Santa Monica’s City Council gave the okay Tuesday night for City staff to prepare an ordinance to improve safety at Santa Monica Airport.
The ordinance, according to the City staff report, will limit the “use of the Airport to aircraft that operate safely within the capacity of the Airport’s facilities and” be consistent with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards for an ARC B-II airport. In addition, the ordinance will require the City “to seek runway safety enhancements that address all categories of aircraft through the authorization of safety enhancements that result in stopping any aircraft overrunning the end of the runway without loss of life or property damage; and to explore legislative options to address the safe operation of aircraft using the Santa Monica Municipal Airport.”
The Council action was in response to inadequate action by the FAA regarding concerns that safety is being compromised at the Airport because of the lack of safety areas at the Airport’s runway ends, the proximity of homes to the runway ends, and Airport use by larger and faster aircraft.
To deal with the issues, in July the FAA suggested that safety could be improved by the use of EMAS (compact engineered material arresting system, of which 130 feet would be necessary) at each end of the runway. The FAA also recommended that the City consider the feasibility of a property acquisition program to remove homes from the runway ends to create runway protection zones.
Prior to the Council action, community members spoke. Friends of Sunset Park Airport Committee member Brian Bland described the FAA proposal as “a bureaucratic effort to make a problem go away. The problem is, of course, that the FAA sees the problem as the community rather than the jets.”
In other news, earlier in the evening the Council heard input from a newly formed group called Treesavers that wants the Council to reconsider its decision to compost or relocate the ficus trees as part of a streetscape improvement project for 2nd and 4th Streets. The City considers their removal necessary because root pruning, which can cause them to be a safety hazard, has supposedly weakened the trees. On October 5, a Superior Court judge issued a restraining order blocking the removal of any tree that doesn’t pose a hazard to the public.
Tom Nitti told the Council that the community was protesting the removal of the trees at this time “because the City did not follow the law and as a result the legally required opportunities for public input never occurred.”
Andrea Dreaver called for a “second opinion in this case,” noting that the City’s Community Forester, Walter Warriner, has only found five trees in the City over the last 2 1/2 years that needed to be removed because of disease or damage.
The Council discussed the litigation filed by Treesavers against the City on October 5 in closed session, and no decision was reported by the City Attorney during the open session of the Council meeting.