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A sketch courtesy of Gavin Scott depicting what could be if SMO finally closes down.
Courtesy photo
A sketch courtesy of Gavin Scott depicting what could be if SMO finally closes down.

Opinion, Letters To The Editor, Santa Monica Airport

Envisioning Santa Monica Airport If It Finally Closes Down: Letter To The Editor

Posted Sep. 1, 2012, 11:00 pm

Letter To The Editor

Dear Editor,

If the Santa Monica Airport is finally closed down I propose it should be converted into an urban forest, the asphalt replaced by dense, shady stands of trees of all kinds, threaded by bike paths winding past pools and streams, and little unexpected playgrounds, bandstands, and bowers.

But I don’t just see this as a place of delight and recreation: I want people to work there too. I’d like those winding paths to lead us to eccentric, charming, tree-house-like buildings where cutting edge companies create new products and ideas which will provide jobs for the people of Santa Monica and revenue for the city – much more than we ever earned from the airport.

But surely, you might be asking, even the most sylvan business park needs big roads to get goods in and out, acres of car parking for its workers, overhead power lines? How can you have beauty, livability and productivity in one package? My answer: welcome to the twenty first century.

The sort of firms who’d want to be in such an environment need a constant flow of information and ideas. They don’t need trucks to carry them - they need power and fibre optics, arriving in pipes tucked unobtrusively beneath the forest floor. And yes, their workers need to get there and get home, but they don’t necessarily need to do it in cars. There’ll soon be a rail line coming into Santa Monica that will make it possible for people from all over Los Angeles to come and work here without driving: all that’s needed is a shuttle service to take them to and from Old Airport Forest. And for those living nearby, bike lanes. Once you step inside that welcoming place, you’re in a world of cool, green shade, peace, and quiet.

You can be productive.

Because although I’d like to see the buildings looking charming, eccentric and rustic, they’d be equipped to the highest possible standards for modern computers and communications: they’d be powerhouses for the new ideas on which a modern economy like ours relies.

I’d like a proportion of the buildings created on the site to be incubators, with dirt-cheap space available to young entrepreneurs. We have our own institution of higher learning right here in Santa Monica College: wouldn’t it be great to encourage its brightest students to set up new businesses right here where they learned their skills? To say nothing of attracting the kids who went to Pepperdine, USC and UCLA and the other universities clustered in this part of Southern California.

All over the world the docks that were once vital to shipping have closed as sea-going vessels have got bigger and moved out to deeper water. Far-sighted cities have made use of the newly available space to rejuvenate themselves. Santa Monica could do the same thing with a facility that has long outgrown the era when it was practical to make and fly planes here.

Drive around the airport now and look at all the acres of desolate concrete and asphalt, and imagine what it would be like covered in trees, home to a forest where you could stroll, contemplate – and on a bench around a corner, come across some brilliant kid from a high tech incubator, dreaming up the next big thing.

The end of the airport shouldn’t be seen as a negative, but as an amazing opportunity for Santa Monica to pioneer a new way to live, work and prosper in the twenty first century.

Let’s run with it!

Gavin Scott

Santa Monica

Post a comment


Sep. 2, 2012, 1:35:29 am

Lisa said...

I love it! What a great idea. That's the first proposal that's in line with Santa Monica being the leader in eco friendly cities across the nation!

Sep. 2, 2012, 2:27:23 am

sm resident said...

then the city council and rent control board need more voters to keep them in there positions and turn the sm airport to low income rent control apartments and shit on everything

Sep. 2, 2012, 3:57:08 am

Dee said...

How much tax revenue would the city lose if the airport is closed? How do you propose this already taxed-to-the-hilt city pay for this lovely but expensive idea?

Sep. 2, 2012, 5:23:22 am

Santa Monica Resident said...

In response to Dee's question, the city would GAIN tax revenue. It loses money on the airport now.

Sep. 2, 2012, 4:12:54 pm

Angelo Mangi said...

While I recall voting for medical marijuana, when did we vote for medical acid?

Sep. 3, 2012, 1:37:05 am

Jerry Rubin said...

