Culver City Edition Lead Story Local News West Edition

Inglewood spent soundproof funds far from airport

INGLEWOOD — The city of Inglewood spent millions of dollars in public funds to soundproof middle-class areas of the city while bypassing one of the poorest neighborhoods, where the roar from the Los Angeles International Airport flight path is loudest, according to a Los Angeles Times data analysis.

Over the last several decades, the Federal Aviation Administration and Los Angeles World Airports have given the city of Inglewood nearly $400 million to purchase and demolish hundreds of homes around the flight path and soundproof thousands of others, the Los Angeles Times reported May 23.

A Times review of local and federal records shows Inglewood spent the money for soundproofing disproportionately in middle-class — and primarily single-family neighborhoods — on the east side of the city, farthest from the airport. Most of the eligible homes there received soundproofing.

Meanwhile, the city’s zoning rules prohibited improvements in a struggling neighborhood of about 1,200 homes and apartments along the Century Boulevard corridor.

The Times analysis also found hundreds of units in an apartment village called Darby/Dixon that were eligible for FAA funding but have not been soundproofed.

Presented with the analysis, Bettye Griffith, director of the city’s residential sound insulation program, said she didn’t know why the Darby/Dixon apartments hadn’t been upgraded. But, she said, they will be offered soundproofing in the next round of funding. It’s unclear when that will be.

Inglewood also used noise abatement funds to further its redevelopment strategy, purchasing and clearing properties along Century Boulevard for commercial projects. 

The city’s development program stalled after the economic collapse of 2007, leaving a patchwork of vacant land that is now being sought by the Los Angeles Clippers for a basketball arena.

Amid the current affordable-housing crisis, the city is facing pressure to offer that land for housing. In answer to a lawsuit contesting the Clippers’ plan, attorneys for Inglewood wrote that “housing directly under the flight path of one of the busiest airports in the world, as this lawsuit seeks, makes no sense.”

The lack of any noise mitigation in the neighborhood most affected by noise is partly a historical irony.

Inglewood officials decided decades ago to eliminate homes on the city’s western boundary where the noise exposure was greatest and blight was encroaching. They rezoned the area south of Century Boulevard to industrial.

The change prohibited future improvements to the housing.

The hope was that, over time, the city could encourage or carry out by itself the removal of the area’s homes using redevelopment and noise abatement funds. But there was never enough money to buy all the homes, and the rezoning prevented the city from spending federal and airport funds to soundproof those that remained.

Instead, the city focused its redevelopment efforts on removing housing in the two blocks nearest to Century Boulevard — land most suitable for stores and office space. Century Plaza, a shopping center with a Costco and other stores, stands on land purchased with noise abatement funds.

Wave Wire Reports