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News, Santa Monica, Santa Monica Airport

Sierra Club Supports Converting Santa Monica Airport Into A Park

Posted Oct. 14, 2013, 9:26 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

When the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Irvine, Calif., was decommissioned, it was reused as a public county park. Whether the Orange County Great Park’s conversion from an airport could ever be replicated at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) remains to be seen, but there are some who would like to see the single airstrip in the southeast corner of the City turned into a green public space.

A recently formed community group known as received support from The Sierra Group in its quest to convert SMO into a “great park.”

“The Sierra Club believes that the replacement of SMO with a great park including land for hiking and restoration of native species would not only address public health needs, but would also offer very much needed open space to the west-side of Los Angeles and Santa Monica area,” David Haake, chairman of the Sierra Club’s West Los Angeles group, wrote in a letter to the coalition.

“The Sierra Club strongly supports the ‘Airport to Park’ effort and urges the City of Santa Monica, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, California State, and Federal legislatures as well as all appropriate Federal agencies and administrations to work toward that end,” Haake added.

Sierra Club’s endorsement of the’s vision came on the heels of a community meeting the anti-SMO coalition held Oct. 3 at the Mt. Olive Lutheran Church.

No overtures have been made as to whether seeks to have SMO converted into a park similar to how the air station in Orange County was changed into a public park. However, the coalition has stated it hopes the land at SMO could become the largest public park on the Westside.

It should be noted the Orange County Great Park endured a tedious public process since the early 1990s before the City of Irvine ultimately annexed the land and entered into a development agreement with Miami, Fla., based Lennar Corporation to build neighborhoods on portions of the former air station.

According to the website, Lennar still has plans to develop homes surrounding the Orange County Great Park.

Another location often used to support converting SMO into a park is the former Meigs Field in Chicago. A former airstrip similar in size to SMO, the Chicago-owned Meigs Field was shut down by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley in March 2003.

Bulldozers were used to tear apart portions of the runway. According to news reports, 16 airplanes at the facility were left stranded there after Daley’s undercover late night operation shutting down what was once considered the busiest single-runway airport in the United States.

After the City takeover of Meigs Field, plans were put into place to convert the airstrip on a man made island along the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan into a large park.

The Chicago Tribune reported earlier this year not everything went as planned with the airport-to-park vision.

On the one hand, it was reported the airport area was landscaped with 400-some trees and 30-plus acres of prairie grass. A visitor center and a bird hospital replaced the airport terminal. Various concerts were held in the park, featuring headlines such as The Beastie Boys and Stevie Wonder, among others.

However, the Chicago Tribune reported Northerly Island, where Meigs Field was located, is still years – and millions upon millions of dollars – away from being completed.

How the space at SMO would be used in the future is contingent upon the legal status of the airport.

A Quitclaim Parcel governs the western 2,000 feet of SMO’s 5,000-foor runway. The Quitclaim Parcel expires July 1, 2015. However, some news reports indicated the FAA believes its agreement with City Hall, which was entered into in 1984, has been extended through 2023.

There is a hope by some that if City Hall eliminated the western portion of the airport, about 2,000 feet of runway (keeping 3,000 feet of runway intact) would be taken away and jets would not be able to fly in and out of SMO (a 3,000-foot runway would not be enough space for a jet to operate a takeoff or landing).

However, an Instrument of Transfer gave City Hall ownership of SMO in 1948 with the requirement that it be operated in perpetuity. Any decision to shut down SMO, it could be inferred, may result in the federal government reclaiming the ownerships stake it had in the airport prior to 1948 and possibly seek legal action against Santa Monica.

¬“When combined with adjacent Clover Park and the existing sports fields and dog-park at the airport, this would create the largest park in Santa Monica if not the entire Westside,” the coalition stated in a release, expressing hope all possible dominoes would fall out of favor with SMO’s entire aviation operation.

Adding more fuel to those who want to see SMO’s operations limited or shut down completely was a Sept. 29 crash where a twin jet engine airplane collided into a hangar on the northwest corner of the airport. The crash claimed the lives of all four people on board, including the CEO of Morley Builders.

