By Jonathan Friedman
May 26, 2017 -- The City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday in favor of a plan to reduce the size of the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) runway by removing both ends for a total of about 1,500 feet.
But there are people on both sides of the SMO debate who are unhappy with the move.
Work on the project will begin in September and is expected to be finished by December.
City staff says the shortening of the runway will reduce airport traffic by about 44 percent because larger jets will no longer be able to use it.
The shortening is a key feature of the agreement signed earlier this year between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to close SMO at the end of 2028 ("City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028," January 28, 2017).
Airport supporters do not like that the facility will close, nor are they happy about the runway being shortened.
Dave Hopkins, vice president of the Santa Monica Airport Association, told the council that the basis for shortening the runway is “fundamentally flawed.”
“The City’s efforts to strangle businesses in our municipal airport and push for closure without any honest evaluation of the pros and cons of this important issue is poor public policy and clearly against the public interest,” Hopkins said.
Several of the speakers who want the runway shortened were bothered by the selection of the removal area. They wanted the removal to be on one side rather than both sides equally.
Jacqueline Hamilton, field officer for U.S. Rep. Karen Bass whose district includes an area next to the airport, said the section adjacent to her district should be removed.
“It does feel as though the residents outside the City of Santa Monica have been bearing some disproportionate impacts from the airport for a very long time,” Hamilton said.
She continued, “And it feels as though those impacts will continue to be disproportionate.”
No actual pavement will be removed to shorten the runway. The project instead involves re-striping and other reconfigurations. Doing more would require an environmental impact review.
The council asked staff to begin studying “all options,” which could include asphalt removal, “as soon as possible.” But that is not fast enough for some of the anti-airport activists.
“If the asphalt is not taken out, this [agreement between the City and the FAA] becomes a total scam, a fraud and a trick and a swindle,” said Alan Levenson from No Jets Santa Monica Airport. “The asphalt has to come out.”
While the City is moving forward with the plan to shorten the runway and eventually close the airport, it is also fighting legal moves to stop both actions from happening (“Pro-Santa Monica Airport Aviation Group Finds Encouraging News in Court of Appeals Rejection,” May 10, 2017).