Santa Monica-Area Resident Challenges City Council In Airport Letter


A Santa Monica-area resident—a pilot and a mother—published an open letter in the local newspaper, taking Santa Monica Airport Commissioner Joseph Schmitz to task for claims he made in a March 28 statement regarding the airport’s status and the dangers of leaded aviation gasoline (100LL). Eve Lopez wrote, in part, “As a resident of Sunset Park and a general aviation pilot who flies for public benefit, I am a member of the class most highly exposed to lead. As a mother, I too am concerned for the health and welfare of children.”

Countering widely circulated claims of unusually high levels of lead among children who live near the airport, Lopez called the commissioner’s assertions “a motive dressed up as a pretext of health concerns for children,” further pointing out, “The Santa Clara Study found: the statewide average for blood lead levels in children ages 0-18 is between 1.5 percent and 2.6 percent depending on age. Of the Santa Clara children residing within 1.5 miles of the airport, 1.7 percent had elevated blood lead levels which is consistent with the state average.” She continued by asserting, “The Commissioner’s misleading statements suggest something much bigger is at play.”

Citing a litany of benefits the airport presents to the community, including $250 million in annual economic impact and 1,500 jobs, Lopez cited time-stamped evidence from public meetings of behind-the-scenes communications between council members and an attorney for a real estate developer, suggesting there are “concerns that certain members of City Council receive developer incentives to close the airport.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Lawyer up SMO!

    ‘The Airport Commission is void of any women, tenants of the airport and pilots who actually fly airplanes in/out of the Airport. This imbalance is not right. It is not just. It is not the progressive principles upon which Santa Monica prides itself. It is exclusionary. It is discriminatory. It is wrong.
    City Council should disband the Airport Commission, direct the City Attorney to investigate the violations and/or require, effective immediately, the Airport Commission be comprised of residents who possess skills and expertise in professional fields of aviation or aviation related fields of benefit to SMO.’
    Eve Lopez, Santa Monica

    Read more:

  2. Brava, Ms. Lopez!

    Simply on the face of it, one has to wonder what would be the appeal of serving on an airport commission (given the modest financial reward such service offers) unless one had a compelling concern for the best interests of the airport. Absent any such interest by the current board, the citizens of Santa Clara County should ask, “Why, exactly, are you on this commission?” There could be many motives, but it appears that most fall into the “ulterior” category.

  3. I was reading that the supposedly high lead levels were not attributed to the airport. That there was a long closed drag strip close by, as well as a chemical factory in the area. Said dragstrip was operating extensively, with the high octane racing fuels up well into the 1980’s.

  4. Santa Monica is a long held communist community. And plopped into Democrat California just amplifies the corruption and greed. Why do you think they are losing do much population? The people out there are too self centered to even notice how everything is being stolen from them. This brave woman unfortunately will get her truths and concerns heard by the herd of sheep or there. Truly a shame.

    • I wish pilots in the flying community would rely on reality rather than their political fantasies when trying to preserve aviation. In fact as the home to the greatest number of pilots and planes and hours flown, as well as a massive aerospace industry, it is important to recognize the importance of the state as part of the solution to helping general aviation into the future.

      When people like Mr. Doug H are triggered by the mention of California into rants about communism (probably not the case in the 5th largest economy in the world, and one that is growing year over year faster than most states), it doesn’t indicate a rational discussion about the problems that need to be solved.

      No doubt there will be responses about how ignorant one must be not to see it, blinded by the corruption, sheeple, etc. But in communities where the debate is done in the real world, not some fantasy world where people just vent their grievances, airports can be preserved, and flying can continue. Yes, those wanting to close airports are a formidable foe, but so is the alternate reality world where people are triggered by the “communist” seen every time somebody says something they disagree with.

      I always thought pilots were rational and curious people who would try to think with logic and learn new things. Recently reading the comments here on avweb I’m more inclined to think they are reactionary people who would rather whine about their political problems and blame everybody else for the world’s problems. Hopefully it’s just a short term trend.

      • johnphi: Here here! Glad to see one more pilot who is looking for constructive dialogue toward solutions rather than yet more angy social media ranting about ‘Kalifornia Kommunists’, as the media millionaires have trained us to do. We used to approach our differences as one people with disagreements to be worked on and hopefully worked out through compromise. Now we are told to despise ‘the other’ (like 40M Californians are somehow no longer Americans?!) and attack them verbally–and sometimes physically–as if mortal enemies. How about we pilots just work together to save airports where possible and leave the political BS rants elsewheres?

