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New Santa Monica Anti-Airport Group Gains Momentum at First Meeting

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


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

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

October 8, 2013 -- A resident-led movement to turn Santa Monica Airport into a park got a major boost Thursday when more than 150 people turned out to explore the idea.

Thursday's meeting, which featured a talk by architect Mark Rios, was the first formal attempt by the coalition of airport opponents -- Airport2Park -- to drum up support for closing Santa Monica's century-old airfield and building a park on the 227-acre City-owned parcel.

“We're going to ask you to create a movement at the city level, the county level, the state level and, yes, at the federal level to make this happen,” the group's co-founder Frank Gruber told the crowd Thursday.

Gruber's speech called for residents to rally behind the “once-in-a-century opportunity” to close the airport, which has operated since 1917.

That opportunity, activists believe, will come in 2015 when an agreement between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expires.

In that agreement, which the City signed in 1984 after the FAA blocked its attempt to ban certain types of jets from flying out of SMO, Santa Monica agreed to operate the parcel as an airport until at least 2015.

Gruber, a former Lookout columnist and long-time political observer, acknowledged that the fight to close the airport will not be easy, pointing out that the FAA will fight closure “with all of the tools they have,” an assertion that has been borne out by the City's history with the federal agency.

Still, the mood was optimistic at Thursday's meeting, which was attended by representatives of long-time SMO opponents State Senator Ted Lieu and Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin.

Rios followed Gruber, exhorting residents to “think big” and “think green” when planning a park in that location.

He also called for patience in what he said was likely to be a slow process.

Rios presented a wide range of “post-industrial” plots around the world that have been repurposed as public spaces, including a 2,000-acre former landfill in Israel and the 1,300-acre Great Park in Irvine, also once an airport.

“When you think of Santa Monica Airport... it's like an impenetrable mountain,” said Rios, whose portfolio includes Euclid Park in Santa Monica and Downtown Los Angeles' 12-acre Grand Park in front of City Hall.

SMO “really destroys an urban fabric,” he said.

During the second half of Thursday's meeting, attendees broke out into groups to brainstorm what they would like to see built if the airport closes down in 2015.

Airport2Park cofounder Marty Rubin said that he was impressed by the wide range of ideas he heard, including water features, creeks and even a castle.

“One could not ask for a better kick-off workshop,” said Rubin, who also heads the anti-airport advocacy group Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP).

“Airport2Park seems to have taken on its own unique, positive energy and I'm honored to be part of the team,” he said.

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