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City Council Moves Ahead with Plans to Close Santa Monica Airport

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By Jason Islas
Lookout reporter

March 27, 2014 -- The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to develop plans to close at least part of Santa Monica’s century-old airport after July 2015.

The Council voted 6 to 0 to pursue a strategy that could lead to the closure of 2,000 feet of the airport’s 5,000-foot runway, curtail fuel sales and squeeze out the five flight schools currently operating out of the City-owned airport to make way for “low intensity” uses.

The Council action comes on the heels of a federal judge’s decision to toss out the City’s most recent lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that officials hoped would have given Santa Monica the legal standing it needed to begin shutting down the airport as early as 2015. (“Judge Tosses Santa Monica Lawsuit Against FAA,” February 14, 2014)

“We don't want to be told how to use our property,” said Councilmember Bob Holbrook. “I don't think we should give up the fight. I think that the people of Santa Monica expect us to fight for them and fight for the property that belongs to the City.”

Mayor Pam O’Connor agreed.

“These are public lands... owned by the people of Santa Monica,” she said, adding that it is the people who will ultimately decide what goes there.

Officials said that the plan to close the western-most 35 acres of the 227-acre City-owned parcel will likely meet fewer legal obstacles since the Western Parcel isn’t governed by the same legal obligations as the rest of the property, which the federal government returned to City control after World War Two.

Closing that part of the airport would prevent jets from landing at the airport, said State Senator Ted Lieu.

Lieu, a long-time opponent of the airport and currently a candidate to represent Santa Monica in Congress, was one of about 100 people who turned out Tuesday to address the Council.

Homeowners from surrounding neighborhoods echoed Lieu’s sentiments that the airport is both a safety and a health hazard, arguing that contaminants from jet fuel pollute the area.

One group of local activists -- -- spoke Tuesday in favor of turning the plot of land into a park. (“New Santa Monica Anti-Airport Group Gains Momentum at First Meeting,” October 8, 2013)

Proponents of the airport argued that it is integral to the city’s history and economic well-being, since it employs about 1,400 people. The airport, they add, would be a vital launching point for rescue operations in the event of a major disaster.

But the Council remained determined that the land eventually be used for “low intensity” non-aviation purposes.

O’Connor called some claims that if the airport were closed, the land would be used for massive development “alarmist.”

Councilmember Kevin McKeown agreed.

“Mayor O'Connor and I don't always agree on development issues but we absolutely agree on this one,” he said. “The airport is never going to be a highrise development.”

Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O'Day was absent from Tuesday's vote due to an unexpected family emergency, according to O'Connor.

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