      • Any where did Doug say he was a pilot? And who are you to take away Doug’s right to express his views. You sir, and I use that term loosely, ate the very communist he was probably referring to.

      • Who cares if someone has a different view and opinion about something? That (differing viewpoint) doesn’t always equate to irrational or illogical thought. Im hopeful for much, but having commenters agree with ME isn’t one of them. When politicians that control the future of airport land are being bought off for said land by developers “rational” arguments in favor of continuing the operation of the airport have virtually no sway. If the quid-pro-quo is attractive enough, not remaining in political office or losing voter support is certainly a trade off.

    • Communist?? Perhaps you should double check your definition of communist. How many authentic communist regimes do you know with a similar level of personal wealth, let alone the level of PRIVATE aircraft ownership as does Santa Monica? Nonsense.

  5. Saw a news story about the Post Office in Santa Monica ceasing service to a neighborhood because they have a nut running around with a golf club attacking people. So California.

    I saw it coming in the nineties and got the hell out of there. So glad I did.

  6. If any of the employees of the Santa Monica Daily Press were actual journalists, then it would not require a concerned citizen writing a letter to bring these facts to light. If the city commissioners were actually worried about lead, then they might use their position to influence the FAA to approve an alternative.

  7. Has anyone checked to see if the Airport Commissioner has any interest in real estate compass that want the land? Seems suspicious to me.

  8. Hold on, government officials are using their positions to enrich themselves?! Say it isn’t so!

  9. Anyone who buys a house near an existing airport knows it exists and should not be able to complain about its existence. Unless there are additions to the airport while they own the house they don’t have a right to issue demands on the airport operations.

  10. I’m going to buy a hoarse next to a 80 year old airport then complain about the Noise! Then when that doesn’t work I’m going to make up facts and voice my opinion as facts to screw up everyone’s life that I don’t care about.

  11. Wishing for “constructive dialog” between the two sides that will end in some sort of reasonable and lasting compromise that will accommodate the basic goals of both is just pleasant fantasy. The aviation interests, a very minor power politically speaking, want one thing: To continue having SMO as an airport with airplanes flying in & out. The City of Santa Monica and its agencies, acting as an arm of the solid majority political power that exists within the city, wants it gone, period, end of discussion. The anti-airport faction understands perfectly well that achieving their end goal is a given, the only variable is time, and should there be any further compromises reached they will be temporary tactical moves by the City.

  12. This airport is as dead as Meigs; there is zero chance of it surviving unless someone catches a politician with connections that benefit from the closing.

  13. Personally, I’m not “wishing for ‘constructive dialog'” regarding SMO. I know that constructive dialog has worked since the 1970s to keep the airport open. And what is pleasant fantasy is thinking that a small minority group will prevail when the majority and the open market want something else. Yes, SMO brings in millions and provides lots of jobs. But if the market and majority thinks it could bring in double those millions and jobs (or more), I accept that as unfortunate as it is, the majority and market can prevail. To suggest that the minority and a subsidized market should prevail is to support something else, can’t remember the name, but I know I’ve seen it recently.

    I simply wish that pilots would try and debate in the real world, and not make their first, and usually final reaction be some rant triggered by their imaginary enemies. I agree with John W. that the only variable is time as to when SMO will close. But the fact remains that in the 1970s people were predicting the airport would close in the next year or two (because so many other airports in the LA basin were). And the fact remains that over the decades there has been constructive dialog (I participated many times) that allowed the airport to remain open. But just as the stable owners in 1922 lamented the closure of their horse facilities throughout the basin when the market and majority wanted something else, so has aviation suffered as the market and majority wanted something else in 2022.

    It deeply saddens me that SMO will most likely be gone in the not too distant future. But as a believer in democracy and free markets, I also acknowledge (like my horse loving predecessors were forced to acknowledge), that not everybody sees the world as I do and loves airplane noise and the smell of jet fuel. And yes, there’s lots of corruption, and paid off council members. But if you don’t honestly think that the area where SMO sits could bring in more money and get broader support as something other than an airport, well I don’t know how to debate with that wishful thinking.

