Air pollution from jet aircraft operations at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) was the focus of a demonstration Sunday, April 22, by local residents and several politicians.
Santa Monica Airport Commissioner Susan Hartley, Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, State Assemblymember Ted Lieu and Joan Rubin, co-founder of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP), were among those who addressed the crowd that rallied in opposition to the private jet traffic that has grown at SMO since a 1984 settlement agreement between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that restricts the City’s ability to regulate traffic in and out of the airport. Under that agreement and applicable federal law, the City owns and operates the airport, but the FAA controls aircraft access.
On Monday, April 23, the day after the rally, Lieu’s bill in the State Legislature, AB 700, to require the state to conduct and fund a study of jet air pollution from takeoffs and landings at SMO, passed out of committee, according to a report from Martin Rubin, co-founder of CRAAP, who traveled to Sacramento for the hearing; he reported that the City registered neutral on the bill.
(Lieu’s district includes the Los Angeles community of Mar Vista immediately east of SMO as well as neighboring Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and Rosendahl’s LA council district also includes the Mar Vista neighborhood and LAX; protesters argue, and the evidence indicates, that the bulk of jet air pollution from SMO moves east to the Mar Vista neighborhood.)
Although Sunday’s protest rally focused on SMO air pollution, residents in the area have also expressed concerns about airport noise and runway safety, with homes being “within 220 feet of the airport on all sides,” as stated by Santa Monica Airport Commission chair Mark Young at the Commission’s March 26 meeting.
Although the federal government asserts preemptive jurisdiction over airport operations, the protesters contend that the City can do more. “Their reaction when they get pushed is they’re sympathetic, but they don’t take action,” said Marcia Hanscom, vice chairman of conservation for the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club.
SMO Airport Manager Robert Trimborn told the Mirror in an interview on Friday, April 20, before the rally, that the City had no jurisdiction over emissions. “The City can’t set emissions standards for mopeds,” he said, explaining that ground transportation emissions, were preempted by federal law, and emissions for jet aircraft at SMO were preempted by international treaties governing such transportation.
When faced with such an objection, Martin Rubin, an organizer of the rally, said that Santa Monica should challenge federal authority to protect the health and safety of its residents and take whatever steps are necessary to exclude jets from SMO.