Santa Monica City Council Remains Persistent, Votes to Close SaMo Airport

A long and grueling war between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the City of Santa Monica fought its latest battle on Tuesday night as the Santa Monica City Council moved once again to close the Santa Monica Airport. On August 15, the FAA rejected an appeal by the City of Santa Monica to overturn their decision of keeping the airport functional until 2023. In rebuttal, Santa Monica looks to appeal this decision in a federal court. Along with the appeal, councilmembers must rule to “adopt a resolution declaring that it shall be the policy of the City to close the Santa Monica Airport to aviation uses, as soon as legally permitted, with the goal of on or before July 1, 2018.”

At the Santa Monica City Council meeting on Tuesday night, Mayor Tony Vazquez read the names of close to 40 Santa Monica residents who were lined up to voice their opinions on the closure of the 227-acre airport.

The hearing on the matter began with the Senior Advisor to the City Manager on Airport Affairs Nelson Hernandez giving a detailed summary of the legal battles between the FAA and the City of Santa Monica. The slideshow presentation also listed the primary reasons for wanting to shut down the airport including noise, air pollution, and safety concerns.

The proposal was then opened for public hearing starting an uncomfortable tension between airport supporters, anti-airport activists, and the city councilmembers.

Santa Monica resident, Matthew Thurber, who said he lives right under the flight path, was against the closure of the airport as SMO “provides numerous jobs” and because there is “no real reason for the airport to close.”

One common accusation against the City Council by those in support of keeping the airport was that, due to it being an election year, the continued attempts to close the airport was nothing more than political grandstanding. Councilmembers negated this theory by bringing to light how many residents had voiced their negative opinion towards the airport and reiterated their purpose and intentions to serve the best interests of the community.

Prior to the voting, Mayor Vazquez pointed out to the legal counsel a possible conflict of interest due to his ownership of property in the Sunset Park neighborhood but he was “not conflicted out of the vote.”

After several hours of testimony given by both airport supporters and anti-airport activists alike, the Councilmembers and mayor each explained their reasons for supporting the motion and voted in support of it, 7-0. The audience members erupted in applause even after being reminded that applause was not permitted.

Now, the city of Santa Monica is expected to appeal a decision in federal court where the city is obligated by the FAA to continue operations of the airport through 2023 after accepting a grant of $240,600.

In hopes of closing the airport fully by July 1, 2018, the city will try to slowly reduce and remove operations of the airport to make room for the expansion of Santa Monica Airport Park.