We respectfully request the Santa Monica City Council to immediately adopt local ordinances consistent with Santa Monica Airport Commission Recommendations and implement the existing City Council Resolution 6296, as summarized below:
The Santa Monica City Council passed a Resolution in 1981 that states it is the “policy of the City of Santa Monica to effect the closure of the Santa Monica Municipal Airport as soon as practicable.”
More than 80% of the 1,400 Santa Monica and Los Angeles participants polled want Santa Monica Airport closed, aircraft operations materially reduced, or steps taken to mitigate impacts. The Boards of Friends of Sunset Park (FOSP) and Ocean Park Association (OPA) endorse the Santa Monica Airport Commission Recommendations 2012-2 & 2012-3.
OPA Airport Visioning Survey Results – http://opa-sm.org/Resources/Documents/OPASURVEY2012.pdf
CASMAT Airport Visioning Survey Results — https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_xmzTNXnK13clA4MjUzdHpacGc/edit?pli=1
SMO – Land Use Options in 2015 — http://www.casmat.org/2012/04/community-sees-first-concrete-visioning.html
The April 23rd Airport Commission Airport Visioning Workshop included a legal agreement review regarding how various Federal/City agreements impact potential future options for various airport land parcels, an overview of the City’s proprietary powers with regards to its jurisdiction over future airport uses, an economic analysis of SMO, a presentation from Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Environmental Design regarding ideas for re-purposing airport land, and summaries of the results from both the CASMAT and OPA online surveys.
The May 8th City Council study session included a Powerpoint presentation by consultant Daniel Iacafano regarding the Santa Monica Airport Phase II community discussion groups, posted at: http://www01.smgov.net/cityclerk/council/agendas/2012/20120508/s2012050804-A-3.pdf
The main preferences were that 1) the Airport must be aligned with the City’s core environmental values, 2) the Airport must be transformed into a better neighbor by reducing noise and enhancing safety, 3) airport infrastructure and design should be improved to protect safety and enhance neighbors’ quality of life and afford greater amenities to surrounding communities, and 4) community trust must be restored through increased transparency, better communications, more sharing of information, and unbiased analysis.
Although the City owns and operates the Airport, its operations are governed by federal law, and the City has various contractual obligations to the federal government, including the 1984 Agreement, grant agreements, and the post-World War II transfers of Airport land from the federal government to the City.
The 1984 Agreement expires in 2015, and the City claims that the last of the grant agreements expires in 2014, but the FAA contends that the last grant agreement does not expire until 2023. And, the FAA claims that the City is obligated by the post-War transfers to operate the Airport “in perpetuity.”
The City Council resolved in 1981 to close the Airport when possible, but the City then negotiated the 1984 Settlement Agreement with the FAA, obligating the City to operate the Airport until 2015. The federal government and the aviation industry would oppose any attempt to close the airport.
The City adopted a number of ordinances in the late 1970’s to restrict operations. Five of the ordinances were challenged in federal court, and four were upheld. A fifth ordinance, banning jets in order to reduce noise, was invalidated because some jets are quieter than some piston aircraft. Recently, the City attempted to ban Class C & D jet aircraft in order to reduce the likelihood of runway overruns, since the SMO runway is shorter than current design standards requirements for C & D aircraft. The FAA challenged the ban, and its challenge was upheld by both the Ninth and the D.C. Circuit Courts of Appeal. So, apparently neither the FAA nor the courts will allow the City to ban jets based on noise or runway safety. And, these cases demonstrate the FAA’s tenacity in opposing access restrictions, as well as the federal courts’ deference to the FAA.
According to staff, a closure fight would consume significant time and resources for the City, while the federal government and the aviation industry have far greater resources than the City. In addition, the results of litigation are never certain. City staff believes that it may be possible to reach a compromise in order to obtain a mutually acceptable (if less than perfect) resolution.
Forty-six people signed up to speak during Public Comment.
The FOSP Board comment indicated that although the consultant’s summary didn’t cite exact percentages, 81% of the participants’ comment cards indicated that they wanted a “change” in the airport status. These numbers line up with the two community surveys that were conducted by CASMAT and OPA, which showed, respectively, that 82% and 84% of participants wanted either elimination or reduction in airport operations.
Even with this data, the Staff report failed to support recommendations that would really make significant improvements in the negative impacts of SMO. Noticeably absent in their report was the option of shortening the runway by eliminating the use of the western parcel of land, not covered by the 1948 Instrument of Transfer and, therefore, is not covered by the “perpetuity” clause. Also not included was the City’s ability to change the character of the businesses at the airport, as all current leases expire in 2015.
The FOSP Board urged the City Council to direct staff to explore measures that would truly mitigate the negative impact of SMO, including investigation of 1) best practices at other airports, 2) the City’s authority as land owner and proprietor to control airport property leases and to change the use of the western portion of the runway, 3) possible expansion of green space, including parkland and playing fields, and 4) adopting a “no net new trips” policy for all future airport options. FOSP Airport Committee Chair Cathy Larson wrote, “As 2015 approaches, we want our City to stand with the residents. The opportunity arises and the airport is ripe for a change.”
Council member McKeown proposed a 6th recommendation – that the staff define the city’s legal authority to close the airport if negotiations with the FAA fail to reduce the impacts of airport operations on residents. Council member Davis proposed a 7th recommendation – that the City work with other governmental agencies to examine the potential health impacts of airport operations at SMO. The Council adopted the seven recommendations and directed staff to proceed with Phase III of the Airport Visioning process.
Friends of Sunset Park encourages all residents to participate in the public input process so their voices are heard in determining the Santa Monica Airport’s future.
If you are interested in SM Airport Issues you can be added to our notification list by contacting
Cathy Larson, Friends of Sunset Park Airport Committee Co-Chair.
Please give your name, email, street address, and phone number.
Email updates go out every 4-6 weeks, snail mail several times a year depending on the issues.