Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Airport Park Expansion Hits Milestone||
By Niki Cervantes
March 30, 2016 -- Santa Monica’s battle to close its airport has suffered decades of roadblocks, but officials this week reported hitting a major milestone.
On Monday, City officials announced that all aircraft had been removed from a six-acre storage section at the century-old airport, an important step in paving the way for a 12-acre expansion of Airport Park.
Some of the airplanes and their tie-downs have been relocated to other areas of the 227-acre airport and others moved to “self-selected alternative locations,” Nelson Hernandez, senior adviser on airport issues to City Manager Rick Cole, said in a March 23 update.
The City sent eviction notices to those using the site in February, officials said. Enough space existed for 73 aircraft tie-downs, but only 32 slots were being used.
The news was warmly greeted by community groups and others who have championed expanding the park near the southeast corner of the airport.
“It is exciting to see an empty airplane parking lot, which will soon be transformed into much needed future park space, including playing fields and possibly community gardens, for thousands to use,” Neil Carrey, president of the nonprofit Santa Monica Airport2Park Foundation, said Monday.
City officials earmarked the six-acre lot for parkland last year after the expiration of a 1984 federal agreement that restricted that property to aviation.
The City also moved to “repurpose” use of six acres opposite the existing Museum of Flying as a park, complying with Measure LC, passed by voters in November of 2014 to require use of available airport property in the future for parks and community-oriented purposes.
Removing the aircraft and their tie-downs from the southeast parcel will reduce by about 20 percent the airport’s ability to maintain aircraft there, Carrey said.
“This move will be welcomed by neighbors in Santa Monica, Mar Vista and Venice who have been plagued with noise and pollution from the adjacent airport,” he said.
For the most part, though, removal of the airplanes and tie downs from the southeast parcel is not directly related to the City’s battle to control the overall fate of the airport.
That power struggle, waged against the aviation industry and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), is taking place in various courts, and the City has landed few significant blows so far.
The added acreage will more than double the size of Airport Park, which includes an off-leash dog park, a playground, sports field, a walking loop and picnic area along Airport Avenue near Bundy Drive.
Hernandez said the City is moving ahead with design plans being drafted by Rios Clementi Hale Studios in Los Angeles, which the City Council hired in late January under a $211,200 contract.
An expanded Airport Park will alleviate a shortage of public parks in Santa Monica. The city offers some of the world’s most popular beaches, but is starved for parkland compared to other cities.
The City Council last week added enlarging the park to a priority list sent to Los Angeles County Parks and Recreations officials, who are assessing the countywide need for parkland and find sources of funding, including a possible future ballot measure.
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