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Federal Judge Approves Santa Monica Airport Closure Deal  

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

February 3, 2017 -- The countdown to Santa Monica Airport’s (SMO) closure can officially begin after United States District Court Judge John F. Walter on Wednesday approved the agreement between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to shut down the facility December 31, 2028.

The agreement has not been universally celebrated even among SMO foes, but interim City Attorney Joseph Lawrence put a positive spin on it in a City press release (“Reaction to Santa Monica Airport Closure Deal Mixed,” January 30, 2017).

“The Court reviewed the agreement and confirmed what we and the [FAA] know to be true--that the settlement as a whole is fair, reasonable and adequate to all concerned,” Lawrence said.

He added, “The hard work of improving people's lives now begins. The future of Santa Monica and west Los Angeles will likely forever be far different than most thought possible just a few weeks ago. This is a remarkable and historic achievement.”

Among the features of the agreement is the immediate reduction of the runway length from nearly 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet. The City says the council will award a contract for that work at its February 28 meeting.

“We have an aggressive timeline to shorten the runway to decrease jet traffic as well as implement enhanced security measures, a Fixed Base Operation service to replace private operators and revised procedures for fining and ultimately banning repeat noise violators,” Mayor Ted Winterer said.

He continued, “We will tackle each of these in the safest and most expeditious way.”

In addition to selecting a bidder for the runway work, the council on February 28 will vote on “a resolution to formally notify the FAA and the court that Santa Monica Airport will be closed to aviation forever at midnight, December 31, 2028.”

While that statement in the City press release gives a feeling of enthusiasm, it is highly unlikely that will be the full sentiment in council chambers when the vote is taken.

Community support for the agreement is divided, and that division includes the council dais, where the deal was approved by the narrowest of possible votes--4-3.

Among the detractors was Kevin McKeown, who said by agreeing to the settlement, the City “snatch[ed] defeat from the jaws of victory,” because even the FAA suspected the City would win in court, which he said was proven by the federal agency’s willingness to negotiate.

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