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Santa Monica Airport, Part Two: Who Comes First?:

There were a lot of Mirror reader responses to last week’s column in this space concerning the use of the Santa Monica Airport by business jets, specifically FAA category C and D “business jets.” Many seemed to feel that I was simply a homeowner complaining about living near an airport. While our home is under take off patterns, it is not in one of the communities most directly impacted by the use of the airport (SMO) by business jets. Still, I thought we should take a second look at the current struggle between the city and the FAA by way of the reader reaction to last week’s column.Reviewing the situation briefly… In March of 2008 the Santa Monica City Council passed an ordinance that banned the use of SMO by C and D category aircraft. The FAA is fighting that ordinance, and details regarding the ebb and flow of the legal struggle can be found online at the city’s website .In last week’s column I basically asserted that while the FAA has been arguing that business jets must have access to SMO to relieve regional air congestion, it was my feeling that what was really in play was creating a better grade of almost semi-private access to LA via SMO for people with the resources to own and operate private jets. I mentioned that these private jets fly over my own residence, but everyone should know that, yes, we knew there was an airport near our home when we bought it.Many reader responses questioned “…which came first: Your house or the airport?” One suggested my column was classic “NIMBY”, meaning “Not in my backyard.” Of course there’s a difference between the location of a facility and later developing issues of increased traffic volume or traffic type. One reader pointed out that they themselves lived near a four-lane highway, and that type of traffic was “24-7-365” compared to the volume of jet traffic in and out of SMO. However, it’s my guess that reader would favor any moves that might reduce auto traffic, or keep emissions and noise from that traffic to lower levels. Residents living closer than I do to SMO are clearly involved with the business jet issue at that level.Readers wondered if I was advocating creating more crowding at LAX. I believe I was questioning whether the increase of traffic, resulting noise and emissions at SMO were factors of regional congestion relief or factors of maintaining convenience for influential jet owners at the expense of SMO-adjacent residents. In a New York Times article from November of 2007, District 11 City Councilman Bill Rosendahl is quoted regarding the then-emerging SMO business jet issue: “You’ve got the celebrities, you’ve got the power players here. Frankly, I say to the super-rich Go to another airport because “this is an environmental issue that affects real people.” I’m just pointing out that Bill was on this way before I was.One reader took the pragmatic view that business jet traffic at SMO generates revenue at the facility by supporting “businesses there with service fees” and taxes on jet fuel. Of course any issue involving human health and residential noise can’t simply be pushed aside because it involves “a vibrant and important local business.” Historically, most environmental issues meet resistance because of similar arguments. Airports, however, are a melding of local and federal governments with the transportation industry that are almost always well-planned in their early gestation. Then growth transforms them into something else. In the case of LAX, the economy has been something of a mitigating factor in the level of traffic. At SMO there may be a level of traffic created by specific air transportation clients who are immune to those economic currents.It was interesting to note that the lion’s share of reader responses came from readers who most likely enjoy the Mirror online, since they lived in cities other than LA. Perhaps they found last week’s column while Web surfing a topic other than the quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding SMO. That the Mirror is reaching those distant readers is exciting; that people who are not impacted by SMO jet traffic one way or the other were dismissing my points as “naïve” and the result of “envy” (I guess I secretly yearn to own a private jet)… caused me some head scratching. I hope more citizens in the area communities directly affected by this issue will reach out to the Mirror and sustain this lively dialogue concerning the jets at SMO. But please, use your real names or names that appear real. One reader used a moniker that suggested his being strongly influenced by either the Grateful Dead or Sid and Marty Krofft, and blew off the entire debate with the single statement “What a total dip ****.” I’ll own up to many moments in life where I have, in fact, been a dip ****. I think there would have to have been more of those moments for my dip **** status to be “total.” Still, if the FAA can present compelling evidence that I am a total one of these, I’ll happily yield on that aspect of this issue.

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