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Santa Monica City Council Approves Plan To Take Over Portion Of Airport

SANTA MONICA ( — The Santa Monica City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday in favor of a plan to take control of the city-owned portion of Santa Monica Airport, effectively preventing large planes from landing by shortening the distance of the runway.

The vote came after hours of arguments from aviation officials and local residents at a packed meeting over the airport's fate.

The Santa Monica City Council is voting on whether to accept a staff report that calls for preparations to be made to begin possibly closing the airport, a process city officials say would take years to complete.

A federal judge last month dismissed a lawsuit filed by Santa Monica against the the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that would have given city officials control over the future of the 90-year-old airport that sits on about 227 acres of city property.

The FAA had also filed a motion to dismiss the city's lawsuit, urging Santa Monica to hold off taking any action until 2015, when a 30-year-old land agreement with the FAA expires.

Some residents who live near the airport have complained of excessive noise and air pollution along with the threat of potential crashes similar to a deadly collision last September involving a twin-engine Cessna Citation aircraft.

Officials with the the Santa Monica Airport Association, however, said noise was "very successfully mitigated" under a soon-to-expire 1984 airport agreement between the FAA and the city of Santa Monica.

An estimated $300 million in spending in the region can be directly linked to Santa Monica Airport, according to the association.

Santa Monica resident Lorraine Sanchez, who moved near the airport in the 1960s, said the airport has changed since the days of recreational flying by propeller-driven planes.

"We knew we were moving next to the airport, and it was these small planes buzzing by," said Sanchez. "And we had parties in the backyard, and everybody just shut up when the planes was going over."

The Santa Monica Airport, the former home of Douglas Aircraft, is one of the oldest airports on the west coast. The federal government returned control of the airport to the City of Santa Monica after World War II.

One of the busiest non-commercial airports, supporters say closing the airport would be a huge loss for Santa Monica and Southern California.

"It's a tremendous economic generator to the local area, there's a lot of business that's conducted here, it's also a reliever airport to Los Angeles International," said Bill Dunn of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. "What that means is it creates a welcoming environment for smaller aircraft that don't necessarily mix with the large airline operations."

Veteran Santa Monica community activist Jerry Rubin disagrees.

"It's so close to residents, probably the worst located airport in America today. So for that reason I'm in favor of closing the airport as soon as possible when the agreement with the FAA expires in 2015," Rubin said.

Some supporters of the airport argue the case is overstated and that homeowners are merely out to increase their property values.

"I didn't want to close the airport to make my property worth more," said Sanchez, who recently moved away from the airport. "We don't want jets that crash."

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