Santa Monica City Council Votes to Close SMO

The Santa Monica City Council voted Tuesday to close the historic Santa Monica Airport. Pia Bergqvist

The Santa Monica City Council is set on eliminating the historic Santa Monica Airport, voting for its closure on Tuesday night. This is not the first time the Council has voted to close the airport and it is strictly a symbolic vote. The airport is legally protected for now, but the city continues to spend copious amounts of taxpayer's money in its attempt to find a legal loophole to achieve its mission. The Council's target for the closure now is 2018 despite the fact that, as late as last week, the FAA reaffirmed the requirement of the city to operate the airport at least until 2023 through a Part 16 complaint filed by a long list of airport tenants and supporters, including NBAA and AOPA.

While they can't yet close the airport, the city also continues to encroach on the property, squeezing out airport tenants. In the past decade, a dog park, a playground and a soccer field have been built on former airport land. Several airport tenants have been forced to close, including the formerly largest flight school in Southern California, Justice Aviation, which the city paid $450,000 to seize operations earlier this year.

In its meeting on Tuesday, the Council directed the city manager to “implement a series of measures intended to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of the airport until operations permanently cease.” One of those measures is for the city to take over FBO services at the airport, which appears to be an attempt by the city to diminish services.

In addition, the Council is implementing additional security at the airport, which Councilman Ted Winterer has expressed will “make airport travel less convenient.” In a letter to Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vasquez, NBAA’s COO Steve Brown stated “the purpose of a security program at a general aviation airport must actually be security; it cannot be an access restriction in disguise.”

The next plan is to repurpose the western parcel of the airport, throwing out aviation businesses, which are now operating on a month-to-month basis, and cutting the runway down by 2,000 feet. This would render the airport unusable to many airplane types. The city claims the westernmost parcel of land is designated for “nonaviation use;” however, according to NBAA representatives deeply involved in the legalities of this issue the city would have to get permission from the FAA to shorten the runway.

While there has never been a public vote to determine the consensus of the citizens on the airport’s closure, the Council claims this is what the citizens want. Santa Monica’s city seal has two airplanes on it.

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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