Post a comment


Oct. 14, 2013, 12:04:26 pm

Truth said...

Right now there are some very rich real estate developers plotting and cheering the death of one of their own for now they can use it as fodder to get their hands on this valuable land. Yes it will be a park, like Park La Brea or some other tranquil name for the condos and retail space that the airport will be turned into. Santa Monica Mirror takes it's marching orders directly from advertisers so they're pushing this deal real hard.

Oct. 14, 2013, 12:15:02 pm

Mary T said...

It is possible that the Sierra Club and maybe some of the other groups have the best of intentions but that doesn't mean that they may not be duped out of this deal. How can they expect to win this valuable piece of land when they are going against very powerful money and a city council that is well known for it's huge real estate dealings?

Oct. 14, 2013, 12:21:00 pm

Criminals said...

Ex-Mayor Richard M. Daley was a criminal charged with fraud and was sued by the FAA and multiple other entities over the illegal closure of Meigs Field. Just Google his Wikipedia! So I guess Sierra Club, Santa Monica Mirror and the anti-airport groups support committing crimes as a model for getting what they want.

Oct. 14, 2013, 12:29:39 pm

Not In My Backyard said...

I'd like to have the 405 shut down and turned into a bike path. I am citing noise, pollution and dozens of car accident victims as my reasons. Please support my cause. Think of the children!

Oct. 14, 2013, 12:58:55 pm

Phil said...

Aviation interests are using over-development scare tactics to sully the park efforts. This airport sits on FEDERALLY DESIGNATED PARKLAND. The runway lies in both Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Good luck trying to get all three governments to agree to develop. Mark my was parkland before it ever became an airport, and it will be parkland once again.

Oct. 14, 2013, 1:00:29 pm

Robert H said...

I like the half-park, half-runway option. I'm all for keeping a small airport, but those jets have got to go.

Oct. 14, 2013, 1:13:05 pm

Team America said...

LAX is an even bigger problem. Let's win this one and get ourselves a real BIG park! Why stop there. We're all sick of this urban environment so why not close down all of the development in downtown Santa Monica and go back to the days when this was a sleepy little beach town. Only urban centers of commerce and tourism need an airport! Wait, you say Santa Monica is an urban center of commerce and tourism? Well then it needs an airport. Even Podunck little towns know the value of an airport for emergencies, commerce and tourism. Airports are not just for jet setters but they're not telling you that story.

Oct. 14, 2013, 1:14:20 pm

Smart said...

So you take off half the runway so that you can guarantee the next plane will over run into your back yard. Good thinking!

Oct. 14, 2013, 1:19:57 pm

D. said...

So it was a park before an airport in the 1924? So it hasn't been a park in 89 years you say? When were those houses built? I'll bet most of Santa Monica was a park back then. Oh yeah but times change don't ya know. Scare tactics! Yeah and the anti airport terrorists aren't using scare tactics with their gerrymandered "facts" and stepping on the graves of plane crash victims to prove their points. Geez, you guys take it right from the GOP political playbook. "I know you are but what am I".

Oct. 14, 2013, 1:21:28 pm

Chill Out said...

It's real easy to hate your neighbor these days.

Oct. 14, 2013, 1:30:57 pm

No place safe said...

The irony is that airport will close and then we'll have a major earthquake and there will be no place near the west side for emergency response aircraft. At least you'll have a park to set up a triage in!

Oct. 14, 2013, 1:34:44 pm

Bankman said...

Money always prevails. Whoever has the most money in this deal wins. Doesn't matter what city is where or who wants what more. Money elects politicians and sways public opinions. Money makes lies into truth. If the people who want a park have the money they'll get their park. If not the highest bidder wins. This is America and capitalism is king.

Oct. 14, 2013, 4:35:17 pm

Donald said...

