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Santa Monica City Council votes to keep pursuing control over airport land

A view of the runway at the Santa Monica Airport.
A view of the runway at the Santa Monica Airport.
nicadlr/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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The Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to continue pursuing control of the land that is home to the Santa Monica Airport and to begin looking at options for closing the airport after July of 2015.

The vote was Santa Monica’s latest move in its fight with the federal government for the right to shut down or reduce jet traffic at the airport. 

"We are interested in our rights as property owners of that land," said Santa Monica City Councilman Kevin McKeown, referring to the 227 acres the airport sits on.  He added the city wants to consider other options for putting the very valuable land to use.

"Whether that public use still includes an airport with reduced impacts or something else, we’ve not yet determined. But we want to make that determination, not the federal government," KcKeown told KPCC. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has maintained that previous agreements obligate Santa Monica to operate the airport "in perpetuity."  The federal courts have backed up the agency, most recently last month, when a judge rejected the city’s claim that its obligations to the airport end in July of 2015, as the Santa Monica Daily Press reported.  

Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia said airports like Santa Monica  are a draw for business jets for the same reason they’re an annoyance to neighbors.

"They’re centrally located. That’s valuable land, and it tends to be in the middle of expensive housing, too. Inevitably you’re going to see more conflict like these arise," Aboulafia told KPCC. 

About a hundred people addressed the Santa Monica City Council before the vote.  Many residents opposed to the airports want to see a park built in its place. A spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and  Pilots Association challenged the Santa Monica City Council to put a measure on the ballot to let residents decide how the airport land should be used.