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Newsletter No. 9, Sept. 6, 2022

  • Torrance Airport . . . including some history

The Torrance Airport is currently in the community’s crosshairs.


Residents, concerned about noise, safety, leaded gasoline, and the impact on the values of their homes, have started to organize. In less than a month they have collected 433 signatures on a petition they intend to present to the City Council.


Thursday at the Airport Commission’s meeting, pilot Bill Tymczyszyn is scheduled to make the Torrance Airport Association’s presentation, “Reducing Noise and Annoyance for Torrance Airport Neighbors.” Interestingly, he has not contacted any of the residents I have interviewed.


This meeting, however, is only an initial step in what will be a long process. Reform TOA members say they want transparency in what the City is doing. Their fear: City staff will recommend policies without including residents in the planning process.


New policies could resolve the residents’ issues and beef up the City’s revenues at a time the Council needs to re-examine the City’s finances.


The main stumbling blocks to progress are the Federal Aviation Administration and the TAA. To understand how to deal with both, let’s step back in history.


In 1948, the federal government gave the airport and its surrounding open area to Torrance . . . with a catch: It stays an airport or reverts to the Feds. Eight years later, that caveat was removed and the entire property – without restrictions –was given to the City.


But wait! No one told Torrance it now owned the airport free and clear and could do what it pleased with the property. In 1988, then-City Attorney Stanley Remelmeyer discovered the change through a Freedom of Information Act request.


Why hadn’t the City been told? In 1968 – 12 years after the restrictions were removed – the FAA’s former regional counsel, Ned K. Zartman, wrote in a memo: “Since Torrance is apparently unaware of this, I see no reason to educate them.”


Later, in another newsletter, I’ll explore the current problems with the FAA, but knowing this history explains the residents’ reluctance to trust the agency.


The other problematic group are pilots. Not the 90 percent who follow the rules, but unfortunately, the City has been relying on voluntary good behavior from 100 percent of them.


And it’s not working.


As it happens, the City can ban pilots and aircraft for too many violations of City rules and, in the future, we will examine its spotty record of enforcement.


Recently, I wrote of the time the pilots had filed a lawsuit to prevent a housing development. Mayor Katy Geissert was so furious she threatened to close the airport and the pilots then withdrew the lawsuit.


That moment in history elicited a response from Jim Gates, a local TAA member and former Airport commissioner who has been sending out emails trying to combat the residents’ petition. Regrettably, his comments are filled with misstatements and half-truths.


In his email to me, he said: “Your memory is different from mine. The Torrance Airport Association never filed a suit.” I responded with links to the L.A. Times’ stories on the lawsuit and on the pilots’ withdrawing it: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1989-11-02-me-140-story.html and https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1989-12-17-me-1549-story.html.


His response: “As I said, I don't remember a lawsuit, but this occurred before I became involved in TAA. . . . I'm also approaching 80, so my memory is sometimes faulty.”


Gates and his fellow pilots understandably want to protect the airport’s existence. As do I. For many reasons, the airport land should not be repurposed. But the rigid determination to stonewall residents’ legitimate concerns could result in a push to follow Santa Monica’s decision to close its airport.


My hope: The Council and City staff will work openly with residents to develop solutions that eliminate the problems while bringing in new revenues.


Before I go:


If you haven’t had a chance to check out the petition, go to https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/petition-to-reduce-torrance-airport-impacts-now

Jean Adelsman

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