On March 8th, 2023, the San Fernando Valley Sun reported on the Whiteman Airport Community Advisory Committee and its findings. As the LA County Board of Supervisors is expected to look at these findings and the March article lacked context, a follow-up is due.
The Whiteman Airport Community Advisory Committee (CAC) was established in 2021 at the behest of then-Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to understand, assess and improve Whiteman Airport while maintaining its function and further engaging stakeholders.
Convening in June 2021 and dissolving in February 2023, the CAC met around 20 times for public meetings after Kuehl and City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez assembled the panel. Despite being its focus, Whiteman Airport was granted only two representatives on the board of about 20.
Councilwoman Rodriguez’ participation immediately generated concerns, given her history of prejudicial statements about the airport. Suspicions provoked by her involvement persisted throughout the CAC’s tenure. After all, who could believe Rodriguez’ appointees could be either impartial or objective considering her adamantly anti-Whiteman stance?
Pacoima Beautiful, a nonprofit organization once led by ex-LA City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, was also tapped for CAC participation despite its own history of anti-Whiteman politics. PB was given an unprecedented 3 appointments, more than any other entity, including PB executive director Veronica Padilla-Campos. Predictably, her actions were partisan and, catering to a variety of special interests, culminated in her proposal to close Whiteman.
During its tenure, the CAC sponsored scientific testing of airport noise and emissions. Conducted by independent, third-party analysts, tests revealed airport noise was contained virtually within airport boundaries. Likewise, emissions tests revealed that the airport produced only trace levels of pollutants. Years of anti-airport fearmongering proved false: the noise and emissions boogeymen were not real.
Additionally, from July to September 2022, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) administered its own tests around Whiteman Airport to assess ambient lead levels. Overseeing air quality in the Los Angeles area, the SCAQMD tests found Whiteman Airport ambient lead levels were “10 times lower” than national EPA standards. By contrast, Interstate 5 was found to generate higher readings. As Veronica Padilla-Campos herself serves on the SCAQMD, she had access to this exculpatory data in 2022. Despite this knowledge, Padilla-Campos’ Pacoima Beautiful still fearmongers about Whiteman to this day.
Upon its conclusion, recommendations by the Whiteman Airport Community Advisory Committee were drafted and submitted. While the Sun’s March article mentioned several terms of the Padilla-Campos proposal, many were left out. Three critical omissions were: the demand that LA County finance private development planning with taxpayer dollars; the blatant stacking of the LA County Aviation Commission with unqualified, pliable appointees; and, worst of all, the attempt to disenfranchise millions of Angelenos by restricting future public input to residents within 3 miles of Whiteman, thus denying Angelenos across LA County their say about this County-owned facility.
Surprisingly, the Sun made little reference to the CAC motion submitted by Penny Alderson. The Alderson motion draws upon community input to offer common-sense solutions recognizing the overwhelming public support for the continued operation of Whiteman Airport. While Padilla-Campos calls for the restriction of public input, Alderson invites Angelenos to engage in productive and worthy discussion. As the Board of Supervisors mulls its options regarding Whiteman Airport, the Alderson motion is the obvious, best choice: it appeals to what Angelenos want and works sensibly for the public interest.
Pacoima Beautiful insisted for years their goal was ‘a park and open space’ and adamantly denied development interest, yet the Sun’s March 8th reporting revealed the group’s actual agenda:
“If the airport is closed, Pacoima Beautiful and Padilla-Campos have proposed that the space could be used for mixed-income housing, retail and public service agencies among other entities.”
Not surprisingly, intensive commercial development was always the true motivation of these anti-airport partisans. Pacoima Beautiful has proven it cannot be trusted to be candid with the public.
Matthew Stone is a licensed noncommercial pilot who has used Whiteman Airport’s facilities extensively.