Pacoima Beautiful has planned a march and rally on Sept. 25 calling for the closure of Whiteman Airport.
The community-based nonprofit organization that seeks to “empower residents through programs that provide environmental education, advocacy, and local leadership in order to foster a healthy and safe environment,” according to its website, is a highly vocal and visible critic of the airport’s continued operation.
Pacoima Beautiful has been passing out leaflets and canvassing neighborhoods to promote the upcoming march since Sept. 9
Whiteman should be closed “for the respect and dignity of Pacoima,” said Andres Ramirez, the organization’s policy director.
“We have a campaign calling for a pathway for the closure of Whiteman Airport, which will be celebrating its 75th anniversary on Sept. 25. That’s why we’re doing the march and rally on that day,” Ramirez said.
“We’re really trying to bring attention to the [negative] impact this airport is having on our community — both on the standard of living, but also health-wise and the lack of productivity for our community.”
The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol newspaper reached out to officials at Whiteman Airport for comment and was told to contact the county Department of Public Works-Aviation Division. An email request was sent to the department, but there was no response from it by the paper’s deadline.
Whiteman — established in 1946 by Marvin E. Whiteman, Sr., and purchased by the County of Los Angeles in 1970 — is currently home to more than 600 aircraft, including private airplanes as well as police, firefighting and media helicopters, and is used as a base of operations for response to wildfires. Glendale Community College also uses the airport for flight training, and several other flight programs for minors.
The public facility spans 182 acres of land and operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week. It records 108,000 annual takeoffs and landings, about 300 per day.
Assistant Airport Director Jason Morgan had previously said the 182-acre airport site includes 21 businesses and employs 246 workers, generating some $19 million annually and $54.4 million in economic benefits to the surrounding community.
Ramirez said his organization is “skeptical” of the economic impact figures.
“Part of the problem is we’re not seeing that money they claim coming to the community,” the policy director said. “Our community has a long history of underdevelopment, and a high need for public investment in things like parks, infrastructure, you name it. There’s a major unhoused crisis in our community. And we’re struggling to find the resources to address these issues.
“So we’re a bit skeptical when they make statements like ‘[$54.4] million is generated from the airport.’ Our community does not see that. Our community struggles to get any resources from the county or otherwise. There is a massive need for jobs in this community, especially after COVID. We feel there are much better potential uses to create jobs in that space. The economic benefits, we just don’t see it.”
Other concerns raised by Ramirez and Pacoima Beautiful include air and noise pollution as well as questions regarding the airport’s ability to meet current FAA operational standards.
A Community Advisory Committee consisting of representatives of local organizations and members of county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s staff has been holding online meetings since June on “Re-envisioning Whiteman Airport: A Community-driven Master Plan” to determine the airport’s future. At the initial meeting, Kuehl stated that “every option is on the table, including possible closure,” adding such a decision “would require federal input.”
The next committee meeting is scheduled for Sept. 23 at 6 p.m., and will be available via Zoom.
The pubic is invited to view the meeting online at https://www.reenvisionwhitemanairport.com/news. More information about the committee can be viewed at https://www.reenvisionwhitemanairport.com/.