Thursday, September 15, 2016

Santa Monica Airport closure should be last resort


Historic Santa Monica Airport once again finds itself in the middle of a nasty fight that never seems to end.

In an unsurprising, unanimous vote last month, the Santa Monica City Council passed a resolution calling for the closure of the general aviation airport by 2018.

But there is one major problem with that vote. Standing in the way of any closure is the powerful Federal Aviation Administration, which has ruled that the airport must remain open at least until 2023.

For years, many residents have complained about the airport’s noise, pollution and safety problems. That hasn’t always been the case.

At one time, the airport was the home of the Douglas Aircraft company. During World War II, thousands of C-47 and C-54 military cargo planes were built at Santa Monica by Douglas ,which employed thousands of workers and invigorated the city’s economy.

But after the war, the first anti-airport signs surfaced, and Douglas, frustrated by its inability to extend runways at Santa Monica, moved to Long Beach Airport.

Since then, there has been an endless series of moves to close or restrict operations at the airport. Stringent noice ordinances and curfews were passed. However, as size of private jets increased, so did the anger of anti-airport residents.

In 2014, Santa Monica voters approved Measure LC, which gives voters a chance to have a say on how airport land would be developed in case the airport closes. Many would like to see a park there.

The FAA is basing its decision to keep the airport open at least until 2023 on a $240,000 federal grant received by the city in 2003. Provisions of that grant require the airport to stay open 20 years after it was granted, the FAA says.

The city argues the 2003 grant was simply an amendment to the original, larger federal grant the city received in 1994 and didn’t change the expiration date of 2014.

It’s unfortunate that this contentious battle continues. Santa Monica Airport is critical to serving regional transportation needs.

And, if the airport closes, where would the private jets and other aircraft go? NIMBYism is at work here.

There is no easy answer to this frustrating issue, but other options to reduce problems should be explored. Closure should be only the last resort.


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