    So I live in the pragmatic world that asks how can we make up for losses in places where the market and majority don’t want an airport. We fight as hard as we can, we make the case for airports, and we try to preserve them. Simply calling Santa Monica communist because you disagree with the political views of the majority isn’t helping aviation. Thankfully these kinds of people so easily triggered by their emotions weren’t in the middle of the dialog process for the past 40 years (actually they often were, but not usually in the actual meetings where things got done), because the airport would have been shut down long ago. Instead rational people, many of whom strongly disagreed with the other side, were participating and have been able to extend the life of SMO long past what many thought possible.

  14. So Eve Lopez writes “The Santa Clara Study found: the statewide average for blood lead levels in children ages 0-18 is between 1.5 percent and 2.6 percent depending on age.” and yet their are many comments about this topic unrelated to that. So the average youngster of 100 lbs is carrying around 1.5 to 2.6 lbs of lead in their body.

    Indeed, I think that there is no problem in Santa Monica, because everybody is dead or at least the 0-18 year olds are.

  15. Woops. My bad. Actually the above statement only pertains to the amount of lead in blood. So between 0.10 and 0.18 lb of lead in blood (7% of body weight). No indication of overall lead in body. They are still dead though and since this is a statewide average there are no 0-18 year olds in the state.

    • Before you get too worked up about overweight problems, the Lopez statement (or at least the version of it published here) is missing the word “elevated” in relation to the percentages. The CDC standard for “elevated” is 3.5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. I’ll let you do the math.

  16. The bitter sweet end game for Santa Monica haters is no more class D airspace protecting Santa Monica airport.
    They will wish the 152’s and small jet traffic was all they have to worry about compared to LAX north arrivals, 777, A380, 767, 757, 747, heavy NO class D airspace to worry about. Lower downwind altitudes assured from LAX approach.

    Enjoy the large jet exhaust carbon foot print over your home, slightly more than small airplane (1,000 times more)

    Once they realize their error I’m sure they will try to shut down LAX good luck with that one!

    Better think about what you wish for!

  17. I am the author of the letter, the first I have ever written to a newspaper. Thank you Mark Phelps for the article. Not sure how you came across my letter to the newspaper, but appreciate your bringing attention to the issue and likewise appreciate the eclectic comments from fellow aviators / aviatrix (I fly a Grumman AA5B). Learning lots from the comments here so please keep them coming!

  18. A quick technical note. Neither the letter to the Commissioner or a good many of the comments correctly stated what lead levels the study actually found. It’s easy enough to Google this topic and find links to the actual study. The amounts of lead found in children are described in micrograms per deciliter. As far as scientific “soundness” is concerned, the report seems to be constructed fairly. However, it’s laced with language to make the matter seem a bigger deal than it actually is.

    The report states up-front that there is no known safe level of lead in humans. It is presumed that zero is the right number since lead isn’t known to provide anything useful to human chemistry. The report cites an “action level” of BLL, I think it was around 4.5 micrograms/deciliter. I don’t know what the basis of that number is. I’m sure it was a best scientific guess based on extrapolations of data that correlates with increased incidence of all the childhood maladies cited in the report. I don’t know if these correlations have ever been proven causal.

    Think about this statement paraphrased from the report, “leaded aviation gas accounts for 30% of the lead freely admitted into the air…” Yeah. I was a teenager in the 60s when almost every gas station was selling 100 octane and lead was in all autogas. We’re talking tens of millions of automobiles. I don’t quite remember when leaded paints were legislated out of existence. In any event, has the incidence of autism and some of the other problems “associated” with lead in the atmosphere/blood declined since all of these lead pollution sources have been eliminated? I don’t know the answer to that, but I seem to hear about increasing cases of autism and other diseases that correlate with lead. Why is that? Is the remaining lead pollution really that big a problem? Compared to where we were 5 decades ago, think about what a tiny fraction of the lead problem the remaining piston powered fleet actually represents.

    If all sources of airborne lead emissions were totally eliminated and there were only 1000 piston powered aircraft left burning 100LL, they would be responsible for 100% of lead emissions. Would that be something to get excited about?


  19. I don’t know how many actual communists there are in Santa Monica, but if you actually know what a communist is, this looks more like capitalism at work. Somebody is going to make some money somehow.