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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

January 13, 2017 -- Activists wanting the City-owned Santa Monica Airport property to become a park are applauding the City Council's move on Tuesday to designate a six-acre vacant portion of the land for recreational use.

The paved area once used for aircraft tie-downs is being called an "interim open space" and will be open for public use in the spring following the completion of what City officials said were "minor modifications" and the creation of an American Disabilities Act-compliant entrance.

Council members gave conceptual approvals in the fall for transforming this area and adjacent non-aviation airport land into a park with sports fields as well as a garden and green space ("Santa Monica Airport Park Expansion Moving Forward," September 27, 2016).

Construction of that larger park is expected to begin in the spring of 2018.

That park's development is mostly not involved in the greater controversial issue about the future of Santa Monica Airport, and whether aviation activities will continue there for years to come depending on the outcome of various legal battles.

While the wait continues for the park, this six-acre portion of land could be "great for bicycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, kickball, jogging and all kinds of other great activities," the Santa Monica Airport2Park Foundation suggested in a statement shortly after this week’s council meeting.

Drones, model airplanes and kites would not be allowed in the area, according to the City staff report.

Airport2Park President Neil Carrey told the council on Tuesday that the governing body was taking "a very important action."

"It's really showing the community, as you've shown all along, that the City is serious about turning that land into a park," Carrey said.

He added, "And to have that vacant land there while we're waiting [for the park] and to be able to say to the public they can use the land, I think is really important and a very important step."

Council members did not discuss the item prior to voting on it.

The council's action was part of several for an agenda item that dealt with various issues involving City parks and other public spaces.

Among those issues was one that received media attention in and out of Santa Monica -- the expansion of the list of exotic animals banned from public spaces ("More Exotic Creatures Could Be Banned from Santa Monica Public Spaces," January 5, 2017).

Councilmember Tony Vazquez asked if the prohibition was being enforced because he had spotted a snake and reptile show. City staff members said they respond to incidents when told about them by residents.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown said residents can file complaints through the Government Outreach (GO) page on the City's website (which can be downloaded as a smartphone app).

"If you see an animal being abused or if you feel endangered by somebody displaying an animal in public, you can by all means report it," McKeown said.

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