Future of Santa Monica Airport

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Attached you will find a supplemental report that was given to the City Council tonight regarding the runway shortening project. As you will note, the supplemental report is a rebuttal to a letter submitted by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) regarding the runway shortening project. The NBAA’s letter is also attached.

Essentially, the 1985 Report cited by NBAA is not relevant to current conditions and staff has not relied upon it in finding the runway shortening project is categorically exempt.

First, this outdated Report refers to a study that did not consider runway shortening to a length of 3500 feet. According to the 1985 Report, the consultant studied only the noise effects of a displaced threshold at 500 feet for landings on Runway 21 on the existing 5000 foot runway. The runway shortening project before the City Council relocates the runway thresholds, it does not allow for displaced thresholds. The two projects are not comparable. In addition, there is no data or information identifying where the noise monitoring for the 1985 Report occurred. Nor is the speculative assumption in the 1985 Report that a threshold displacement could have a detrimental impact west of the runway supported by any evidence. In fact, the 1985 Report clearly states the opposite: that noise levels were expected to decrease but to a degree that would be insignificant and less than the decibel level necessary to be noticeable to the human ear. Finally, this antiquated study was conducted over 30 years ago, and was based on a completely different aircraft fleet mix that differs from the aircraft fleet mix that would exist under the proposed runway-shortening project.

Second, the City’s consultants have prepared studies made part of the record before the City Council that demonstrate that reducing the runway to an operational length of 3,500 feet will not have a significant adverse impact to the surrounding communities, but rather would offer significant environmental benefits.

Nelson Hernandez
Senior Advisor to the City Manager
Supplemental Report to City Council
NBAA Letter to Mayor of Santa Monica and City Council - 05 19 17

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tonight the City Council voted to shorten the Santa Monica Airport runway safely. The new shorter and safer runway meets all FAA safety standards and eliminates an estimated 44% of jet operations. For more details please check out the attached media advisory.

The second document is an conceptual image of the selected design. The new runway will be shorten by 1,500 feet; approximately 750 feet from each end of the runway. To view the design download the document labeled SMO Centered Option.


Nelson Hernandez
Senior Advisor to the City Manager
SMO Centered Option
SMO Runway Shortening Media Advisory

Santa Monica Airport to close after 2028. Expansion of Airport Park moving forward.

On January 28, 2017, the City of Santa Monica and the U.S. Government, acting on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), signed a historic settlement agreement. The settlement agreement will return Santa Monica Airport to an airport serving primarily small propeller plans. The settlement agreement will lead to the eventual closure Santa Monica Airport in 2028. On February 1st, the settlement agreement was approved by U. S. Judge Walters, officially making it a consent decree. Below, you will find a quick overview of the two most important lawsuits that were resolved by the consent decree as well as FAQs. You can learn more about the expansion of Airport Park at www.santamonicaparks.org.

City of Santa Monica v U.S. Government Regarding Title to the Property

Let’s start with the most important case as it was about answering the question—who controls the land?
In 1926, the City of Santa Monica purchased the property currently occupied by the airport. The City has owned the property exclusively and continuously since 1926; this fact was never in dispute. The dispute centered on whether the City was obligated to operate the airport in perpetuity. The federal government asserted the City was obligated based on a document executed in 1948 by both parties known as the Instrument of Transfer, or IOT. The City filed a law suit in 2013 against the U.S. Government challenging the validity and meaning of the IOT. The consent decree ends the litigation. Essentially, the consent decree states that effective January 1, 2029 the U.S. Government no longer has any claim to the property.

City of Santa Monica v U.S. Government Regarding Grant Obligations

The second case centered on the length of time the City was obligated to operate the airport consistent with federal regulations.

In 1994, the City accepted a grant from the FAA in order to pay for certain airport improvements. By accepting the grant, the City was obligated to operate the airport according to FAA regulations for 20 years (ending in 2014). In 2003 the grant was amended. Based on this amendment the FAA claimed the 20 year obligation period ended in 2023; the City disagreed. Under the terms of the consent decree both parties agreed the City would operate the airport consistent with FAA regulations until 2028, thus ending the litigation. 

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Consent Decree

Q. Who are the parties to the consent decree?
A. There are only two parties to the consent decree, the U.S. Government, on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the City of Santa Monica.

Q. What affect does the consent decree have on the two federal cases?
A. The consent decree ends litigation of both cases. In other words, both parties agreed to end the lawsuits. Essentially, the federal government agreed to completely relinquish all rights to any claims it may have had regarding the airport effective December 31st, 2028. The federal government also agreed to permit the City to shorten the run by 1,500 feet to 3,500 feet. In return, the City agreed to operate the airport in compliance with federal aviation regulations until 2028. 

Q. If one of the Parties alleges a breach of the terms or conditions of this Agreement what is the remedy for resolving the dispute?
A. The exclusive venue for remedying such a breach shall be the court having jurisdiction over the consent decree—the 9th District Court.

Q. Can the City shorten the length of the runway?
A. Yes, the consent decree permits the City to shorten the runway.

Q. What is the length of the runway now and what will it be after it is shortened?
A. The existing runway length is 4,937. The consent decree permits the City to shorten the airport’s runway to an operational runway length of 3,500 feet. The 3,500 foot distance shall not include the runway safety areas that shall be constructed and maintained at both runway ends. The runway safety area may include an engineered materials arrestor system (EMAS) at the City’s option.

Q. Who pays to shorten the runway?
A. The City of Santa Monica through the general fund.

Q. For how long is the City required to operate the airport?
A. The City agrees to operate the airport until December 31, 2028, unless the Parties agree to an earlier date.

Q. Can the City close the airport on December 31st 2028?
A. If the City does not enter into future agreements with the FAA that continue to require the City to operate the airport after December 31, 2028, the City may, in its sole discretion at any time on or after January 1, 2029, cease to operate the airport as an airport and may close the airport to all aeronautical use forever, subject only to the applicable 30 day notice requirements.

Q. Does the City have the right to provide aeronautical services, known as FBO services?
A. Yes the City has the ability to exercise its proprietary exclusive right to provide aeronautical services, or FBO services, at the airport. However, the right to provide FBO services on a proprietary exclusive basis cannot be exercised until after the runway has been shortened to 3,500 feet.

Q. Is the City obligated to offer three-year leases to private companies that provide aeronautical services?
A. Yes. However, if the City elects to provide the FBO services the City may terminate the lease with a six month notice.
Supplemental FAQs

Q. What is happening to vendors and artists with locations at the airport?
A. Artists and event spaces will continue to operate at the airport. 

Q. Why did the City want to close the airport? 
A. Santa Monica voters passed Measure LC in 2014 stating that if the airport should close it should be used for parks, open space, arts, education, or culture. Anything beyond these five uses would require a vote of the people. The City is following through on the community’s wishes to turn the land into the largest park space on the westside. This transition protects the health and safety of Santa Monicans and our neighbors.

Q. How can I get involved with the expansion of Airport Park?
A. Visit www.santamonicaparks.org to see upcoming events, including the Community Engagement Kickoff Event on June 18.