For years, aircraft noise from Santa Monica Airport has been a source of contention for surrounding residents. To address this problem, Santa Monica’s Airport Commission has held annual workshops. This year’s meeting consisted of presentations that focused on data gathered in 2010.
Stelios Makrides, the City’s airport operations administrator, gave a presentation on the 2010 Santa Monica Airport Noise Management Program on April 25. He noted that the total number of aircraft operations (take-offs and landings) in 2010 was 104,950, a decrease of approximately 6 percent from operations in 2009. Propeller aircraft made up 85 percent of the total 2010 operations, a drop of 6 percent from 2009. Jet aircraft operations represented 12 percent, a drop of 7 percent from last year. Helicopters represented 3 percent, an 8 percent drop from 2009.
During 2010 there were 116 noise violations, which is a 19 percent reduction from 2009. A violation occurs when an aircraft creates noise that exceeds 95 dBA (a decibel measurement unit for sound detectable to the human ear), a maximum arrived upon through an agreement between the City of Santa Monica and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Noise levels are measured at sites 1500 feet from each end of the airport’s runway.
Penalties for a violation include a warning, a $2,000 fine for the initial violation, and up to a $10,000 fine for subsequent violations, or being banned from using the airport after multiple violations. Airport Director Robert Trimborn said “these fines are the highest in the nation. In 2010, 106 warnings were issued, eight $2,000 fines were collected, one fine of $5,000 was collected, and one aircraft was banned. Jet aircraft was responsible for 93 of the 116 noise violations in 2010, and propeller aircraft incurred the remaining 23 violations.
A presentation was also given by Vincent Mestre, from P.E. Landrum and Brown, on the 2010 Community Noise Equivalent Level (CNEL) noise contours for Santa Monica Airport (SMO) that was prepared by Landrum and Brown. The CNEL data was collected at each of the six permanent noise-monitoring sites around the airport and compared with CNEL noise levels that were predicted using computer noise modeling. The computer modeling surveys the number of aircraft operations by type, flight tracks, flight profiles, types of aircraft, typical operational procedures, and average meteorological conditions, as well as other parameters. The measured CNELs were very close in value to those predicted by the computer noise modeling and fell below the guideline (65 decibels) set by California and the FAA.
After the presentations, members of the community had the chance to ask questions and comment. The Director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, Martin Rubin, told the commission the workshop is staked against the community.
“It’s all figured out in order to quell community complaints,” he said. “The 1984 agreement [between the City and the FAA] was supposed to settle the noise issues. It didn’t work. The noise has gotten worse despite what your models say.”
Culver City homeowner Laura Shrewsbury says she cannot enjoy her yard anymore because of the noise from flying aircraft. “I have called your noise management office almost every day because I cannot hold a conversation or engage in my livelihood (writing)… I keep being told there’s been no change in the flight patterns but something has changed in the last three months . . .You should be proud of yourselves with all your charts and decibel levels but it’s not working for me,” she said.
Professional sound editor, Robert Nokes, said, “I can’t drive around Santa Monica in a (Honda) Civic with a big muffler blasting and waking people up at 7 in the morning. Why do individual recreation pilots have the right to destroy our lives?”
Another speaker, Richard Kalbro, claimed that the aircraft noise is much louder than what is being reported. He asked about supplying evidence about how noisy it is near his home. Airport Commission Chair Ofer Grossman responded, “Under the 1984 agreement only the information from noise two monitors count for law enforcement purposes. They are the oldest ones we have.”
Commission Vice-Chair E. Richard Brown also responded that politics could play a part in this issue. “It’s the members of Congress that have any clout with the FAA … they are the ones in a better position than any local or state politician to try to press this issue for some changes,” he said.