This Tuesday, Dec. 14, Santa Monica’s City Council will decide whether City staff should proceed with a comprehensive public process to determine the future of Santa Monica Airport (SMO).
The airport’s future is one of the most significant land use decisions the City will make. The City has operated the SMO since 1926, except during World War II, when the federal government ran it. Its current operations are governed by an agreement between the City and the federal government that was adopted in 1984. That agreement is set to expire in 2015. According to the city staff report for the Dec. 14 Council meeting the agreement limits, ”among other things, the maximum allowable noise level an aircraft can generate, limits the hours of operation of Airport, curtails certain types of aircraft operations and prohibits helicopter flight training.”
Concern over the increased use of SMO by jet aircraft prompted the city to pass an ordinance in March 2008 that bans the larger Category C and D jets from using the Airport. The Santa Monica banned the larger jets due to safety concerns because the airport has no runway safety areas to act as buffer zones from homes nearby should an aircraft overrun the runway. Despite the ban, the larger jets are still flying into SMO because the Federal Aviation Administration is challenging the ban in court.
The Council will consider whether to authorize the City Manager, Rod Gould, to enter into an agreement with the two firms he has identified to assist with the initial public process. One firm is Santa Monica based RAND. The other Point C. The RAND agreement would cost $145,00 while the Point C contract would cost $81,500. The outcome from the initial planning phase would result in a conceptual framework, a more focused planning phase, and would take about 12 months.