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Santa Monica City Council votes to close airport — as soon as it's legally possible

The city of Santa Monica wants to shut down its municipal airport
Ken Scarboro/KPCC
File: The Santa Monica Airport

The Santa Monica City Council voted 7-0 to close the city's airport as soon as legally possible on Tuesday, despite 34 public commenters who largely expressed their desire for the airport to stay put — and the fact that this is their third attempt to shut down the airport, according to the L.A. Times.

The city owns the 227 acres of land that the airport sits on, but the FAA says that federal agreements require the airport to be kept open until at least 2023, according to the Times. The FAA ruled earlier this month, once again, that the airport has to be kept open — it's a requirement of a federal grant it received in 2003.

Santa Monica faces several additional legal challenges, according to the Times. One trial set for August 2017 aims to free the airport from its obligations so that it can be shut down. 

City Manager Rick Cole addressed council members at Tuesday's meeting, saying that the resolution to close the airport would be a historic step forward for the city. 

“It is not the first step, nor will it be the last in the journey towards local control of Santa Monica Airport," Cole said. 

The city's senior adviser on airport affairs Nelson Hernandez laid out the airport's impact, arguing that the airport adversely impacts the local environment with noise and air pollution, as well as posing a threat to public safety.

“The City Council has decided that the airport is basically antiquated and it no longer is a community asset,” Hernandez told KPCC.

The council's resolution directed Cole's office to implement measures designed to reduce the airport's negative impact. They include designing a park to replace the airport, ensure that modern safety protocols are in place at the airport and phasing out the use of leaded fuel in aircrafts that fly there, Hernandez said. 

The city manager's office was also directed to file a petition with the Federal Aviation Administration to shave the runway by 2,000 feet. Hernandez said that piece of land isn't part of any federal obligation. 

Another reason for the council to adopt the resolution, according to Hernandez: It would reflect what the residents of Santa Monica voted for on a 2014 ballot. The measure was intended to give the City Council the power to make decisions regarding the fate of the airfield and received 60 percent of the vote, the L.A. Times reported. The measure only allows the space to be used for parks, open space or recreational facilities.

However, most of those who spoke during public comment opposed the resolution. One Santa Monica resident used his public comment to state that he believed there wasn't a real reason to shut it down — except for special interests in the land. Other commentators, some of whom were pilots, used the time to say that the airport was a beloved space in the city.