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Residents Step Up Protests Against Project at Airport

February 14, 1988|TRACY WILKINSON | Times Staff Writer

Homeowners opposing a 37-acre development at the Santa Monica Airport have stepped up their campaign, calling on Los Angeles officials to monitor the project and gathering hundreds of signatures in protest of potential traffic.

Santa Monica and Los Angeles city officials have met to review the $280-million project, and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley has set up a task force to keep tabs on environmental studies.

The project, which Santa Monica awarded to Reliance Development Corp. last November, involves the development of a choice 37.5-acre portion of residual land on the south side of the Santa Monica Airport.

Lease of the land to Reliance will earn Santa Monica an estimated $30 million over the next 10 years, officials say.

The plans, still months away from being presented to the City Council for approval, call for a 1.272-million-square-foot complex, including offices, a movie production studio, shops and a day care center.

Although Santa Monica is responsible for the airport, many of the neighborhoods that could be affected by traffic from the project are in Los Angeles.

As proposed, the plan provides for all access to the project to be from Bundy Drive.

Homeowners contend that the increased amount of traffic will make that one outlet a nightmare of gridlock and congestion, and they are demanding that officials consider alternatives for getting cars in and out of the area.

What started as a small protest by a handful of homeowners canvassing door-to-door three weeks ago now has sprouted into a broader effort.

Four homeowner groups that represent neighborhoods just south and east of the airport joined forces last week to make their position known to officials in Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

The groups--Homeowners Or ganized to Monitor their Environment (HOME), Hilltop Neighbors Assn., Westdale Homeowners Assn. and North Westdale Homeowners Assn.--sent a three-page letter to authorities urging careful consideration of traffic problems and other "serious negative effects" on the neighborhoods, such as air pollution, noise and more sewage.

Two of the groups then gathered about 800 signatures on a petition that called on Los Angeles officials to "take the appropriate measures, through arbitration or litigation, to prevent irreversible damage to our environment," according to Gregory Thomas, one of the organizers.

Thomas said he glued copies of the petition together end-to-end, forming a 25-foot-long streamer, to dramatize his point and delivered it that way to Santa Monica officials.

Seeking Middle Ground

"We know we can't stop (the development), but we can try to make it more palatable," Thomas said. "We want to see what's the best scenario for it. We are just trying to compromise."

Santa Monica officials say they, too, are eager to look at different ways to deal with traffic.

Legally required environmental studies will examine several alternatives, including an exit where 23rd Street becomes Walgrove Avenue and a routing of traffic to the north side of the airport via a tunnel under the runway or a peripheral road around the eastern end of the runway, according to Christopher Rudd, senior administrative analyst for Santa Monica's Community and Economic Development Department.

"We are all in agreement that the primary issue is traffic," Rudd said. "Traffic is the universal theme (that) homeowners, staff, everyone is focusing on."

Rudd said Santa Monica and Los Angeles officials would try to work out plans for traffic mitigation, most of which would be on the Los Angeles side.

"What that mitigation will be, we haven't identified yet. We will need to work with Los Angeles to implement the improvements," he said.

He said it is Santa Monica's intent that the developer, Reliance, pay for any improvements that will be made to ease traffic but that the point has yet to be negotiated fully.

Santa Monica officials so far have met with the staffs of Los Angeles City Council members Marvin Braude and Ruth Galanter, who represent the neighborhoods closest to the airport, to update them on the status of the project.

Bradley, meanwhile, ordered that an interdepartmental task force be formed to monitor Santa Monica's review of the airport project's impact on the environment, according to a memorandum from his office dated Jan. 11.

The group, which includes representatives from the city's transportation, engineering, planning and legal departments, will meet on Wednesday, according to the planning office.

At the same time, Santa Monica officials have been giving presentations on the airport project to homeowners, including the four groups that signed the letter, and other community groups.

"We wanted to get their comments (and) wanted to make sure we are focusing on the topics that these groups want studied (in the environmental review process)," Rudd said.

Although obtaining community comments during environmental review is required by law, Rudd said the city did a "little more elaborate outreach" for the airport project.

"It's an important project and we felt it was important to get peoples' views (in person) and not rely on correspondence or the mail," he said. "Santa Monica tends to do that for the more controversial projects."

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