Thank you City Council!

At last night’s City Council meeting the Council unanimously approved staff’s recommendations while modifying them to clarify Council’s intent, and while explicitly making clear that any land released from aviation uses would be used for low intensity uses such as a park.  Recommendations included the following:

  1. Consider and comment on the information provided in this report and by members of the public.
  2. Continue to pursue City control of the use of its Airport land.
  3. Direct staff to begin positioning the City for possible closure of all or part of the Santa Monica Airport (“Airport”) after July 1, 2015, including, for instance, by preparing a preliminary conceptual plan for a smaller airport that excludes the Airport’s western parcel and by preparing preliminary work plans for environmental assessment.
  4. Direct staff to continue to identify and undertake efforts by which the City might reduce adverse impacts of Airport operations, such as zoning the Airport land to require uses compatible with surrounding uses.
  5. Direct staff to increase efforts to ensure that the use of Airport leaseholds is compatible with surrounding uses by, for instance, notifying flight schools that flight school leases will be conditioned or will not be renewed after July 1, 2015 and evaluating whether and how fuel sales should be prohibited or limited to curtail adverse environmental impacts.  – This recommendation was changed by Council – see below.
  6. Revise leasing policies to maintain lease revenues so that the Airport does not again burden the General Fund by authorizing the City Manager to negotiate and execute five year non-aviation leases with five 1-year options to renew for up to a total of ten years and one year aviation leases with two 1-year options to renew for up to a total of three years with any renewals at the City’s sole discretion. – This recommendation what changed by Council – see below.
  7. Continue to receive and assess community input on preferences and possibilities for the potential future use of the land.

One key modification made by council included directing staff to repay the disputed grant assurance money (around $250,000) to the FAA, thereby ending the dispute over the end date of this agreement which the FAA contends extends to 2023 but which the City believes ends this year.  This action also sends a clear message of intent regarding the airport’s future.

Another key modification was to direct staff to replace their suggested leasing policy with a standard City non-discriminatory policy designed for “light industrial and arts space”.  This change, recommended by the airport commission, ensures the City cannot be sued for discrimination, while also putting in place a mechanism for disallowing uses incompatible with the surrounding neighborhoods particularly those that cause noise, pollution, or other negative impacts – exactly the kinds of things that much of current aviation activity represents.  This leasing policy must be in place before any leases are renewed.

Thanks go to City staff, to all the Council members present, to  the volunteers that continue to work so hard towards this goal, and to all the members of the public that stayed so long into the night and spoke so eloquently.

This is a big step forward towards a great park on airport land.  We should all celebrate what happened last night, and though there is still a long path to tread, we will not stop until we have reached our goal.

Click for the video of the outstanding presentations made by the unified team of Airport2Park and other airport opponents.

Click for the video of the council deliberations leading to the unanimous vote.  You really should watch it just to see just how clear council was about low intensity land use at this site.

Council member Terry O’Day was absent for the vote, he was also absent from last April’s airport specific meeting.

6 thoughts on “Thank you City Council!

  1. I am writing in support of closing the SM airport2 and creating a brilliant Green Space, complete with trails, hills, fruit producing trees, vegetable gardens and lots of milkweed for monarch butterflies which can create a wonderful attraction for locals and tourists alike! Let’s make it happen!!

  2. Ah, there are a few problems with this contention:
    a) the lease requires that the airport remain an airport in perpetuity as long as it is being used an airport. Clipping off a third of the land when the lease expires sounds good, but it prevents the balance of the land from being used as an “airport”, thus the action by the City can be stopped by injunction and/or eminent domain;
    b) your website claims it will be a park, yet the council’s statement says “zoning the Airport land to require uses compatible with surrounding uses.” – this isn’t a parl, but is mixed use development. Typical mixed use is like Playa Del Rey on the Hughes Airport, which is 60 units to the acre and theaters, restaurants and offices. The emissions from this development will far exceed anything this airport use can produce.
    The capital required to develop this land will be huge, and I don’t see the City funding it. Instead, it will zone the land and pass it through to developers who’ll fund the redevelopment. ElToro was sold at $one million an acre, plus a commitment to build the Great Park, but that’s not going to happen at SMO due to the small size of the available plot.
    It would help if airport2park stopped misrepresenting this venture and spoke the truth. It will not be a park, but will be dense multi-use development. Please, be factual.
    I don’t care if this is an airport or not, but airports actually put out very few particulates since it is mainly open space. and the naysayers simply don’t express the facts.

    • (a) removing the western parcel, which even the FAA admits in its filing is unencumbered by the other agreements after 2015 does not prevent aviation use. All prop planes and most smaller jets could still take off in a 3,000ft runway.
      (b) The council has clearly stated in no uncertain tones that this land be for low intensity use such as a park. Your development claim they described as ‘alarmist’ and simply not true given that this is publicly owned land and nowhere near any anticipated transit corridor.
      Airport2Park advocates for a great park. Council has indicated support in principle. We speak accurate facts and the truth in as much as predicting the future allows.

      • John, where did the FAA “admit in its filing” that the western parcels are “unencumbered”? The city staff report states that “the FAA takes the position that if any part of an Airport is federally obligated, the obligations extend to the entire airport.” The FAA’s position is pretty clearly the correct reading of the Instrument of Transfer. (Look at page 4, under heading (2), and read carefully.) And of course, if the FAA is correct that the grant assurances run until 2023, then the western parcels clearly remain encumbered by them.

        Where has the FAA ever said that any portion of the airport land is unencumbered?

        • Niel, the FAA was meticulous in its filing in avoiding making any claims about the western parcel. I take this as tacit admission that once the grant assurances are done with, there is little or nothing they can do about that parcel and they don’t want to get into something they might loose, in other words it is unencumbered. You may be right, perhaps the FAA interpret their own silence otherwise, but the City seems to be operating on and assuming very much the same as I do.

          • In a motion to dismiss, you don’t need to address all of the assertions the other side made in its complaint. (That’s actually one of the big reasons to file a motion to dismiss, rather than answer the complaint.) You only need to address the reasons that the other side’s complaint fails to state a claim, is filed in a court without jurisdiction, is barred by the statute of limitations, is not ripe, etc. It’s not the slightest bit surprising that the FAA didn’t address the City’s arguments about the western parcels, since there was no need to do so in order the get the complaint dismissed.

            In any event, it seems clear to me that the City does _not_ assume that the FAA is going to let it retire the western parcel, or do anything else to restrict the airport. Quite the contrary, in fact. Rather, the City is willing to swing for the fences with legal long shots. At the October 4, 2011 City Council meeting, City Attorney Moutrie explained in her public presentation that the City could not pursue declaratory judgment prior to 2015, because the issue would not be ripe. The quotes from Gould and O’Connor when the suit was filed last October suggest Moutrie was no more sanguine about the City’s chances in the closed session meetings before the suit was filed. But the Council decided to go for it anyway. Of course, it seems that Moutrie was right, as the suit was in fact dismissed. The direction to the staff to study closing the western parcels is a similar effort to pursue a legal long shot.

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