Marking an end to a years-long legal and political struggle, the Santa Monica City Council announced an agreement with the United States Federal Government last weekend that calls for the closing of Santa Monica Airport on December 31, 2028. Upon closing, the site will be converted into a public park.
The announcement, first reported by Santa Monica Next, calls for immediately shortening the airport’s runway to 3,500 feet in an effort to reduce airplane traffic at the 227-acre complex. The airport would continue to operate commercially for the next 11 years after which it will be “returned to the residents of Santa Monica.” City residents voted in 2014—via the ballot initiative Measure LC—to use the site only for park purposes after it closes. Any other proposed change in use—including converting the site for much-needed housing—would require a public vote.
Architecture and landscape architecture firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH Studios) developed a series of proposals for a 14-acre expansion to the existing Airport Park located beside the currently active airport. RCH Studios’ is currently working on final designs for the expansion; Construction is slated to begin within the next two years.
A community group known as Airport2Park coalesced around the conversion idea several years ago and advocates for a mixed-use park that contains, among other programmatic components, hiking, jogging, and cycling trails; playgrounds for children; senior citizen recreational areas; natural habitats; and artworks and cultural facilities.
The Santa Monica City Council’s announcement establishes that the city does not need to perform an environmental assessment to close the airport. The overall agreement to convert the airport to a park comes after many years of community outcry and the filing of dozens of legal initiatives by local residents to close the airport. The agreement also follows a back and forth debate between the Santa Monica City Council, which passed a motion last year seeking to close the airport in 2018, and a federal judge, who sought to keep the airport open until 2023.
Planning and community input gathering is also currently underway to add a 12-acre plot of land adjacent to the park site to the overall airport park scheme.
Neither a final plan for the park nor a timeline for construction have been released by city officials. For more information, see the Airport2Park website.