Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2017 – 1:54 PM
(CNS) – A Los Angeles federal judge has approved an agreement between city officials and the Federal Aviation Administration to close the Santa Monica Airport before the start of 2029 and return 227 acres of aviation land to the city for eventual redevelopment as a major park, it was announced Thursday.
The agreement ends a longstanding legal battle over the future of the airport.
The deal also provides for the immediate reduction of the airport’s lone runway from 4,973 feet to 3,500 feet, reducing jet traffic and commercial charters by up to thousands of flights over the next 10 years.
The settlement agreement was approved Wednesday by U.S. District Judge John Walter.
“The hard work of improving people’s lives now begins,” Interim Santa Monica City Attorney Joseph Lawrence said. “The future of Santa Monica and west Los Angeles will likely forever be far different than most thought possible just a few weeks ago. This is a remarkable and historic achievement.”
The city has been battling the federal government for years in trying to close the airport, citing traffic, safety, noise and environmental concerns.
The Santa Monica City Council voted 4-3 in favor of the consent decree, which was made with the FAA and the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Mutual cooperation between the FAA and the city enabled us to reach this innovative solution, which resolves longstanding legal and regulatory disputes,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta previously said. “This is a fair resolution for all concerned because it strikes an appropriate balance between the public’s interest in making local decisions about land use practices and its interests in safe and efficient aviation services.”
In 2014, Santa Monica voters passed a measure mandating that if the airport closes, the only permitted use of the land without a public vote would be parks, open space, recreation, education and/or cultural use.
City manager Rick Cole said some of the historic buildings at the airport might be preserved, including the Museum of Flying, but that the majority of the land would eventually become a park.
City officials said the reduction of the runway would begin immediately and would take a few to several months. Under the deal, the city also has the right to establish its own proprietary exclusive fixed based operation services.
On Feb. 28, the Santa Monica City Council will vote to award a contract to begin work on the runway reduction from 4,973 to 3,500 feet.
It also will vote on a resolution to formally notify the FAA and the court that the airport will be closed to aviation at midnight, Dec. 31, 2028.