There are MANY excellent examples of airports repurposed into park! Have you been to Crissy Field in San Francisco? Fabulous! It is a very simple and very low cost park that is used by THOUSANDS of people every day! Closer to home is Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley, an excellent example of multimodal park design! How about the Norma Brandell Gibbs Butterfly Park in Huntington Beach which is a local gem! All these wonderful parks are on sites of former airports that no longer served the community interests. Across the country are some truly great parks such as the Floyd Bennett Field Park. All around the world too there are airports that are being converted into parks including those very rich and important histories such as the Parque del Lago in Quito, Ecuador (a polluting airport situated dangerously in the middle of a residential neighborhood - just like here in Santa Monica,) the Berlin Templehoff Airport Park on the site of the Berlin Airlift and Centocelle Park on the site of the first airport of Rome, Italy. Many new parks are in the early stages of conversions such as Alameda Point Naval Air Station and Marine Corps Air Station Tustin. Even the Orange County Great Park and Meigs Field will be amazing when they are completed. Building a park takes time. Arguably, the greatest urban park in the country, New York Central Park took years for it to be completed and where would that city be today without it? Luckily for Santa Monica we have an excellent planning staff who just successfully launched Tongva park to rave reviews - and don't forget to come to the grand opening on Saturday, October 19, 11-4pm! We can and SHOULD make a great park here!

Oct. 14, 2013, 5:37:37 pm

Pay for it said...

Donald, who's going to pay for all this? I say the cost should sit squarely on the NIMBYs who are crying because they bought houses by the airport. Just like you say "not in my backyard" I'm not paying my hard earned money for a few of you to get a glorious park in your neighborhood. Most of us are fine with the airport contrary to the loud minority Tea Party-style anti airport groups.

Oct. 14, 2013, 5:38:24 pm

Buck said...

Great an even bigger place for bums to sleep and urinate!

Oct. 14, 2013, 5:41:14 pm

Kirk Y. said...

Nah, they Tea Parkers just want to cherry pick and not tell you how it's going to be paid for. They thought Santa Monicans could just raise taxes to 11 or 12 cents on the dollar, some of the highest in the nation. They want YOU to pay for THEIR park.

Oct. 14, 2013, 5:41:55 pm

JK said...

lol tea parkers

Oct. 14, 2013, 7:14:13 pm

Donald said...

Hmmn. Mr. Pay. So who do you think has been paying for the MONEY HUNGRY Santa Monica Airport? YOU ARE! The $1,500,000 subsidy from the general fund this year alone? YOU ARE! The $13,300,000 over the last decade? YOU ARE! How about the annual $4,000,000 below market lease rates that are garunteeded by the 1984 FAA agreement only for the aviation companies - who then sublease them at market rates for a profit! YOU ARE! What about the medical costs associated with illness of those living near the airport? YOU ARE! How about the costs to everyone for green house gasses that are effecting global warming that are burned form the 5 million gallons of mostly lead filled gasoline pumped annually at Santa Monica Airport? YOU ARE! I am glad that you like to pay for a facilty that only a few entilted pilots can use. I rather use that VERY SAME MONEY to pay for a park that everyone can use!

Oct. 14, 2013, 8:22:06 pm

JeanB said...

Donald is right. If the City just closed the airport right now and did/spent nothing to/on it but rent out the buildings to non-aviation tenants at marker rates, and allow people to use the runway as a giant walking, bike, and skate park (just like they did at Tempelhofer), they would have a net revenue gain for the City of $7 million annually. The airport is the thing that costs taxpayers money, and the residents get no benefit from it. At least lets have a park, gain $7 million a year in City revenue, and whatever else the park costs to run (if anything), we will at least get some benefit!

Oct. 15, 2013, 10:29:44 am

Yer Deceitful said...

See now we're seeing the true men behind the masks. "if we could just rent out the buildings to non-aviation tenants at market rents". SO it's agreed that the land won't just be a park! It will also include space for businesses. It's not a far stretch to knock down those icky hangers and build new mixed use buildings for residences and maybe a few retail shops. This is what is happening in downtown Santa Monica after all. You can still have a park. But you're also going to get mixed use high rise condos and retailers and perhaps a small office park to boot. Go ahead screen shot this message dated 10/15/13. I'm not Nostradamus but I see where this is headed. Big Development is building a park and it's coming to an airport near you.

