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Jet Roar Makes Life Unbearable, Residents Tell Airport Officials

By Jorge Casuso

Read our lips: The constant roar of jets is making it impossible to hold a normal conversation in homes around Santa Monica Airport, two dozen angry residents told the city's Airport Commission Monday night.

The residents, most of them from Venice, complained that increased jet traffic - there were 1,043 jet operations in January, compared to 693 a year ago -- is forcing them to interrupt conversations, shut windows and forbid their kids from playing in their backyards. They also must protect themselves from the soot and jet fuel residue that sprinkles their homes.

"People that are at my house that aren't used to it get scared," said Denise Murphy. "I painted the trim 18 months ago, and I have to paint it again because it's black instead of white."

"It drowns out the TV, scares my cat, interrupts conversation," said Stewart Sheffer. "When I have loud music on my Walkman, I can still hear it."

"You cannot talk to someone on the phone, you cannot speak to someone in the room," said Joyce Miller. "What does the black soot on everything do to the health?"

Ever since the city was ordered by the courts in 1979 not to ban jets, neighbors have complained about the deafening roar of takeoffs and landings at the airport on the city's southeast corner, which is circled by homes. In recent years, residents have shown the commission videotapes of flying lawn furniture, cracked walls and soot-covered gardens.

"This has been happening for six years," said Jim Donaldson, who regularly attends the meetings.

But the recent boom in the Westside's entertainment and Internet industries has led to a further increase in the number of larger - and noiser -- corporate jets landing and taking off. In January, the airport decibel meters recorded 46 noise violations, up from 37 a year ago.

On Monday night, residents came armed with proposed solutions. Many asked the commission to increase the $1,000-penalties levied against violators and lower the noise threshold.

"To stop someone with a corporate jet with a $1,000 fine is ridiculous," Paul Abascal told the commission. "That's what they pay for lunch."

Residents also asked the commission to shorten the hours of operation (currently planes can take off and land between 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.) The rush hours for takoffs and landings, they noted, are early in the morning and late in the evening.

"Sunday evening is rush hour for jets," said Chris Plourde. "I can't sit in my backyard and have a bar-b-q. The problem is growing exponentially."

The pleas didn't fall on deaf ears, but the commissioners noted that court rulings and federal regulations left them with few, if any options.

"If there's something we could do about it, we would have done something years ago," said Commissioner Todd Cleary.

"The city of Santa Monica is not in sole control of this circumstance," said Commissioner Jean Gebman. "The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) controls airplanes in the air. We don't even control the hours."

The noise levels, Gebman said, was the result of a 1984 agreement between the FAA and Santa Monica. "We as a commission can't recommend that the levels be changed," he said.

Commissioners suggested that the residents organize and lobby their Congressmen, who can push for changes at the federal level.

Residents, who said they were at the end of their rope, vowed to organize and take action. Some said that, if necessary, they would personally track down the noise violators.

"If the city doesn't want to do something about it, we'll make it very inconvenient," said Todd Jaquith, who said the noise is so loud he once tried reading his friend's lips. "I tracked down (a pilot) once to ask him why he was flying 350 feet above my home."

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