Thank you City Council!

At last night’s City Council meeting the Council unanimously approved staff’s recommendations while modifying them to clarify Council’s intent, and while explicitly making clear that any land released from aviation uses would be used for low intensity uses such as a park.  Recommendations included the following:
  1. Consider and comment on the information provided in this report and by members of the public.
  2. Continue to pursue City control of the use of its Airport land.
  3. Direct staff to begin positioning the City for possible closure of all or part of the Santa Monica Airport (“Airport”) after July 1, 2015, including, for instance, by preparing a preliminary conceptual plan for a smaller airport that excludes the Airport’s western parcel and by preparing preliminary work plans for environmental assessment.
  4. Direct staff to continue to identify and undertake efforts by which the City might reduce adverse impacts of Airport operations, such as zoning the Airport land to require uses compatible with surrounding uses.
  5. Direct staff to increase efforts to ensure that the use of Airport leaseholds is compatible with surrounding uses by, for instance, notifying flight schools that flight school leases will be conditioned or will not be renewed after July 1, 2015 and evaluating whether and how fuel sales should be prohibited or limited to curtail adverse environmental impacts.  – This recommendation was changed by Council – see below.
  6. Revise leasing policies to maintain lease revenues so that the Airport does not again burden the General Fund by authorizing the City Manager to negotiate and execute five year non-aviation leases with five 1-year options to renew for up to a total of ten years and one year aviation leases with two 1-year options to renew for up to a total of three years with any renewals at the City’s sole discretion. – This recommendation what changed by Council – see below.
  7. Continue to receive and assess community input on preferences and possibilities for the potential future use of the land.
One key modification made by council included directing staff to repay the disputed grant assurance money (around $250,000) to the FAA, thereby ending the dispute over the end date of this agreement which the FAA contends extends to 2023 but which the City believes ends this year.  This action also sends a clear message of intent regarding the airport’s future.
Another key modification was to direct staff to replace their suggested leasing policy with a standard City non-discriminatory policy designed for “light industrial and arts space”.  This change, recommended by the airport commission, ensures the City cannot be sued for discrimination, while also putting in place a mechanism for disallowing uses incompatible with the surrounding neighborhoods particularly those that cause noise, pollution, or other negative impacts – exactly the kinds of things that much of current aviation activity represents.  This leasing policy must be in place before any leases are renewed.  
Thanks go to City staff, to all the Council members present, to  the volunteers that continue to work so hard towards this goal, and to all the members of the public that stayed so long into the night and spoke so eloquently.
This is a big step forward towards a great park on airport land.  We should all celebrate what happened last night, and though there is still a long path to tread, we will not stop until we have reached our goal.
Click for the video of the outstanding presentations made by the unified team of Airport2Park and other airport opponents including CASMAT, Friends Of Sunset Park, and SPAA.
Click for the video of the council deliberations leading to the unanimous vote.  You really should watch it just to see just how clear council was about low intensity land use at this site.
Council member Terry O’Day was absent for the vote, he was also absent from last April’s airport specific meeting.