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Panel Discusses Funding a Park on Santa Monica Airport Property

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

January 30, 2014 -- Though the fate of Santa Monica’s century-old airport is still very much in limbo, a group dedicated to turning the land into a park is making plans., which launched in September last year, will hold a public meeting Thursday to explore options for financing the conversation of Santa Monica Airport’s 227-acre parcel into a “grand park.”

Thursday’s meeting comes less than two weeks before a federal judge rules whether the City’s legal battle with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for local control over the airport’s future can go forward.

“This is a park that we hope to facilitate the creation of not just for our generation but for generations to come,” said Airport2Park member Gavin Scott.

To that ends, they will talk to Esther Feldman, president of Community Conservation Solutions; Sherrill Kushner, who chaired the campaign that passed a bond to fund the new Main Library; and former Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commissioner Neil Carrey, who will talk about seeking philanthropic contributions for park construction.

“We are delighted at the quality and level of expertise of the people who have agreed to join the panel,” said Frank Gruber of Airport2Park.

“With their help we will get to grips with how to turn one of Santa Monica’s most valuable but under-used assets into something that benefits the whole community,” he said.

The expert panel, hosted by former mayor Mike Feinstein, will look at Santa Monica’s myriad funding options for the park.

While donations and bond measures are certainly on the table, allowing private developers to build on the land in exchange for park funding is not.

Scott said that it’s Airport2Park’s policy to not consider private development as a means of financing the park, calling the option “Pandora’s Box.”

Still, Thursday’s panel discussion is a theoretical. The actual cost of turning the land into a park would vary dramatically depending on the time frame and the extent of work done to the land.

And, the question of whether the airport will close is still up in the air.

After a decades-long contentious relationship with the FAA, City Hall filed a lawsuit last November that could decide once and for all who ultimately has discretion over how the City-owned land is used.

In the lawsuit, Santa Monica claims that when the City’s 1984 agreement with the FAA expires on July 1, 2015, the City no longer has to operate its land as an airport.

In January, FAA lawyers fired back, petitioning the court to dismiss the case on the grounds that Santa Monica waited too long to claim the property since the City knew the FAA had staked a claim in the property when it returned control of the airport to the City after World War Two. As a result, the City had only 12 years to challenge the FAA’s claim, according to the motion.

The City quickly responded by listing all the instances the FAA contradicted the claim.

On February 10, a federal judge will rule on the FAA’s motion to dismiss the case.

While one group of residents are hard at work brainstorming ways to fund park construction, another group -- with some overlap -- are trying to draft a plan to save Santa Monica’s Civic Auditorium.

A City Council-appointed Civic Center Working Group started work this month drafting recommendations for revising the area’s plan to help generate the funds necessary to repair the history Civic Auditorium.

With estimates to repair the 55-year-old building starting at about $50 million, the group will look at some of the same funding possibilities as, with one exception: private development.

The transformation of the area around the Civic Center into a vibrant cultural district is one option the Working Group will look at to not only help repair the dilapidated Civic Auditorium but also to help subsidize its operations into the future.

Thursday’s Airport2Park panel meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Main Library’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium. For more information, visit

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