Photo by John Schreiber.
Jet noise has been part of the outrage by residents near Santa Monica Airport. Photo by John Schreiber.

After decades of litigation, protests and debate, Santa Monica Airport will finally close and probably be turned into a city park — in 12 years.

But while the airport will remain open for a dozen years, a newly announced agreement allows for the single runway to be shortened immediately, reducing noisy jet operations.

Santa Monica officials called the newly unveiled deal with the federal government “historic,” while Interim City Manager Joseph Lawrence called it “unprecedented.”

“No other community in the United States has been able to achieve the closure of a fully operational airport,” Lawrence said. “The city of Santa Monica and its community has achieved that through this agreement. This agreement secures local control — it is unambiguous in that regard.”

City officials and the Federal Aviation Administration held a joint news conference Saturday at the airport to announced the agreement to shutter Santa Monica Airport on the first day of 2029 and return 227 acres of aviation land to the city for eventual redevelopment as a major park.

The agreement allows the city to close the facility any time after Dec. 31, 2028, and officials said they plan to take that action on the first possible day — Jan. 1, 2029.

The agreement ends a longstanding legal battle over the future of the airport.

The deal also provides for the immediate reduction of the airport’s lone runway from 4,973 feet to 3,500 feet, reducing jet traffic and commercial charters by up to thousands of flights over the next 10 years.

The city has been battling the federal government for years in trying to close the airport, citing traffic, noise, safety and environmental concerns.

The Santa Monica City Council voted 4-3 in favor of the consent decree, which was made with the FAA and the U.S. Department of Justice.

There have been a number of crash incidents around and at the airport, including the heavily publicized one in which Harrison Ford was injured in March, 2015 when the small plane he was piloting crashed onto a Santa Monica golf course just after taking off.

In 2014, Santa Monica voters passed a measure mandating that if the airport closes, the only permitted use of the land without a public vote would be parks, open space, recreation, education and/or cultural use.

“Mutual cooperation between the FAA and the city enabled us to reach this innovative solution, which resolves longstanding legal and regulatory disputes,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said Saturday. “This is a fair resolution for all concerned because it strikes an appropriate balance between the public’s interest in making local decisions about land use practices and its interests in safe and efficient aviation services.”

City officials said the reduction of the runway would begin immediately. Under the deal, the city also has the right to establish its own proprietary exclusive fixed based operation services.

—City News Service

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