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Newsletter No. 22

  • Proposal to declare Torrance Airport a public nuisance.

  • How late did the meeting end?

  • North Torrance Homeowners meeting on the 2nd.

If you skipped the Jan. 24 City Council meeting, you missed a jaw-dropping statement from District 6’s Mike Griffiths.

He called Torrance Airport a public nuisance, and the rest of the Council agreed it was time to ask City Attorney Patrick Sullivan to report back on possible next steps.

Residents broke into applause numerous times during a discussion of an agenda item that was reportedly a routine “accept and file.” Item 9B was supposedly a simple acceptance of the Transportation Committee’s Dec. 14 minutes on airport issues.

What followed was anything but routine.

Griffiths told the audience: “I view the airport as an asset to our community. However, in the last year or two, in my opinion, the airport’s become a public nuisance.

“For months on end, our residents have endured constant flights over their homes at low altitudes and loud volumes. For whatever reasons, our noise systems don’t seem to be catching it. There’s little enforcement of anything that’s happening. And I’m completely unhappy with what’s happening at our airport.

“And I do believe that we need to take stronger action. At our meeting back on Nov. 8 last year, 2 1/2 months ago, it was my recommendation that this issue be brought and moved forward to have city take action. It’s been 2 1/2 months and, unfortunately, in my opinion, little to no action has been taken except for some promises of some voluntary compliance.

“I believe that we need to take stronger action and, as a public nuisance in our city, I believe the city has legal rights to stop the flights over our city that are constantly barraging our neighborhoods and the fact that some of these proprietors that are conducting these flights are renting space on our airport.

“I think we have some ability to control that. Obviously, it’s subject to legal interpretation and I do believe that we need to take a stronger stand on this. 2 1/2 months with no action is not acceptable. Our residents continue to be impacted by what’s happening at our airport. And I think it’s time that we give the residents a break . . . .

“We can’t let a few businesses take our city hostage. We also have to have the ability to manage these flights that are coming in from outside our city and using our city for the benefit of flight schools that aren’t even based in our city and are impacting our neighborhoods.”

When Griffiths finished and the audience’s applause ended, the discussion began with these points being made:

v City Manager Aram Chaparyan, responding to residents’ complaints that staff wasn’t hearing their concerns, directed General Services Director Shant Megerdichian to meet with them. Two days later Megerdichian had arranged for a Feb. 6 meeting with the HOAs.

v District 4’s Sharon Kalani agreed with Griffiths that the airport has become a nuisance, but she added that she also supports “the airport completely because it is an asset.” District 3’s Asam Sheikh and District 2’s Bridgett Lewis both appeared to be seeking solutions through a meeting with both pilots and residents. All three voted to request a meeting with Sullivan, as did Mayor George Chen and District 5’s Aurelio Mattucci.

v District 1’s Jon Kaji was absent, but at the Nov. 8 Council meeting he had raised the possibility of closing the airport. At the Jan. 24 meeting, Mattucci said that repurposing the land was still an option.

v Dave Roelen had a suggestion along those lines in his letter to the Council. (It was one of around 400 emails in the item’s supplemental. Understandably you – and the Council – might have missed it.) Roelen wrote, “To solve both the airport noise problem and satisfy the State’s directives to provide additional housing, the solution for both is obvious: Close the airport and provide State-mandated housing on the 500 acres of Torrance property. Both issues solved.”

v Richard Katz told the Council: “You have the power to not renew leases, to close hangars. You have the power to use the land for other purposes where you could get good revenue. . . . Anything on the ground you have the power to do. The threat of . . . not renewing a lease. . . . You have land-use power.”

v Riviera Homeowners Co-President Pam Popovich got the one laugh of the evening. Pointing out that the minutes were to be accepted and filed, she asked: “But where will they be filed? A for airport? Or N for noise? Or I for irate citizens? In the meantime, noisy flights over residential neighborhoods continue.” Who knew that irate citizens could be a laugh line.

v Judy Brunetti, Popovich’s co-president, pointed to Sling Pilot Academy’s willingness to have a voluntary agreement with the City and asked for it to become binding instead.

v Several spoke convincingly about eliminating lead from the fuel, but none more so than Eric Fein, a pediatrician who sees the consequences of lead in children, and his wife Tiffany, who is expecting their first child. She said that exposure to airplane lead has been called “the dominant source of lead exposure in this country.” As the doctor pointed out: There are no safe levels of lead for all ages.

v Jon Dearing packed a lot into his one minute. First, he reminded the Council that he had shared data at the Nov. 8 meeting and at the 24th he added an update:

“The trend is getting worse. Over the last two years flights are up 53 percent compared to the annual average of the last decade. . . .

