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Non-emergency helicopter landings at Sofitel opposed

April 1, 2011 |  6:17 pm

Click to read the letter Two elected officials sent a letter Friday urging the California Department of Transportation to reject any proposal to allow non-emergency helicopter touchdowns on the roof of the Sofitel hotel in Los Angeles.

In a letter to Caltrans director Cindy McKim, state Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said allowing non-emergency flights at the hotel would be "incompatible with the health, safety, and well-being" of nearby residents and "should be prohibited."

Since the 1970s, all Los Angeles buildings over 75 feet high have been required to have emergency helicopter landing pads. But last year the Sofitel allowed at least one person to use the pad for non-emergencies -- Hollywood producer Ryan Kavanaugh, whose company, Relativity Media, is headquartered nearby.

Residents complained to officials. In December, an aviation safety officer from the California Department of Transportation, which issues permits for helipads, sent a letter to hotel management ordering that any illegal helicopter activity cease immediately.

It did cease. But earlier this year, the hotel announced that it plans to apply for a temporary helistop permit that would allow for non-emergency landings and takeoffs.

A letter sent to residents by a consultant for the hotel said that hours and flights would be limited and that flight paths would skirt their neighborhood.

No official application has been submitted yet. But the hotel, which is in Los Angeles, won backing from L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, who last week sent a letter to Caltrans in support of the temporary permit.

In their letter Friday, Feuer and Yaroslavsky said non-emergency flights at the Sofitel could set a bad precedent.

"Allowing the private use of helipads that were originally built to provide emergency access would threaten to create a precedent for such a use throughout highly populated areas," they wrote.

"It would, at the very least, invite a flood of similar applications that beg the question: If non-emergency access is allowed here, why shouldn't it be allowed everywhere?"

-- Kate Linthicum