Riding Around the Santa Monica Airport, Thinking of a Green Future

Riders listen to Frank Gruber as planes and jets idled and landed. All images via Bryan "Orange" Baretta/Santa Monica Spoke. For more pics from the ride, click here. Riders listen to Frank Gruber as planes and jets idled and landed. All images via Bryan “Orange” Baretta/Santa Monica Spoke. For more pics from the ride, click here.

By design and by coincidence, it was a day of contrasts.

On one hand, you have a group of roughly fifty advocates riding bicycles, many of whom are involved in local civic organizations snaking in a pattern across the outside of an airport, occasionally listening to Loyal Marymount Professor Michael Brodsky, Santa Monica Spoke leader Cynthia Rose or community activist and lawyer Frank Gruber, one of the co-chairs of Santa Monica Airport 2 Park. On the other, you had airplane owners and renters flying high above the community, maybe taking in the view of the city. Maybe just flying by.

On one hand, you have a small park, teeming with children playing, families picnicking, and soccer teams racing towards the goal. On the other, you have a gigantic airstrip in the middle of a mostly residential area, that happens to share a fence with the aforementioned park. Brodsky estimated that there were 250 people at the park, at 10 in the morning, when the ride began. By contrast, there would be about 500 people total that would use the airport in some way, shape, or form.

One one hand, you had the smiling advocates politely moving out of the way of automobile traffic accessing the airport. On another, you had a mazaratti driver smirking at and complaining about the rabble in his way as he and his daughter (girlfriend?) drove past.

Yes, it was a day of contrasts. It was also the start of a serious campaign to change the way the Santa Monica Airport is used by and for the community. In the words of Rose, “This isn’t a protest, it’s a discussion.”

Brodsky and Gruber played the roles of good cop/bad cop throughout the half-dozen-stop tour of the airport. Brodsky lamented the environmental and social costs of so much public land being used for the least sustainable type of transportation while Gruber outlined a plan of action to bring about change and gave an abbreviated history lesson on the aiport. Over a dozen times, they were interrupted by aircraft noise that drowned out their words, despite each of them using a megaphone.

But the brewing battle over the Santa Monica Airport’s future is more complicated than a simple 99% vs the 1%. Yesterday’s crowd wasn’t a collection of motley advocates that you would expect to see at Critical Mass. I would estimate the median age of riders was in the 40′s or 50′s and included lawyers, a City of Santa Monica Planning Commissioner, middle class families, and even an airplane owner.

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