Santa Monica changes airport leases, makes way for park land

Supporters, opponents pack council meeting

Santa Monica Municipal Airport

At a contentious meeting March 24, the Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously to change lease terms for some tenants at Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) and convert segments of airport property to park land.

More than 100 people signed up to speak at the meeting, which turned into a five-hour marathon with many attendees being forced to watch from outside the crowded council chambers. The council adopted a series of recommendations from the city attorney that include the following:

  • Continued planning and legal work that will enable the city to determine the future of the airport, including the closure of all or part of the airport;
  • Reducing the adverse impacts of airport operations;
  • Promoting airport self-sufficiency with increases to rates and charges;
  • Reducing and eliminating aviation uses of land released from aviation use;
  • Continuing to receive community recommendations on all aspects of airport operations and use of land now occupied by the airport.

The council determined that some tenants, including Atlantic Aviation and the Museum of Flying, will receive three-year leases with one-year extensions at the discretion of the council. Other leaseholders, including Krueger Aviation and American Flyers, will be switched to month-to-month leases. About 12 acres of airport property that has been released from aviation uses will be converted to parks, with the aircraft now located there being moved elsewhere on the airport.

“This is the latest in a long line of attempts to undermine the viability of Santa Monica Municipal,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “The courts have repeatedly said the airport must remain open, so airport opponents are turning to strangulation tactics that make it increasingly difficult to operate at SMO. The airport is vitally important to regional air transportation and to the community, and AOPA will continue to fight for it.”

The city council adopted the recommendations despite objections from airport supporters who pointed out that some of the city attorney’s recommendations conflict with federal law and the city’s agreements with the FAA.

AOPA had urged members to attend the meeting and express their support for the historic field, which serves as a vital reliever airport for Los Angeles International, delivers some $250 million in annual economic impact, hosts 175 businesses, and is responsible for 1,500 jobs in Santa Monica.

Elizabeth Tennyson

Elizabeth A Tennyson

Senior Director of Communications
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
Topics: Airport Advocacy, Advocacy, Economic Impact

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