Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By David Ganezer
Observer Publisher 

City Council votes to close Airport Again; FAA Says Good Luck With That, Guys

For the third time city which has no authority over airport decides to close it


August 27, 2016

The City Council voting to close the airport, is a little like these guys going sailing on the beach. City Council votes to close Airport Again; FAA Says Good Luck With That, Guys

For the third time the Santa Monica City Council has voted to close it's 100-year-old airport, Cloverfield. Residents living nearby hate the airport, despite the fact that there has never been a fatal accident there, because of the noise and smoke it produces. It is also rather close to homes.

Don't be fooled. The Council's action is largely symbolic, because the Federal Aviation administration has a lease on the land which is restricted to aviation until at least 2023. Anyway, the city is press release is below. The FAA recently decided to leave the airport open until at least 2023, over the City's objections. Federal Pre-emption applies.

Update: From City Manager Rick Cole: Not sure how much accuracy is a priority for you, but your three paragraph introduction to the Santa Monica Airport included two factual errors. One, that there has never been a fatal accident there. Not true. Several fatal accidents involving pilots leaving or landing at the Airport during the past 20 years are cited here, not to mention the 2013 crash where 4 were killed on the runway.

Second, you say the FAA has a "lease" that runs through 2023. Also not true. The FAA alleges that a 20 year grant agreement that expired in 2015 should be extended to 2023 because the not all the funds in the 1994 grant were expended until 2003. A reasonable finding if they had ever done this on hundreds of other grants -- but they hadn't. They pulled this interpretation out of thin air. But regardless of the validity of this claim, it is not a "lease."

City press release written by Debbie Lee, Communications Director:

On Tuesday August 23, 2016, the Santa Monica City Council adopted a resolution calling for the closure of the Airport as soon as legally permitted, with the goal of closure on or before July 1, 2018.

The Council directed the City Manager to implement a series of measures intended to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of the Airport until operations permanently cease. They also adopted a fixed based operations (FBOs) policy for the City Manager to implement to replace private aircraft support services with services provided by the City.

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. The Council's Resolution notes the positive consequences of transitioning the land from aviation to open space, parks, recreation, educational, and cultural uses as required by Measure LC, the ballot measure that Santa Monica voters approved in 2014.

"Through our unanimous vote tonight, 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 also 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% 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."

City Council votes to close Santa Monica Airport Again; FAA Says Good Luck With That, Guys

The measures the City Manager was authorized to implement include petitioning the FAA 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. Further, Council directed the City Manager to commence the planning and environmental analysis of converting the SMO into a park. Last, the Council approved a policy regarding FBOs. FBOs are providers of aeronautical services, such as fuel and aircraft storage. Currently those services are provided by two private companies. The Council directed the City Manager to create a city-run FBO service by December 31st 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


Reader Comments

None writes:

Measure LC! Protects the land from high rise development. The fact that in 2014 it won 60% of the vote and that measure D, a measure advertised as one to save the airport, lost by 60% of the vote, illustrates how unpopular the airport is. The council acted on behalf of the majority which by definition means they did not act on behalf of special interests. Any action taken by the council on behalf of the airport would be acting on behalf of special interests!

WKelley writes:

I live on Dewey and am not at all bothered by noise or pollution from the airport. I am not in any airline industry. I appreciate the last open un developed space in santa monica. I like seeing the mountains. I consider the angry residents including mr rubin extremely niave. I will vote against every current council member because they do have an agenda for high rise development as income source. We do not need another park to add to the two parks surrounding the airport. We do not need the traffic generated by more development of that land. We need the airport for safety of all residents. It should be made a national historical landmark! Thank you for the opportunity to express my opinion.

Sosee writes:

I live directly under the flight path and am not a pilot. I find the misinformation being disseminated by Anti-Airport folks to be horrible. I have attended strategy meetings of anti airport activists at which, these Friends ignore genuine facts if those facts don't support their position. I have zero issues with jet noise or pollution and it is not being broadcast into my home. It is rare that I even hear a jet in fact so I don't see where the jets are really that large of a problem. Its not any more troublesome than it would be at any other airport. This is all about property values. Some of the most ardent airport opponents are betting big on closure, having bought properties as investments, hoping to net a sharp increase in value upon closure of the airport. These people are sick. They are willing to put thousands out of work to obtain a financial gain for themselves and they are lying their rumps off to make that all happen. How disappointing.

Chris writes:

I attended the Council meeting of 8/23/16. At that meeting, finally the City officially made legal and binding, its intent to default on the Grant Assurances of both the 1948 Agreement and those which expire in 2023. The City attorney also flatly admitted that Mayor Vazquez and Mayor Pro Tem Winterer do have a conflict of interest when it comes to airport closure. It was clear from the comments of the City Council members that the issue had been decided behind closed doors prior to receiving public comments. Due Process took one square on the chin tonight from the City Council by allowing the Conflict of Interest effected members to vote and by clearly deciding the issue before the comments had been heard. KSMO is not going to close anytime soon. There is no way the Federal Court is going to take the City's side because the facts are crystal clear. The airport must remain forever. Expect the western parcel to be taken by imminent domain in the next year or so.


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