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Council Takes Initial Steps to Reduce Jet Traffic

By Jorge Casuso

Dec. 12 -- The City Council Tuesday night took initial steps to reduce jet traffic at Santa Monica Airport by approving in concept a plan that would create "safety areas" at both ends of the runway, making it incompatible for larger, faster jets.

The council directed staff to thoroughly study the implications of implementing the Aircraft Conformance Program and continue to meet with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) -- which has threatened to take legal action -- in an effort to resolve the matter.

"It's a first step toward making the airport safer," said Mayor Richard Bloom.

Residents who live near the airport, as well as members of the Airport Commission, urged the council to approve the plan. They reiterated complaints that large jets -- which account for more than 6,000 takeoffs or landings a year -- are making life unbearable and posing health dangers.

"We fully believe that this is of vital importance to the immediate community's needs," said Kathy Larson of Friends of Sunset Park, which voted to urge the council to approve the plan.

In a move former mayor Michael Feinstein said showed the "brute force of the FAA," the federal agency served the City a 14-page Notice of Investigation (NOI) in October regarding "the legality" of adopting and implementing the program.

The notice further advised the City that the FAA could issue a determination, among other things, that the City is not in compliance with1984 Agreement, with certain FAA Grant Assurances and with Federal Law.

The notice -- which also invites the City to participate in good faith efforts to informally resolve the matter -- took airport officials by surprise because discussions with the FAA regarding the conformance program had been on-going; and the agency gave no indication of any plan to initiate formal proceedings.

The City filed a response last month rejecting the assertions made by the FAA and inviting the agency to continue to discuss the matter.

In other actions the council approved a recommendation to name the auditorium at the new Santa Monica Public Library in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It also gave the go-ahead for the Recreation & Parks Commission and staff to explore potential non-City funding to lay the groundwork for a possible beach parking lots "greening" concept. The plan would make the lots available for active and passive recreation uses in addition to parking.

The council also took the following actions on consent:

  • Awarded construction contracts totaling nearly $10.5 million for two major sewer projects -- both financed by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state funds.
  • Awarded a $414,850 contract for Animal Shelter improvements.
  • Approved the Short-range Transit Plan Update, permitting the Big Blue Bus to remain eligible for and to apply for federal and state transit funds.
  • Approved the Bayside District Corporation's Annual Operations and Marketing Plan.
  • Donated three used solid waste vehicles and a used bus to the Sinaloa Ecoregion Foundation in Mexico.
  • Approved a contract amendment for $172,595 related to construction of the Santa Monica Swim Center.
  • Adopted four Mills Act Historic Property Preservation Agreements, thereby authorizing property tax reductions for the property owners.
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