The City Council decided to delay its recommendation on proposed runway safety enhancements for Santa Monica Airport until the March 26 Airport Commission workshop on the proposal. At present, negotiations are still ongoing between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for creating Santa Monica Airport runway safety areas.
Runway safety areas have become necessary due to the increase use of the Airport by larger and faster aircraft, particularly jets. The problem has become increasing acute because jet traffic has grown 18-fold since approval from the FAA was given in 1984. Neighboring residents and others are concerned that without safety areas a disaster will occur when an aircraft runs off the runway into the surrounding neighborhood.
Negotiations with the FAA are necessary because all Airport aviation activities are under the direct control of the FAA, while the City is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the Airport.
City Airport Manager Bob Trimborn explained to the Council that the current proposal envisions “a 300 foot Runway Safety Area [RSA] on the west end of the runway with a 250-foot Engineered Materials Arresting System [EMAS] bed within the RSA.” On the east end, a 600-foot RSA would be placed due to the physical inability to use EMAS on that end. “EMAS is specially prepared concrete that collapses under the weight of an aircraft in a way that is designed to slow down and capture an aircraft overrunning the end of a runway without loss of life or property. The operational impact on faster/larger aircraft is unknown at this time.”
The community, especially those who live closet to the Airport in Sunset Park, took issue with the proposal and complained they were not given the opportunity to participate fully in its creation. Friends of Sunset Park (FOSP) President Zina Josephs asked for “equal protection of the residents on both sides of the Airport.” The FOSP position statement notes that, “EMAS is ineffective against aircraft that have wheels off the ground, that are veering off course or that are landing short.” Therefore, FOSP prefers that RSAs be established at both ends of the Airport that will provide landing and departure thresholds of 600 feet. Josephs also requested “if EMAS is installed it should be paid for by the Airport users” and that “limitations on aircraft use of Santa Monica Airport are based on aircraft type, weight and weather conditions, not on pilot discretion.”
Others called for banning jet travel at the Airport altogether. Sunset Park resident Steven Mark stressed to the Council, “The basis of the negotiations with the FAA should be to eliminate those jets.”
Resident Peter Donald described Airport jet use as a “convenience for the corporate and well-to-do travelers” causing “Sunset Park to bear the brunt of the health hazards.”
In other business, the Council approved the necessary steps to purchase the properties at 430 Arizona Avenue, 1324 Fifth Street, 1320 Fifth Street and 1321 Fifth Street. The $30.9 million, 52,200-square-foot purchase was made as part of the Downtown Parking Strategy Plan.
Finally, the Council appointed Betty Mueller to the Housing Commission, Linda Jassin to the Arts Commission and Margaret Bach to the Landmarks Commission.