There's something beautiful about the way the jets descend over Inglewood toward Los Angeles International Airport, big metal creatures gliding close overhead.
There's also something ugly about it, as members of NOISE (National Organization to Insure a Sound-Controlled Environment) meeting at the Airport Park Hotel this weekend see it. Parts of Inglewood and Lennox beneath the LAX flight paths sound like a never-ending air raid.
"We're not against airports or airlines," said Thomas Duffy, NOISE executive director. "We're against one nasty byproduct."
Inglewood is one of the founding members of the 18-year-old organization of cities affected by noise from major airports. The group backs legislation and technology to curb noise and works to revive blighted residential areas under airport flight paths.
Topping the convention's agenda this weekend was a new challenge: a draft report recently submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration by the Working Group on Aircraft Noise/Airport Capacity, a task force of airport operators and airline representatives formed at the FAA's request.
Details of the proposal--which could eventually be proposed as legislation--appeared in the aviation press last week. It has NOISE members up in arms.
The task force recommended that airlines phase out noisy aircraft such as 727s and DC-9s in return for a promise from airport operators not to impose additional noise restrictions. The planes would be phased out beginning in 1994, and all would be replaced by 2009.
NOISE members criticized the task force for refusing to take comments from their group, and say the proposal would surrender much of the control airports have over noise.
"It's quite a cozy arrangement," said Norman Cravens, Inglewood deputy city manager and delegate to the convention.
"What it appears they're planning to do is trade advantages between themselves," Duffy said. "We have to get this out in the open. The airlines would get a moratorium on any noise prohibitions" enacted by airports.
Clifton Moore, executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Airports served on the task force. He met with NOISE delegates Friday and said in an interview that the proposed agreement would not force airports to give up all control over airplane noise.
In addition, he said that the task force report "wasn't intended to be a public process, its not legislation. . . . There will be plenty of time for public input."
Moore said that although airport operators offered to stop further restrictions of flight schedules for noisy planes, they did not propose to relinquish their right to regulate noise in other ways. For instance, they would retain the option of assigning runways to reduce noise on residential areas.
Alexander Blackburn, associate administrator of policy for the FAA, said the proposed ban on new regulations would cover many noise rules. He called it a "good first step" toward the introduction of quieter aircraft.
Cravens and Duffy also said NOISE is dubious about a section of the proposal in which the airlines offer to phase out noisier airplanes by 1999, if Congress helps pay for new planes while older ones are still serviceable. NOISE plans to step up lobbying efforts to make sure they have a say in any final agreement.
The fight against airport noise varies around the country, Duffy said. A central problem is what to do in residential neighborhoods where property values and the quality of life have declined, sometimes irrevocably.
"Near Atlanta, the solution has been that the airport has literally bought up large parts of the nearby communities," Duffy said. "That's one way. But in Boston, for example, you don't go tearing up a 200-year-old neighborhood. Soundproofing is another solution, though that can be expensive, up to $20,000 a house."
Duffy and LAX officials at the conference lauded Inglewood's approach, which has been to recycle land from residential to commercial and industrial use.
"I've never seen a city with the civic will of this one," Duffy said. "They're better than most at getting money for conversion to light industrial and relocating people from areas where things have gotten bad."
Officials of the Inglewood Redevelopment Agency led delegates on tours of two depressed areas being revived with the help of a recent $7 million FAA grant, the Century and La Cienega redevelopment projects.
At the Century Redevelopment Project across Century Boulevard from Hollywood Park race track, the city has acquired land occupied by burned-out apartment buildings and a dilapidated trailer park. The project, which lies under the southern jet approach to LAX, already boasts a Price Club retail store that Cravens said brings the city $500,000 in sales tax yearly.
"People are quite happy to see us coming," said Isaac Seliger, a redevelopment official who led the tour. "They are generally living in poor, overcrowded conditions, in garages, with more than one family in an apartment."
The city helps residents of recycled areas relocate, giving them up to $20,000 in federal benefits under the Uniform Relocation Act, said Isaac Seliger, a redevelopment official. Financial incentives are then offered to attract businesses such as the air freight companies and sleek office parks in the La Cienega project just west of the 405 Freeway and north of Arbor Vitae.
Los Angeles County is studying the potential for similar redevelopment in the Lennox area with the help of a $200,000 FAA grant, LAX planner Michael Feldman told NOISE delegates.
Although Inglewood has been able to pursue a creative response to the problem of aircraft noise and attending blight, Duffy said: "There are no quick fixes. We've got to keep chipping away."