SANTA MONICA—On Tuesday, February 28, the Santa Monica City Council approved a contract to begin the shortening of the Santa Monica Airport runway, from 4,973 feet to 3,500 feet. The designs are intended to limit jet traffic, charter operations, and environmental impacts on the community.

AECOM and Aeroplex, a company that has overseen projects at LAX and JFK, was hired by the city to design and construct a shorter runway by fall. The construction is estimated to cost $4 million, and the shorter runway is expected to reduce air traffic by 40 percent.

The proposed Feasibility/Design-Build Agreement, discussed at the City Council meeting, has three phases:

  1. The initial feasibility phase, which will provide alternatives for Council consideration and future selection, and allow for compliance with applicable environmental review requirements, depending upon which alternative is selected. Phase one consists of this feasibility analysis for design alternatives.
  2. Preconstruction services including all design work necessary to develop a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP).
  3. Construction phase based upon the scope of work covered by the GMP.

The decision to close the airport was preceded by years of litigation and controversy. SMO, a general aviation reliever airport, is set to shut down in 12 years. City leaders are acting quickly to shorten the runway and work toward their goal of closure.

“I urge you to instruct the airport designers to remove the unused 1,500 feet of concrete as soon as possible,” said Commissioner Joe Schmitz in a recommendation to the Santa Monica City Council. “If you don’t, it would be possible to bring back a longer SMO and that could recreate the intensive jet operations for an indefinite time.”

An argument was raised that many factors can change in the next 12 years. City Manager Rick Cole noted that a future Council could veto the agreement in the coming years or re-open the airport after closure.

“We need to remain vigilant that the airport does close,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown.

During the meeting, the Council adopted a resolution to reaffirm its commitment to closing the Santa Monica Airport on December 31, 2028, in agreement with the terms of the Consent Decree with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Consent Decree, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on February 1, includes the following three measures:

  • Directs the City Manager, City Attorney and their staffs to take all actions necessary and proper to ensure that SMO will cease to operate as an airport and shall be closed to all aeronautical use forever effective as of midnight on December 31, 2028.
  • Directs the City Manager not to enter into any agreements with the FAA, or any other party, that may have the effect of requiring the City to continue to operate SMO after December 31, 2028.
  • Directs the City Manager to ensure that the City provides 30-day prior notice to the FAA of the City’s intent to initiate shortening of SMO’s runway to an operational length of 3,500 feet at the earliest feasible opportunity.

“The Consent Decree is clear in our right to close the airport after December 31, 2028, but we took this additional step in adopting a resolution to give our residents an even greater degree of assurance that the airport will close to aviation uses forever,” said Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer.

According to the monthly air traffic report, flights are already decreasing by 10 percent every year. The 22-acre airport will be turned into a park, with plans for hiking and cycling trails.

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