"Torrance is the only airport where this trend is happening. All the other municipal comparable airports . . . are either flat or down.”

Then he voiced a concern that the Council is considering solutions that are “not sustainable or equitable to our communities – merely shifting the flight patterns to another neighborhood does nothing to solve the root cause.”

And he suggested that landing fees wouldn’t impede the flight schools: Sling Academy is “getting their operations subsidized by the airlines. Their students are taking out loans. The cost of the landing fees will be passed on.”

He finished it off with this: “And it pains me to say this publicly . . . the chair of the Airport Commission said on the record that she does not pay the landing fee that she’s charged from Santa Monica because they don’t collect them.”

v Natalie Brecher asked the City to be willing to go to court if necessary: “The number of residents bothered by TOA far outweigh the financial benefits to Torrance that the pilots, students, and associated businesses profess that they do. We have far more economic influence on Torrance than they. I do understand legal considerations are paramount, but I also know that legal process can be accelerated. Please do so.

v Janet Katz, who has lived just north of Lago Seco Park since 1985, called the noise “intolerable. A good day for us is 40 flights going right overhead . . . a bad day is 120 flights.”

v Sherwin Rubin passed out photos of four planes practicing formations over his District 5 home. “What could go wrong,” he sardonically asked the Council. He said they should have to fly to the ocean before starting to practice.

One of the four pilots is Peter Broen, the new president of the pilots’ Torrance Airport Assn. Broen owns two planes, including the Nanchang that he uses for his formation flights with the Tiger Squadron. At his request, the FAA blocks both planes from public flight-tracking systems.

v Leading up to the meeting, TAA sent out two newsletters decrying the need for any changes. No pilots showed up at the meeting, but Mary Cilva debunked three of their claims in her one minute:

“They have stated there is no noise problem. All you have to do is stop by Lago Seco Park anytime Monday through Saturday. Planes fly over that area every 90 seconds. Some flying as low as 200 feet.

“No. 2. ‘Very few people are complaining.’ Over 900 people have signed the petition authored by the RHA. That is way more than just a few.

“No. 3. ‘The pilots are not the problem.’ This is only partially true. 90 percent of the low-flying noisy planes' flights are from Sling flight school. Their unchecked exponential growth is the problem. They’ve gone from one hangar to six hangars, and the CEO has publicly stated that he intends to continue his expansion. This needs to stop immediately.”

Besides getting unanimous concurrence to meet with the city attorney on the process to declare the airport a public nuisance, Griffiths also got agreement to:

v Have a moratorium on new or modified leases for any businesses, including training schools, at the airport.

v Impose restrictions on non-Torrance-based flight schools using the airport.

I also view the airport as an asset. But by defending bad behavior, the pilots are pushing residents to want its land repurposed. I hope that doesn’t happen. If it does, the pilots will have only themselves to blame.

How late was it?:

In this new feature, we will tell you when the City Council meeting adjourned. The Jan. 24 session, which started at 5 p.m., called it quits at 12:30 a.m.

Mark your calendar:

The North Torrance Neighborhood Assn. is having a general meeting. Sheikh accepted immediately and plans to discuss homelessness, green trash bins, Metro’s C Line, the 405 Project and major infrastructures.

Kaji was invited but has stonewalled repeated requests to see if he is coming. One wag suggested putting up two chairs – one for Sheikh and one with a sign saying Kaji.

Thursday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. in North High School’s Library, 3620 W. 182nd St. (Parking is available in the 182nd St. lot.)

Before I go:

Want to tell the City Council your opinion on an agenda item or address any concerns? Send it to; in the subject line put the agenda item or the topic.

If you also want your comments to appear in an agenda item’s Staff Report, send it to Make sure that send it by 2 p.m. on the day of the meeting – earlier if you want it included in the agenda’s first posting, which can be a week ahead.

Jean Adelsman

Feel free to share this email. And if you email a response to, please indicate whether you are expressing a thought for my eyes only or whether I may share your comments with the whole audience.

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