Angry north Venice residents are complaining that Santa Monica has solved its decades-old airport noise problem by exporting it to their neighborhood.
A group of residents has organized to fight a flight pattern, established at Santa Monica Municipal Airport in 1984, that they say has routed noisy takeoffs over their homes.
"People feel like they have been dumped on, and one look at the flight pattern proves it," said Ed McQueeny, chairman of a subcommittee of the Venice Town Council. The subcommittee was formed last month to concentrate on the airport noise issue.
"On a busy airport day, people cannot conduct an outside conversation without constant interruption," he said. "This is noise pollution without representation."
The residents' group has gone to Los Angeles City Council member Pat Russell's office for help to get Santa Monica and the Federal Aviation Administration to change the primary takeoff pattern that directs aircraft to veer south over Venice.
In response, a spokeswoman for Russell announced Thursday that the councilwoman will write to Santa Monica officials and ask them to redirect air traffic over Santa Monica. Russell is planning to put some teeth into her request by suggesting that failure to change the flight pattern may cause Los Angeles to block a pending annexation by Santa Monica of 15 acres of airport land that is within Los Angeles.
The airport is in the southeast corner of Santa Monica on the northern border of Venice. Residents in Venice and Santa Monica have complained for more than 20 years about noise from aircraft using the airport.
Strong Abatement Program
In 1984 a group of noise lawsuits was settled when the airport and the Federal Aviation Administration signed an agreement under which the city agreed to keep the airport open until the year 2015 in return for authority to initiate a noise abatement program that airport administrator Hank Dittmar said is "stronger than any noise program at any airport in the country."
As part of that agreement, a flight pattern for takeoffs was established that directs pilots leaving the airport's single southwest-northeast runway to take off toward the southwest and immediately make a 10-degree left turn that places them over Penmar Municipal Golf Course. Pilots are directed to stay over the golf course and then over homes in northern Venice on a southwest path until they reach the ocean.
Alexa Bell, a spokeswoman for Russell, said the councilwoman also is planning to ask the Los Angeles City Council to form a task force consisting of all parties in Santa Monica and Venice that are concerned about the airport, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, to look at other ways to solve the airport's noise problem.
However, Dittmar said that according to law, "the federal government has exclusive authority over aircraft in flight. The city may not tell aircraft where to fly."
Bell acknowledged that Santa Monica does not have the authority to regulate flight patterns. She said that Russell's actions were designed to get Santa Monica to put pressure on the FAA to alter the flight path.
"They (Santa Monica) have to work with the Federal Aviation Administration," Bell said. "There has to be a couple of different (governmental) bodies working on this and we have to make sure that Santa Monica acknowledges the problem and will work on it. Venice should not have the whole burden" of airport noise.
Minimum Impact Sought
Dittmar said that the takeoff pattern was not designed to dump air traffic over Venice. He said the present path was chosen because it would affect the fewest people.
"Our environmental impact report looked at the turn over the golf course and said there would be some increase in noise in north Venice but that on balance there would be an overall reduction in noise both in Santa Monica and north Venice," Dittmar said.
"Someone is always going to be under the flight path and someone is always going to have planes fly by during backyard barbecues. The airplanes do have to fly somewhere. We have endeavored to design flight tracks that place airplanes over the least number of homes possible."
Share the Noise
But McQueeny said north Venice residents insist that Santa Monica should share the noise problem.
"What we are seeking is a major change in the flight pattern," he said. "We are asking the city to take more traffic and spread it throughout the region. So at this point we are trying to pressure government officials and search for options."
Federal Aviation Administration officials have directed all questions regarding the airport's flight path to air traffic specialist Sherry Avery, who was not available for comment last week.
Dittmar has offered to increase enforcement of the airport's noise limits and meet with community groups "to be open to ideas and to explain the relative powerlessness of the city of Santa Monica to do anything about their situation."
Suit Seeks $9.6 Million
Late last year, 64 Venice residents filed a suit against the city of Santa Monica asking for a total of $9.6 million for personal injury and lost of property values due to airport noise.
John Schimmenti, the attorney who filed the suit, said he is preparing another suit on behalf of another "60 or 70 people" that is identical to the prior suit.
Santa Monica City Atty. Robert M. Myers has said that the complaints in the lawsuit are unfounded and that noise levels in the area are "within acceptable legal limits."
Although some Venice residents have resorted to lawsuits, McQueeny said he is urging people not to sue at this time. "We don't want a legal battle. We would rather engage in a dialogue with Santa Monica," he said. "If everybody is suing, Santa Monica will not talk with us."