Culver City Observer -

Karen Bass Meets The Public On Culver Issues


November 26, 2015

By Lynne Bronstein

Observer Reporter

Congresswoman Karen Bass (D. 37th District) believes in listening to her constituents. To that purpose, she holds periodic public forums such as the one held November 22 at the Culver City Teen Center.

Given the issues that Culver City is most concerned with, there was no secret that this meeting would be mostly about airplane noise and pollution and what the Federal Government can do to control it.

The Teen Center was packed and in the back of the room, residents held signs reading: "Raise the Planes" and "Don't Fly Over Schools."

Bass, after a brief introduction by City Council members Meghan Sahli-Wells and Jeff Cooper, told the audience that she was "appreciative that you came out on a Sunday evening" to voice their concerns and also to hear from her about what is going on in government.

"The whole point is to have a conversation," she continued. "I'm old enough to remember when we had news. We don't have news any more. We have opinions and entertainment. But if you rely on [the local and national news outlets] you would think we [Congress] don't do anything except fight."

Bass also requested that the conversation be kept "professional" and not degenerate into a shouting match due to the strong emotions behind the air traffic issue.

However, while the audience mostly remained civil, there were some shouts and a lot of murmurs.

Bass was accompanied by a representative from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Glenn Martin, who was to handle Q and A on the airplane issue. During his exchanges with audience members it sometimes seemed that he and the residents were speaking two different languages.

Martin spoke of a "major project," described in an accompanying handout as "The SoCal Metroplex Study Area." The concept is that a "metroplex" is a cluster of airports whose flight paths affect one another. The FAA has studied existing flight paths and the improvements that would be possible with newer technology. The project will be upgrading the system with what is known as "NextGen" technology. "NextGen" seems to have become, for some Culver City residents, an ominous buzzword.

Martin stated that NextGen is not going to be implemented for at least another year. But many of the questions that he fielded were from people who wanted to know if NextGen was happening at this time and how it related to the noise problem.

Martin responded to the first of these queries by explaining that air traffic runs according to "charted procedures" which have not changed.

"But clearly the perception has changed---we're trying to figure out what it is."

More speakers told Martin and Bass that their "perception" was that airplanes were flying lower over Culver City and other regions of the Westside and that the low flight patterns had been increasing over the last four months.

As had happened at City Council and other civic meetings, the audience broke out into frequent applause whenever a speaker mentioned "not being able to sleep with my windows open" or in the case of two youngsters who talked of "not being able to concentrate on my homework."

"They should just raise the altitude" was the opinion of many speakers.

When speakers charged that airplane noise had increased "at a factor of ten" Martin replied that he had "not seen any data" on the amount of noise. The audience seemed skeptic of his comment and there were some shouts, leading to Bass reminding them to be civil.

One man wanted to know if the FAA had considered "an alternative" to NextGen.

"NextGen is an umbrella project where we are updating a system," he explained. He called it a "three-dimensional" process involving not only route adjustments but altitudes.

Bass said that there had been a meeting in D.C. on the airplane noise issue with the FAA, Congress representatives, and constituents.

"But we (Congress) don't have power over the FAA."

"Then who does?" someone cried out.

Martin said that oversight of the FAA is the responsibility of the White House and that funding is also a factor. "And the funding comes from-Congress."

A few people did speak on other issues, such as prison reform. Bass sits on a committee dealing with prisons and said that a bill was recently passed that will lead to some reductions of sentences.

But judging by the passions displayed at the Teen Center meeting, Bass will be bringing Culver City's anger at the airplane issue back to Congress, where sooner or later, someone will have to apply some form of oversight.


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