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Residents, Airport Commission Try to Block Relocation of Parks Landscape Crews

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Have Extra Room for the Holidays 2019

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By Jorge Casuso

November 22, 2019 -- The Santa Monica Airport Commission this week unanimously backed residents' calls to block the City's landscape maintenance crews from moving to the airport.

Residents who live near the proposed hangar where the heavy equipment will be stored and rolled out early every morning have complained the decision was made without public input.

On Tuesday, the Commission sided with residents by calling for an immediate halt to the nearly $1 million project to move the Public Landscape Division from its current location at Colorado Yards in January.

Relocating the staff responsible for maintaining 28 public parks to a facility directly adjacent to single-family homes and a park "ill-suits this City and harms its residents," the Commission wrote in a resolution approved 5 to 0.

"The Commission feels that the residents' concerns have not been addressed by the city, and the fundamental lack of democratic process is deeply troubling," the Commission wrote.

The resolution urges the City a launch a "formal planning process," notify the Airport Commission and neighborhood organizations near the airport and hold a City Council hearing.

The City, the resolution states, should "follow a transparent, public process to find a more suitable location, with the consideration of long-term planning for the entire airport land and facilities."

Some 40 residents who live near the airport attended this week's meeting and echoed the same concerns they aired when the Commission took up the issue in September and approved a similar resolution.

Residents complain they weren't notified about the project, there were no public hearings before the project began and their inquiries have been stonewalled.

"For a City that prides itself on transparency, communication, and 'wellbeing,' there was, amazingly, no notification of either the nearby residents or the city-recognized neighborhood organization," Friends of Sunset Park, whose boundaries include the airport, wrote to the Commission.

Residents are also skeptical the move will be "temporary" and note that the City is spending $800,000 on the project, which will likely remain in place until after the airport closes in 2028.

"They’ve stated neither a time limit, a proposed closure date, nor an alternative future site," Friends wrote.

Two homeowners who have lived near the airport for more than 25 years wrote to the Council and Commission, "We have seen hangers that were 'temporary' still here 20 years later."

The City's Landscape Division moved to its current location at Colorado Yards after the City bought the site from Fisher Lumber in 2004 to expand Memorial Park.

City officials determined that building a permanent structure at City Yards, which is being redeveloped, would be too expensive and that the airport was the only feasible site ("City to Temporarily Relocate Parks Maintenance Staff to Airport," October 14, 2019).

Staff said they have addressed the residents' concerns by making changes that include loading equipment and materials at the end of each day, instead of in the morning, and storing some of them at other City facilities.

"Staff have actively listened to these concerns and believe they can be addressed through proposed changes to the construction and future operational procedures," they wrote.

Former Airport Commissioner and longtime Sunset Park resident David Kaplan echoed the sentiments of the 18 residents who addressed the Commission.

"Staff will move on and retire as City employees but we will live on in this neighborhood and we don't need to accept these wrong decisions," Kaplan said.

"This facility or similar activities will never go away if you accept this plan."

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