A bill now pending in the California State Assembly to require Santa Monica Airport to record operation times for certain stages of taxi/idle, take offs and landings comes to the Assembly floor in Sacramento this Thursday, May 25. Locally, the Santa Monica City Council is scheduled to address the City’s position on the bill, AB 2501, at the council meeting that same evening.
The proposal, sponsored by 53rd Assembly District member Ted Lieu – who represents the area just south of Santa Monica – seemed to have drawn battle lines between the neighboring cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Last week, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a motion by Councilman Bill Rosendahl to support AB 2501. Santa Monica Mayor Robert Holbrook wrote to the Assembly last month voicing the City’s opposition to the bill.
But Friends of Sunset Park, describing themselves as “the neighborhood organization representing Santa Monica residents north and west of Santa Monica Airport,” this week addressed a lengthy memorandum (complete with references and appendix) to the Assembly in support of the measure, an event which suggests that Thursday evening’s council meeting will not be without controversy.
The bill’s supporters, including Lieu, Rosendahl, and the Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, led by director Martin Rubin, argue that the proposed record-keeping would provide necessary data to be used later in a “modeling” study (the type favored by the EPA) to study the pollution effects of operations at the airport. Mayor Holbrook’s letter to the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources objected to Santa Monica Airport being singled out in this state legislation and argued that the unfunded mandate for data collection will not produce useful information on air pollution, a subject already being studied at Santa Monica and Van Nuys airports by the South Coast Air Quality Management District under a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Santa Monica Airport operates under the dual jurisdiction of the FAA and the City,” according to Jeff Mathieu, director of Santa Monica’s Resource Management Department. “[T]he City operates the ground facilities of the Airport and maintains the aviation common areas such as the runway and taxiways [while] the FAA has exclusive jurisdiction over aircraft in flight and while in movement on the ground at the Airport.”
Assemblymember Lieu says that his constituents living east and south of the airport are not represented locally because they are outside Santa Monica City limits. Rubin of the Concerned Residents organization, which includes both Santa Monica and Los Angeles residents, adds, “Los Angeles residents get 90 percent of the air pollution from the idling jets, blowing over and into their homes.”
Idling at the airport is itself impacted by events beyond the City limits because operations must be coordinated with LAX, such that “an aircraft [must] seek permission from the FAA to start its engines and taxi to the runway and [await] an operational hold on the aircraft at a point 200 feet from the end of the runway prior to its release for departure [by the FAA],” as described by Santa Monica’s Mathieu.
The proponents and opponents of AB 2501 differ widely on the estimated cost of the one-year program that would be required by the proposed legislation (although both sides agree that the cost would be borne by Santa Monica alone), and the parties also are at odds over the need for and the usefulness of the information to be collected under the measure.