Santa Monica City Council votes to close its airport by July 2018

The Santa Monica City Council said Thursday it has adopted a resolution calling for the closure of its airport as soon as legally permitted, with the goal of shutting down the facility on or before July 1, 2018.

The council late Tuesday also directed the city manager to implement a series of measures intended to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of the airport until operations permanently cease, it said in a statement early this morning.

In its resolution, the council declared the airport produces a wide range of adverse impacts, including noise and air pollution, as well as safety issues. It noted the positive consequences of converting the land to open space, parks, recreation, educational, and cultural uses as required by Measure LC, a ballot measure Santa Monica voters approved in 2014.

"Through our unanimous vote (Tuesday), the council demonstrated our commitment to stop the harmful impacts the airport has on our community. Transitioning our land into a 'great-park' is the single most transformative action this council can take," said Mayor Tony Vazquez. "The land needs to be transformed from a source of pollution and potential danger into a community asset."

The council said it has directed the city manager to implement a series of measures intended to reduce the adverse impacts of the airport until operations cease permanently.

"Our council and community in solidarity want to close the airport that predominantly caters to the 1 percent that can afford to travel by private jet. We have directed the city manager to take every step possible to expedite
the transformation of our land from airport to park," said Mayor Pro Tem Ted Winterer.

"There are real legal obstacles and while we need to be conscientious as we navigate the court system, our resolve to close the airport is firm."

The measures the city manager is authorized to implement include petitioning the Federal Aviation Administration to remove the far west segment of the runway from aviation use. This would shrink the runway by 2,000 feet and
consequently reduce the adverse impacts of the airport, the statement said.

The council also directed the city manager to begin the planning and environmental analysis of converting Santa Monica Airport into a park. And it adopted a Fixed Based Operations policy for the city manager to implement to replace private aircraft support services with services provided by the city. Currently, aeronautical services, such as fuel and aircraft storage, are provided by two private companies. The council directed the city manager to create a city-run FBO service by Dec. 31, or as soon as feasible.

"This change, allowed under FAA regulations, would significantly diminish the incentive for private companies to market their services to corporate and personal jet traffic,'' the statement said.

The effort to shutter the airport gained steam after actor Harrison Ford, flying out of the airport, experienced engine trouble and crash-landed his World War II-era light plane at Penmar Golf Course in Venice in March 2015.
He was injured but has since recovered.

The FAA ruled last December that the airport must stay open at least until 2023. Santa Monica elected officials and anti-airport activists countered that the airport could be closed earlier because all obligations to the federal
government have expired. But the FAA said provisions of a $240,600 federal improvement grant received by the city in 2003 require that the general aviation hub remain open 20 years after accepting the money.

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