City Council Votes To Continue Planning for SMO Closure

 - March 27, 2014, 3:50 PM

On Tuesday the six members of the Santa Monica city council voted unanimously on a plan to prepare to close all or part of Santa Monica Airport. More than 100 attendees spoke during the late-night meeting, with opinions split about evenly between those supporting the field’s future as an airport and those seeking to use its 227 acres for parkland or property development.

One recommendation the city is exploring would close a 35-acre parcel, cutting about 2,000 feet off the 4,970-foot runway, on July 1 next year, the date on which the city believes its grant obligations to the U.S. government end. While a 1948 instrument of transfer requires that the land be operated as an airport in perpetuity, the 35 acres was acquired after that agreement was signed.

“In whatever process that is established by the council to evaluate the options for the airport’s future,” said NBAA western region representative Stacy Howard during the public comment period, “it is critical that the city rely upon hard facts and not political spin.” AOPA vice president for airport advocacy Bill Dunn said, “The FAA does not share the opinion that that property is not obligated [to remain part of the airport].” To remove the 35 acres, the city would need to file a formal Part 155 request to release surplus property, and Dunn believes the FAA will reject this request.