Very imaginative and creative! Even if we just closed the Santa Monica Airport and did nothing else but use the runway only for skateboarders, it would be better than what we have now...... ongoing toxic pollution, ongoing noise, ongoing safety threats, and ongoing heartache.

Sep. 3, 2012, 1:52:46 am

Skeptic said...

First the airport would need to close. As "likely to happen", I'd rank that behind universal health care and gun control.

Sep. 3, 2012, 2:38:41 am

Karen Croner said...

Thank you Gavin!

Sep. 3, 2012, 3:02:14 am

Jerald Brainin said...

Turn the airport into a world class park for the general public. That would be a priceless and magniificent addition to the cityscape. A business park caters to onlly a small segment of society. Businesses can locate anywhere and function just fine. The airport space is limited, the number of beautiful parks few and far between.

Sep. 3, 2012, 3:31:23 am

Steven Novak said...

Plenty of good ideas in this article--thank you Gavin Scott. The City of Santa Monica subsidizes the airport at a substantial annual loss, while the ideas proposed in the article would generate tax revenue as well as create an interesting and innovative business/recreational space.

Sep. 3, 2012, 6:09:12 am

Natalie said...

The Airport operates at a huge loss to the City each year. Based on the proposal that Gavin set forth my guess would be that the new businesses would be paying tenants like the college is. And there should also be open green space built into this concept that is not unsafe for kids and dogs like the parks now at the but end of the toxic jet emissions. I think it sounds great and agree that this would be a great step for an allegedly green city.

Sep. 3, 2012, 6:55:47 am

Fred in SM said...

Not only does the airport cost local taxpayers nearly $1 million per year, the airport also owes SM $8 million from the general fund that it will never be able to repay. Don't let any pilot or aviation business tell you otherwise--it's all right there in the city records. We simply can't afford to keep footing the bill for this airport. I think this urban park is an absolutely wonderful replacement.

Sep. 3, 2012, 8:29:35 am

George Justice said...

Imagin, tree houses. Imagine, no world hunger too. If SMO is closed and in its place, bike paths, tree houses and green, ergonomically correct everything takes its place, then truly has dream of anything valid and true in Santa Monica died. I live in Santa Monica and love the airport. Leave it alone or maybe you should consider moving on to an environment more suitable to your current life style needs, e.g., Bangladesh.

Sep. 3, 2012, 9:27:38 am

Sheri silverton said...

I love that proposal---a high tech green business park could attract more tech enterprises to the city, and be profitable. We should have been able to keep The Google campus.

Sep. 4, 2012, 1:14:51 pm

BD said...

The city of Santa Monica and surrounding residents have put a strangle hold on space for aviation and aviation related businesses - no wonder it's losing money. This writer sounds like a developer who is promising utopia but most likely wants to profit from your neighborhood. Residents can bank on increased pollution , traffic related pollution, crime, noise and too many other negatives to list. Don't listen to this dribble. Many many locals love the airport and what it represents; man's adventure into flight. This airport is rich in aviation history and should not become another example of West Coast ideology - tear down history and construct more malls making more non- Santa Monicans profit on our backs. Think ahead. Don't be fooled.

Sep. 7, 2012, 2:50:18 am

wolflen said...


Sep. 14, 2012, 3:58:29 am

Armand said...

BD -- sorry to correct you. I actually know the gentleman that wrote this, he's not a developer, simply a concerned citizen. I'm a big aviation fan (half my family are or have been airplane pilots), however this airport is an anachronism. We can honor the legacy and history of aviation by expanding/ enhancing the museum. Santa Monica is now a residential neighborhood and as the father of two young daughters living here there's no price we can put on the pollution and safety issues. There is no other airport in the entire country so close to a residential area. Add to that the airport actually *costs* the city money, this shouldn't even be a debate. I’m just wondering how it is that this up for debate in 2015, the airport should’ve been closed in 1995. Also, it sounds like you didn't even read the proposal set forth in this letter, nowhere does it propose we convert it to a strip mall or anything of the sort.

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