By Kate Cagle
The City Council will talk about continuing efforts to turn the Santa Monica Airport into a park at next week’s public meeting.
City leaders will discuss new rules that will allow the public to use six acres of the airport that used to be reserved aircraft parking. When the entire project is completed in 2019, Airport Park will have expanded to just over 20 acres. Design plans are currently underway to turn two, six-acre parcels of non-aviation land into more green space.
Last year, the City eliminated 73 aircraft tie-downs on the eastern side of the airport to allow the park expansion. The new rules and regulations will apply to recreational use on that section of the airport that is now mostly asphalt. The idea is that by Spring of this year, families will be able to use the open space for biking, roller hockey, or anything else that might require a lot of room.
“Really, we’re looking to just open that up for open, unprogrammed use,” said Melissa Spagnuolo, Principal Administrative Analyst for the Community and Cultural Services Department. “There isn’t a lot of open space in the City that’s not already full.”
“We’re also signaling to the City (residents) that we are taking back portions of the airport that are not used for aviation.”
Final park plans include six more acres on a western parcel that once held a small office, some metal storage hangars and parking for Barker Hanger.
Current plans for the 20 acres include a garden and green space among fenced, synthetic-turf sports fields. The Council approved plans in September of 2016 to move Donald Douglas Loop to the south and west. There will be 60 new community garden plots in the middle of the park. There will be a total of three regulation-sized FIFA fields that can be used for lacrosse or up to three soccer matches on each field at a time. The existing playground and dog park will stay in place with an additional six pickle ball courts.
The council will consider usage rules at the park to prohibit drones, kites and model airplanes. The park will be open daily from sunrise to sunset. Dogs will be required to be on a leash.
After Tuesday’s meeting, the rules will require a second reading. The City is also working on repairs to the former parking lot to make sure it’s safe as well as accessible to the disabled.
The Council has passed a resolution to close the airport by July 1st, 2018, vowing to fight numerous legal disputes from airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration who want to keep the airport up and running. For example, Atlantic Aviation is alleging that denying long-term leases to tenants is in violation of federal mandates to run the airport. The FAA says the City is required to keep the airport open through at least 2023 because of federal grant money.
City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 10 at City Hall, 1685 Main St.