(Photo courtesy of Pacoima Beautiful) A supporter of Pacoima Beautiful offers information on why the organization calls for the closure of Whiteman Airport.

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/.

4 replies on “Pacoima Beautiful Pushes for Closure of Whiteman Airport with Upcoming Rally, March”

  1. Where does Pacoima Beautifull get its funding? This is just another attemp at real estate developers to take more land and rezone the crap out of that area to build expensive apartments.

    1. Ramiro,
      Its a despicable and a disgrace that you would attempt, feebly at best, to impugn the incredible and selfless reputation of Pacoima Beautiful. They have done nothing but protect the air you breathe and the water you drink. Their desire is to prevent further environmental degradation and economic exploitation by 600 airplane owners, none who live in Pacoima. Do you?

      1. Roberto Barragan:

        You may ignore the relationship Pacoima Beautiful had with SoCalGas but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Pacoima Beautiful began taking money from SoCalGas in 2014 and they kept at it for years.

        Even after SoCalGas was responsible for the biggest gas leak in US history at the Aliso Canyon site (2015-2016) above Porter Ranch, PB stayed with SCG…not just for the duration of the crisis but all the way to 2018.

        During the Aliso Canyon spill, air in Pacoima and the San Fernando Valley at large was polluted with harmful gases for months while PB they took $108k from SoCalGas. “They have done nothing but protect the air (we) breathe,” huh?

        Even after the leak was sealed, PB still wasn’t done yet. Rather than cutting ties with SoCalGas, PB’s director Veronica Padilla embraced SCG and even wrote to the California government to express PB’s “full confidence” in and support for the gas company. That was PB’s reaction to a disaster.

        Veronica Padilla acknowledged all of the above in a 2020 LA Times article entitled “The fossil fuel industry wants you to believe it’s good for people of color” by Sammy Roth. Look it up and give it a read…see if you think the same about Pacoima Beautiful afterwards.

        Pacoima Beautiful’s blind eye toward the Aliso Canyon disaster shows their supposed concerns with air pollution from Whiteman Airport are insincere.

        Ramiro Barajas is absolutely right to question PB and wonder who is paying their bills.

  2. I live near the airport. I love the sounds of the planes and the knowledge that the open space for all sorts of emergencies is right here in my neighborhood. I see NO good reason to close this airport.

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