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The City of Santa Monica will develop an airport concept plan based upon low-intensity use and new leasing guidelines after a City Council vote on Tuesday night.
Courtesy photo
The City of Santa Monica will develop an airport concept plan based upon low-intensity use and new leasing guidelines after a City Council vote on Tuesday night.

News, Santa Monica, Santa Monica Airport

Path Set For Potential Closure Of Santa Monica Airport

Posted Mar. 28, 2014, 8:33 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

The exact future of Santa Monica Airport (SMO) is still in the balance. Yet, after nearly four hours of public testimony Tuesday evening, one thing appears relatively certain: SMO, if ever shut down, would not become Century City West.

Just the same, the Santa Monica City Council gave direction just before midnight on Tuesday to essentially find a way to either limit SMO’s current operations or shut down the airport completely.

Council members unanimously voted to direct City staff to develop an airport concept plan based upon low-intensity use and new leasing guidelines.

With the vote, City Hall will continue to look into ways of how to assert control of SMO and take steps leading to potential closure of some or the entire airport by July 1, 2015.

The council direction also could lead to the shortening of the runway and ensure the City-owned property does not give way to high-rise or other majorly dense development.

How the council directions will ultimately play out remains to be seen, yet it was made clear by City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie that council members would not be making a final determination of the airport’s future at the March 25 meeting.

“We can’t close the airport now,” Moutrie told her colleagues. “This is contingency planning. We don’t know what opportunities we’ll have in the future.”

Moutrie added the legal battle involving Santa Monica and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could potentially take years to resolve.

City Hall received about 200 emails addressing the airport’s future in anticipation of the council’s meeting, Moutrie said. There were at least 101 chits submitted to City Clerk Sarah Gorman.

Leading off the public testimony was State Sen. Ted Lieu, who represents Santa Monica in Sacramento and is running to succeed Henry Waxman in representing the City in Washington, D.C.

“We are at a significant crossroads. I am here to urge you not renew [the airport] lease. We are experiencing higher levels of air pollution because of this airport. There are so many good uses for that land,” Lieu told council members.

Another civic leader, Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, urged his Santa Monica colleagues to make every effort to shut down SMO.

“There was a time when an airport in this place made a lot of sense. There is another time now. This is one of the most dense populations in the region,” Bonin told council members. “This airport is now in a place that produces noise and safety hazards and pollution.”

While two elected officials pushed for the closing of SMO, a wide variety of perspectives were shared with the council during public testimony.

There was no clear majority of speakers favoring or closing the airport. Those who spoke in support of keeping the airport operational cited its economic benefits and necessity for natural disaster survival.

For example, a few speakers pointed out the airport is an economic engine bringing the City an estimated $250 million of economic activity.

“I think it’s going to be a regrettable action in the long-term,” the first speaker after Ted Lieu told the council if it goes through with closing the airport.

Others warned the council of how a closed airport could become the ultimate land-grab for developers.

Another point rose to the council: advancements in aircraft technology would significantly reduce air and noise pollution.

A few speakers cautioned against those who proposed replacing the airport with a park, opining the Great Park, which replaced the El Toro Air Base in Irvine, is a “ghost town.”

Still others said SMO is a great community asset, stating they spend quality time with their respective children at the airport.

A pilot told council members if SMO was shut down, the flight path to LAX Airport a few miles to the south would be altered and 747 jets could fly about 2,500 feet above Santa Monica en route to the international airport.

Indeed, it has long been contended by SMO supporters that LAX traffic coming in from the north and west is forced to travel east toward downtown Los Angeles before making a u-turn toward the international airport.

Those who spoke against SMO – some of whom lived underneath the flight path – told council members the planes flying over their respective homes were too loud and posed a significant safety threat.

“People would be shocked if they knew what we had to deal with,” Ellen Brennan told the council of the noise levels residents living directly under the flight path.

One resident who lives under the flight path told council members every time a plane takes off, she wonders if it would “make it.”

“It’s like living in Tel Aviv with the suicide bombers,” Venice resident Judy Russell told the council, describing living under the flight path as “terrorism.”

Airport opponents cited recent plane crashes, including the one claiming the life of a local developer in September 2013, as evidence of the threat to safety posed by SMO’s users.

