SaMo residents discuss turning airport to park post crash

With a moment of silence for the victims of Sunday night’s plane crash at Santa Monica Municipal Airport, Airport2park, an organization in support of the conversion of SMO to a park, began their community meeting on Thursday night at Mt. Olive Church on Ocean Park Boulevard. There was little talk of the plane crash after the moment of silence, and the only item on the agenda was talk about converting the airport into a park, which is to begin transformation in 2015 – at least for almost half of the airport.

“It’s such a rare opportunity,” said Mark Rios, a designer who worked on Grand Park in Los Angeles.

Rios gave a presentation at the start of the meeting on parks around the world that were converted from post-industrial complexes and landfills.

“[The airport] has such a large piece of land,” Rios said.

As it stands, more than 1,000 feet of the west end of runway will be reclaimed by the city in 2015, where a park will be resurrected in its place. The east end of the runway will remain intact, but will restrict planes that can land to small jets and prop planes.

The city’s agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration is set to expire on July 1, 2015, according to Airport2Park’s website.

“Also on July 1, 2015, all leases to aviation tenants terminate, and in a very short time the airport might have a much shorter runway and no aviation services,” states the site. “Then it may be possible to close the entire airport and turn the whole runway and adjacent areas into parkland.”

During the meeting, attendees broke into groups to produce ideas for the park. On large aerial view maps of the runway and surrounding neighborhoods, city residents drew what park amenities they would like to see, including a center for dance and music, and even a gutted prop plane for children to play inside.

Among the meeting attendees were David Goddard and Pete Donald, chair and vice-chair of the city’s Airport Commission, a body that advises the City Council on the airport.

Goddard said the commission has not met with the city since the fiery crash, but that they “gave them advice to reduce operations before the crash.”

To Goddard, the crash reinforces the need to convert the airport into a park.

Airport2park was created from the Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic. One of CASMAT’s founding members, John Fairweather, an analyst and physicist, said that the damage of the crash would have been much worse without the hangars there to stop the plane.

“It would have slid into the houses,” he said.

Excess from airplanes affects not only Santa Monica residents under the flight path, but members of the Venice community as well.

Laura Silagi, cochair of the Airport Neighborhood Committee for Venice, attended Thursday night’s meeting for her home a mile and a half from the airport.

“It’s been a blight on the Venice community and Los Angeles,” she said.

Sigali said that residents experience noise and are worried about the lead pollution from planes.

Despite these problems, those at the head of the discussion are not too concerned about building a park at the end of a runway.

“It’s like going to the Grand Canyon,” Rios said, of what the park could become. “There’s that sense of awe.”