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Imagining a Post-FAA Plan For the Santa Monica Airport

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The Santa Monica Airport Commission recently held a "visioning" workshop to present ideas for the future of the Santa Monica Airport--lease agreements with the Federal Aviation Authority will end in 2015, which will allow for the possibility of reducing airport operations at the site or even ending operations altogether. The Santa Monica Mirror calls the hearings a "sneak peek of the escalated fight" that could occur between the city council, the FAA, and residents--disagreements about the visioning process have already created a riff between the some members of the Airport Commission and the city council. The city is required by a 1984 agreement with the FAA to operate an airport in "perpetuity" and Venice Patch details some of the legal intrigue that will influence the future of the site, especially regarding a section of the airport that will return to city control when the lease expires in 2015. Attorney Jonathan Stein argued to the commission that only one of the airport's three sections is subject to the perpetuity agreement: "Two-thirds of the airport can go away in 2015," but "the city could then fulfill its obligation to operate an airport with a shorter runway and fewer aviation services." The Ocean Park Association and the Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic want to go further, arguing that the airport should cease operations altogether in 2015. OPA presented the results of a survey stating that "45 percent of the 244 Ocean Park residents who responded to the survey said they wanted SMO to permanently close. Another 39 percent wanted negative impacts to be mitigated".

A group of urban and regional planning students from Cal Poly Pomona also presented a set of recommendations ("Airport Refocus," "Urban Park," and "Eco-Village" options) for the airport that provide some fun renderings of what the airport site could become. If the airport is converted, it wouldn't be the first time that a Westside airport has been converted to new residential and commercial uses: nearby Playa Vista is built on the former location of the Howard Hughes Airport. The next step for the process is for the Airport Commission to report to the city council on May 8, but don't expect any big news at that meeting: "council members and the public will continue shaping the airport's visioning process and, potentially, commence policy-making considerations of SMO's future post-2015."
Disclosure: James is employed by Cal Poly Pomona.
· Airport Commission, Residents Explore SMO Visioning Process [Santa Monica Mirror]
· Commission Hears Legal Scenarios for Airport's Future [Venice-Mar Vista Patch]
· Plans For SaMo Airport's Future Pit Bureaucrat Vs. Bureaucrat [Curbed LA]