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Commissioner Blasts 'Legal Fallacies,' Closed Door Talks on SMO

Airport Commission Vice Chair David Goddard frustrated over no action or public discussion by staff or City Council on recommendations for reducing flight operations at Santa Monica Airport before 2015.

The ranking member of Santa Monica's Airport Commission, Vice Chairman David Goddard, is sending the City Council a memo that he believes exposes the "legal fallacies" city staffers are citing to avoid taking immediate steps to reduce aircraft operations at SMO.

Although the commission endorsed the recommendations for action, which were sent to the council earlier this year, Goddard is acting alone in sending the new memo.

On Monday night, commissioners Stephen Mark, Ofer Grossman and Lael Rubin applauded Goddard's research, and expressed hope it would bring the city's discussion of the issues into the open, but objected to the tone of his draft memo. (Commissioner Peter Donald was absent from Monday's commission meeting).

Mark's view was typical, saying the commission's job was to find options and tell the council, "You can do this, you can do that," but arguing with city staffers or council about which strategy to use "is not really helpful."

Goddard said his high level of frustration is the result of the city discussing its legal options "behind closed doors, out of the sunshine of public scrutiny."

Goddard reminded the commissioners that the recommendations sent to the city were based on case law in which airports in New York City and Van Nuys successfully reduced certain flight operations, that the action was taken against the owners of the air operations and that the Federal Aviation Administration had taken no action against the airports.

He rejects the idea that public discussion of immediate options for trimming airport operations would give the FAA an advantage in any legal battle after the 2015 expiration of the 1984 operating agreement with the FAA.

"When somebody tells me they're concerned the other side's going to see my hand—well, the hand is already in the federal court record," Goddard said later.

Commissioner Rubin said she wants Goddard's memo to be the basis for commission discussions, but expressed relief when he agreed to be clear in its final version that it is his opinion only.

Goddard's anger in the draft memo was apparent.

"We have witnessed the city manager [Rod Gould] take political positions and attack the airport commission and community members who asked to participate in the [airport's] visioning process,'" Goddard wrote. He also accused Gould of advocating pro-aviation positions "contrary to the wishes of the community," adding there was no reason for any current negotiations with the FAA when the city's visioning process for the airport's future is still underway.

See also: City Council Candidates Show No Love for SMO

Such negotiations are the subject of one of Goddard's four targeted "fallacies," which states: "It is better to negotiate with the FAA than go to court."

Goddard argues that's untrue for two reasons:

  • In addition to the successful legal actions regarding the New York and Van Nuys airports, Santa Monica itself has been successful in court in limiting SMO's noise and hours of operation.
  • He cites the 1984 FAA agreement as a prime example of a negotiated settlement that has handcuffed the city for three decades.

Goddard did promise to tone down his draft memo to the council to make it "more positive and constructive."

Richard Root October 25, 2012 at 01:14 PM
David Goddard's arguments make a lot of sense. I give him a lot of credit for expressing them and not capitulating. The more light that can be shined on this issue, the better the outcome will be for the public.
Charles October 25, 2012 at 06:18 PM
HI Pilot Dave, The vast and I mean vast majority of residents oppose this airport and the research shows this. The problem with noise complaints is the that noise and violations are going on all day and most do not know how to file a complaint. I could easily sit at home in front of my computer and file a complaint at least 5-10 times per day for valid off trajectory, low flying, and noise violation jet flights. But the noise is the most obvious problem and the big issues at SMO is allowing jets that are too big for the small airport with inadequate runway space (according the FAA regulations) and the release of ultrafine pollution particles (according to multiple non-partisan research studies) in to the adjacent residential areas. The airport serves no real purpose other than to cater to the wealthy elite jet setters. Most who use this airport don't live near it and could easily go elsewhere to fly their jets or recreational planes. The residential area is profoundly overgrown for what was supposed to be a very small airport with an 85 decibel limit and infrequent prop planes. The use of the jets has made the closing of the airport a necessity at this time. With our traditional "me first" mentality the thoughts of what we are leaving our children often is ignored. Let's close the airport and make something that our children can use to make the world a better place when we are all gone.
Pilot Dave October 25, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Brenda Barnes, What drug are you smoking???? "Let them go to Van Nuys or Hawthorne, where there are buffer zones around the airports" What buffer zones? Look on Google Maps. Hawthorne has a shorter runway than Santa Monica and is closer to people's homes. Van Nuys accommodates much larger planes such as the Boeing 737! Guess the fine citizens of Hawthorne and Van Nuys don't suffer from the same NIMBYisms that is so contagious on Santa Monica. These are the people who have no problems dismantling our nations infrastructure and killing local jobs so their west side homes will go up in value!
Brenda Barnes October 26, 2012 at 09:59 AM
Amazing how Pilot Dave always resorts to calling names and ridicule, showing all his comments are due to his bias in favor of SMO and aviation over people being able to live their lives without psychological and physical problems caused by noise, constant interruption of thought patterns, dust, pollution from fossil fuel exhausts, that kind of minor detail in a pilot's fun time.. There is a freeway next to Hawthorne Airport. I realize that doesn't provide any safety for the planes, as short runways don't. I was referring to buffers against disturbance of people--you know, like children and other living things you might have had in your life sometime in the past?
Pilot Dave October 28, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Comrad Brenda, You must learn how to use google maps! You will notice that there are homes in between the freeway and Hawthorne airport. I am also not sure how a freeway helps anything, but if we must perhaps we can convert ocean park to an 8 lane freeway. Also I would be in favor of increasing the length of the runway at Santa Monica. Perhaps if we get it to 10 or 11 thousand feet we can invite the Air Force to base their heavy bomber fleet there! I much prefer your ideas on making Santa Monica airport a better airport than your constant yapping about noise, pollution etc.

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