aren't being raped and robbed at the airport. The airport isn't causing 10's of thousands of cars a day to come to town polluting the air and being involved in accidents. Ambulances aren't treating injured tourists at the airport every day. The airport isn't a place where teens congregate to do drugs and drink. Quick, better get on to closing the beach and improving the quality of life in Santa Monica. Or, you can admit this entire thing is a front for land developers who couldn't care less about the "quality of life" or safety of residents, but care deeply about making a buck and have no problem manipulating the people of Santa Monica if it helps them develop every last square inch of land.

Jul. 11, 2012, 1:27:43 pm

Fresh Air said...

The whole situation surrounding the SM airport stinks, literally. Pilots and supporters keep using the same argument that the airport was there first so residents should keep quiet or move. Smoking used to be permitted in public places, teachers lounges in elementary schools and even commercial airplanes. Cocaine used to be in Coca Cola, Transfats in food, Lead in paint & fuel, medications during pregnancy leading to birth defects; we all have become more educated about things that make us sick and die. Passing laws to curtail the exposure of harmful toxins and events is the responsibility and obligation of our government to protect its citizens. The pilots take advantage of every opportunity. SM airport is operating at a financial loss with almost $1,000,000 in local resident tax subsidies to keep in up and running. So, what do the flight schools do? The flight schools were given discounted rents to build up business at SM airport. However, they sublet the space to other tenants, like law and accounting firms, who pay a premium and the flight schools keep the profits, basically cutting the city out of the revenue. The City Council has imposed rules to limit noise and exposure to pollution. There is a term of “touch and go” where planes land and without stopping to take off again. To limit the noise and pollution, the city said “No more”. So, now the pilots have learned how to do “taxi backs”. The plane lands then taxis back to take off again. This would give some relief except that another plane was preparing to take off when the other plane lands…effectively making it a non-stop operation. The City Council has imposed noise limits and set up sensors to detect violators. The pilots know where these “fixed” sensors are located and purposely fly around it avoiding detection. Additionally, some pilots will quietly take off then full throttle their plane once past the sensors. The problem with the incentive program is that it provides an opportunity for the flight schools to get additional income that can reduce the cost of flying and therefore increase the operations with discounted training offered to the public. The incentive, as intended, would also move the flights to other cities. First, it doesn’t do anything to solve the problem, only sweeps up under another cities rug. Secondly, the idea has incited retaliation from pilots at “these other airports”. They have publically stated that if SM pilots fly there, then they will fly to SM. Swapping one leaded gasoline plane for another doesn’t resolve the problem. In 2015, SM City Council has the chance to correct their actions from years of negligence. In June 1981, the Council passed Resolution 6296 which states that the city will “close down the airport when it is legally possible. The airport must close. There are too many scientific reports that substantiate the health impacts from the use of LEAD gas and jet exhaust and excessive noise, a confirmed average of at least one plane crash a year, and the fact that we are paying over $1 Million a year to keep it up and running is contradictory to Santa Monica being a Green and Sustainable city!

Jul. 13, 2012, 1:18:29 am

Bon Voyage said...

Having been a 30 years plus resident of Santa Monica I love our airport. It gives our city with air access for people that want to come and enjoy our beaches and in case of emergency easy access. You bought your house next to the airport and you got it at a low price because of it. Now you want to get rid of it to satisfy your greed ( read property value) I think NOT!

Jul. 12, 2012, 6:14:23 am

Harvey Mushman said...

Don't like living next to an airport then you shouldn't have bought a house there. Btw you got a discount on that house because it is located next to an airport. This is exactly like the people who buy a house on a busy street (at a discount) and then complain about traffic in an effort to have traffic "calmed" or diverted thus increasing their property value. Extremely disingenuous...

Mar. 11, 2015, 8:31:06 pm

Matt Cusumano said...

As a Santa Monica resident, I have to say that I always considered the SMO airport as a benefit to the city, not a liability. You have a greater chance of a car crashing into your house than an airplane. Airports are wonderful places. They represent an easy way out of the traffic. Those complaining about the airport should go and use the airport. All the flight schools offer sight seeing tours, and it's very easy to catch a flight to Vegas, or San Francisco, at a very low price...just walk into a flight school and ask for a ride, and there's a very good chance you'll get your ride, and you will only have to pay half the gas expense. If Santa Monica ever closes their airport, it will be a true tragedy.

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