A professor from Loyola Marymount University stated planes flying from SMO have a significantly adverse impact on the environment.

Addressing concerns about whether SMO would be a land grab for developers, council member Kevin McKeown suggested the airport, in the event it was shut down, be used for low-impact and low-intensity use.

“The airport land will never be used for high-rise development,” McKeown said. “Frankly, it’s not the appropriate site for the kind of development that might appropriate in other parts of our City or the region. There’s no mass transit anywhere near this site.”

Mayor Pam O’Connor echoed similar thoughts, saying if SMO were shut down it would not become Century City West.

“These are public lands. The people of Santa Monica will ultimately decide how to use it. It would not be sold off to developers for high-rise kind of development. That’s just alarmism,” O’Connor said.

Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day was present during a portion of the SMO agenda item but had to leave during public testimony due to a family emergency. Accordingly, the council vote was 6-0.

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Comments

Mar. 28, 2014, 10:47:43 am

L. McCann said...

But where will Tom Cruse keep his Lear?

Mar. 28, 2014, 11:33:44 am

Hey Mcann said...

At KBUR where he always has you douche nozzel.

Mar. 28, 2014, 11:39:22 am

Actions have consequences said...

I say let the city close the airport. Shut her down and then wait for the fault line right underneath you give out. Some day Santa Monica will experience a significant earthquake, it's a fact. It will be tragic watching all of those NIMBYs carrying their injured loved ones out of the rubble with no hope of rescue. If only there was a runway nearby. Nope, the streets are jammed and no one is coming to your aid any time soon. You think you're making it safer for your kids but you might be signing their death certificates someday.

Mar. 28, 2014, 11:42:51 am

Ben said...

There is no fault line in Santa Monica. All those little tremors are just the mayor stepping out for lunch.

Mar. 29, 2014, 2:15:04 pm

J. Sardashti said...

May those against the airport closure should spend one day at my house (1/4 of mile to the east of the runway) experiencing the daily onshore breeze filled with awful jet fumes while tens of private jets flying directly over head .The noise is defening and the fumes disgusting and cancer causing. We the residents affected by the airport operations ought to file a class action suit against the city of Santa Monica who is failing to protect the residents against the wealthy individuals and corporations callously disregarding our rights and welfare and flying in and out of this airport.

Mar. 29, 2014, 2:32:32 pm

Anti Aviation Exterminator said...

For you terrorists who think that you can threaten the jobs, businesses of the people at SMO who have worked so hard to build and operate. You think that you can simply steal these businesses and jobs. We have dealt with anti aviation, anti American terrorists like in other communities. You think you can threaten these hard working people with your militant actions with scumbag, corrupt politicians like the following terrorist assholes: Mike Bonin Ted Lieu Cathy Bass Santa Monica mayor and the Santa Monica city council Well terrorists, you had better worry about the war you have waged. We will bring this war to your turf; right to your front door assholes. Your steal and take from us...we take from you.

Mar. 30, 2014, 6:10:36 pm

Paul Reader said...

Dear J. Shardashti, If you truly believe you and you're family are in danger and may get cancer then why in hell are you still living where you are? As a responsible adult, you may want to consider moving somewhere safe like Montana or Idaho. Los Angeles is very polluted and dangerous not just near the airport.

Mar. 30, 2014, 6:16:19 pm

Santa Monican said...

Demand to let the voters decide. It's obvious the developers have bought off Mayor Jobba and the weasels we call council members. O'Day couldn't even muster the balls to stay for the vote. "Family emergency" my rear. How do these people keep getting elected? Oh yeah, rich developers keep them there. Clearly not the citizens. VOTE!

Mar. 31, 2014, 12:03:04 am

erik said...

I have lived just east of the airport for nearly 10 years and have enjoyed all of beautiful planes landing at smo every day. My kids enjoy watching them come in from our roof. We even like going over to the typhoon restaurant on the the runway to watch them take off over dinner. This airport is not only historic, it is a model of how a small urban airport should be run, complete with terrific community events like antique shows, farmers markets, dog parks, restaurants, sporting venues, a museum....the list goes on. ...and yet it still is not good enough for the local residents....good grief, what will it take? The City Council should be looking for ways to increase revenue through the airport as opposed to looking for ways to shut it down, but then again...this is Santa Monica and it marches to a different tune.

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