On Tuesday evening, Jan. 26, the Santa Monica City Council approved the hiring of noted landscape design firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH) to oversee the design of a 12-acre expansion of Airport Park on the south side of Santa Monica Airport (SMO). The park expansion became possible in 2015 when the City’s 1984 Agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration expired; that freed the land up from being used to store airplanes. The expansion of the park will be a direct result of Measure LC, which Santa Monica voters passed in 2014 to maintain control of Santa Monica Airport land and which requires that aviation land must be used for park purposes unless the voters approve a different use. (For a map of the airport showing the 12 acres, see the attached photograph.)
The Santa Monica Airport2Park Foundation has been active in promoting conversion of the airport into parkland since passage of Measure LC and it applauds the selection of RCH. RCH will oversee community outreach, research feasibility and concept design, and ultimately design the park expansion. RCH is an award-winning firm that has not only worked extensively in Santa Monica, having worked on Euclid and Douglas Park among other projects, but which has also designed iconic parks and public spaces in Southern California, such as Los Angeles Grand Park, the Rancho Cienega Recreation Center and the L.A. Zoo Event and Play Space.
One principal of RCH, Mark Rios, also helped kick off the efforts of Airport2Park to turn SMO into a park. In October 2013 Airport2Park held a standing-room only public workshop to examine the possibilities for converting the airport into a park. At the workshop Mr. Rios gave an inspiring slideshow presentation about the international movement to turn airfields and other industrial sites into parks and publicly accessible recreational and cultural facilities.
“The Santa Monica Airport2Park Foundation is extremely pleased to congratulate the City of Santa Monica on its hiring of Rios Clementi Hale Studios to oversee public outreach and the design process for the 12-acre expansion of Airport Park,” said Neil Carrey, president of the foundation. “We look forward to hearing from and working with our friend Mark Rios and his colleagues in the creation of a facility that will begin to fulfill the promise of Measure LC and inspire us to complete the job when the City can confirm its rights to control all airport land.”
Map of 12 acre expansion of Airport Park:
The above illustration shows the overall “airport” property of three distinct parcels, and enlarges a portion of the runway adjacent to the “non-aviation” parcel (containing the existing “Airport Park”). The two former aviation tie down lots on the “non-aviation” parcel will be converted to more parks and playfields.
In the larger Airport2Park vision (see Airport2Park video from March 2015), this initial 12 acre expansion of the existing Airport Park is just step one of a three step plan that we hope will ultimately lead to a 180 acre “Great Park” on the land that is currently Santa Monica Airport. A park that will serve the needs of the entire City and surrounds for generations to come. Mr Rios prepared a “Great Park” concept drawing for Airport2Park in 2014, and we are confident the design firm will treat the initial 12-acres, which when complete, will make Airport Park the City’s second largest park, as just the first small step in a much larger plan.
Once again, we would like to thank our City Council, City Manager, and City Staff for moving ahead with this project at what is in reality an extremely fast pace. For more details on the City’s planned schedule for the next steps in this process, see here. So far everything is going to schedule, despite the larger legal issues that must be resolved before the greater park vision can truly begin.