Battle Over Santa Monica Airport Heats Up … Again

** Santa Monica Airport (SMO)**

Nearly 100 people spoke on Tuesday night in front of the Santa Monica City Council for and against the city's suggestion to continue with its plans of shutting down the historic Santa Monica Municipal Airport.

Those against the airport spoke about the issue of noise and pollution, some citing a decrease in the amount of pollutants during a period when the airport was closed for runway maintenance as proof that the airport does, in fact, produce pollution. There was, however, no discussion about the levels of pollution or whether they were harmful to the health of the neighbors of the airport. Others brought video clips of airplanes overflying their properties. However, about 60 percent of the speakers were clearly in favor of keeping the airport operating, including representatives from AOPA and NBAA, airport business owners and airplane lovers, who pointed out that aircraft are now quieter and cleaner than ever before.

With a massive divide between those who support the airport and those who want to see it gone, it appears nearly impossible at this point to find a solution where the parties meet half-way. So the prudent thing for the city council to do would be to bring the airport redevelopment issue to a ballot measure, an idea brought forth in the statement made at the meeting by AOPA's vice president of airports Bill Dunn who has been working with the city for years to find a solution to this issue.

But there was no discussion among the council members to officially poll the public to see whether the general population of the city wants the airport there or not. It appears that the council members are adamant about eliminating as much of the airport as is possible as soon as they can.

Marsha Jones Moutrie, Santa Monica's city attorney, acknowledged that the closure of the airport is established by law and by contract and that it will take years, not weeks or months to complete the process. "We can't close the airport now," she said. But the city council members indicated that they are not only willing to pay the court fees that would be necessary to fight the FAA, they are willing to pay whatever fees may be required to take back the ability to control the use of the property.

Santa Monica city council member Kevin McKeown objected strongly to allegations made by some of the airport supporters that the city is ultimately planning to develop the land now occupied by the airport. But he admitted that the city does not yet know what the plan is. He put forth a motion for the city staff to develop a concept plan for the airport property, in particular for the parcel of land at the west end of the airport, where many of the airport businesses are currently located, which the city expects to take possession of as soon as July 1 of next year.

In her remarks, Santa Monica Mayor Pam O'Connor said: "This is public land and it is ultimately the people of Santa Monica who will decide how to use it." Well, if that is the case, wouldn't it be prudent to ask those people if they really want this national treasure to close or whether they want it to be turned into something completely different with no way to turn back?

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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