Oct. 15, 2013, 10:36:16 am

Carmen said...

Cities all over the world supplement their airport because they are glad to have one. Stop saying it's just for the elite. That's like saying all banks are just for the elite. Yeah a percentage of people using it are wealthy but there are other benefits that aren't being mentioned as loud the negatives. Most people want an airport that serves their community for business, tourism and emergencies. That's why every major metro area has an airport in the 1st place.

Oct. 15, 2013, 10:40:01 am

Rob said...

If your family, especially kids are getting sick from being close to an airport then you are an irresponsible parent for buying a house that you knew was next to an airport. If your family is that sensitive then it also means the air quality in LA is not suitable for you. We're not idiots. Think of your children and stop being selfish. Get a job in Montana, pack your bags and go get some fresh air. This isn't the place for you.

Oct. 15, 2013, 10:46:08 am

You're the Tea Parkers said...

It's always 'think of the children'. Straight from the Tea Party play book. They use children as pawns for their agenda. It's a scare tactic but then they turn around and say we're using the scare tactic. 'I know your are but what am I" It's a political strategy the GOP lives by and it works real well on dolts. Well sorry to inform you that Santa Monica is full of intelligent people who think for themselves. We can't be pushed around by a minority. That's why the anti airport crowd is now referred to as Tea Parkers.

Oct. 15, 2013, 7:08:56 pm

Tree Parker NOT Tea Parker said...

Oh my. It is quite something to see the pilots sweating brinks realizing that their private subsidized aviation playground is coming to and end. Fear, doubt and misinformation seem to be your only hope now that the FAA contract is coming to and end. You had 20 years to know that the end is coming soon. Here it is. It is finally the time for Santa Monica residents to use this land for a park that benefits ALL and not just a few.

Oct. 16, 2013, 12:41:16 am

Teddy said...

The tea parkers are actually rich real estate developers that own airplanes. Just look at the fella that crashed. A rich real estate guy with a jet. They would be happy to close their own airport to build condos worth enough money for them to buy another jet and store it somewhere else. All they need to do is start campaigning to promise a park. Seems to be working beautifully.

Oct. 16, 2013, 12:42:45 am

yer tree baggers said...

lol tree baggers. even better!

Oct. 16, 2013, 12:53:04 am

Puh Leez said...

i'm not a pilot and i don't live on the west side. to me you're all rich. if you own a house, any house in west LA, muffy you're rich by most standards. if you fly your jet to weekend 4 states away, you're super rich. i think those of us looking in think you're all a bunch of sleezo whiners on both sides. i've got real problems like eating and paying bills. all you fools have to cry about is parks and shiny toys. american decadence and idiocy at it's best.

Oct. 16, 2013, 12:55:10 am

Karry said...

I think a more eloquent way to say it is the wealthy always wins. No matter what happens it will benefit The HAVES.

Oct. 16, 2013, 11:00:17 am

stewart said...

well then why didnt the sierra club just say they wanted to pay full market value for the land to begin with, and pay for all demolition costs, and then of course relocation benefits to the displaced businesses and tenants then?

Oct. 16, 2013, 1:04:01 pm

Paul L. said...

@Stewart - Because the Sierra Club is only on board for moral support and to say that "they tried". No one who is truly being honest believes this valuable land is going to be torn down, costing local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, only to be turned into park space. Somehow the city of Santa Monica doesn't know how to operate an airport that makes a profit. Incompetence or more likely corruption by the Santa Monica city council is likely the cause. If they can show the airport isn't profitable they can argue that development on the land would be. A park certainly isn't profitable. Meanwhile, most city airports are very profitable and bring in millions of dollars in revenue to their cities not to mention jobs, tourism dollars, etc. This whole thing is rigged by lobbyists for real estate development who are gifted at winding the neighborhood up with misinformation and false promises.

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