City Hall is facing growing legal disputes over the future of the Santa Monic Airport but courtroom drama isn’t delaying plans to expand park space on the property.
Council approved conceptual plans for a 12-acre park expansion last week that will expand the number of fields, increase community garden plots and provide non-sport uses near the existing Airport park.
Santa Monica has reclaimed control of two six-acre parcels adjacent to the current park and three designs were presented for public review recently. However, the plans approved this week were a fourth, hybrid option, that combined the most popular elements of the three previous drafts.
“Based on the Council directive to maximize sports fields, community input, and the
recommendations of the Recreation and Parks Commission, the design team reexamined
the initial concept schemes and developed a new hybrid concept balancing
active recreation amenities including fields and play spaces, with landscaped less
formal areas and organized to facilitate further expansion of the park in the future,” said the staff report.
The approved design has three synthetic turf sports fields, relocates Donald Douglas loop to create an undisturbed park, adds 60 new community gardens in a more central location and adds significant natural landscaping.
“The hybrid concept supports spaces for sports viewing, children’s play spaces, native meadow habitat to capture and treat site storm water, shaded picnic areas, and strolling gardens,” said the report.
Councilwoman Gleam Davis said the public outreach process included many individuals who were unfamiliar with the City’s larger desire to close the airport. She said the final design won’t be all things to all people but said there will be more opportunities for additional kinds of uses as the City works towards transforming more of the airport land into parks.
“They didn’t understand this was the initial step in a much larger plan to reclaim the entirety of the airport land so there was some confusion that this was all we were going to do and divert it to field space, so we were able to explain, no, this was step one in what will hopefully be very many more reclamation steps in reclaiming land from the airport,” she said.
Councilman Kevin McKeown said he’d like future revisions to the plan to account for changes in parking needs. He said he didn’t want to simply replace the former aircraft parking with spaces for cars.
“As we work on the design I think it’s really important that we continue to look at the changing needs of parking because by the time this gets built, it won’t be too long, there will be shifts in how people drive,” he said.
Staff said the parking requirements are sufficient to meet the needs of the park, but not excessive.
Public speakers were strongly in favor of the plans.
Neil Carrey, President of Santa Monica Airport2Park Foundation said the park has become a focal point for locals.
“It’s really needed by the community and the community is talking about it and this is something that everyone wants,” he said.
Several youth sports advocates praised the design for creating multiple full-size fields that will allow several different sports to potentially host tournaments.
AYSO regional commissioner Lance Zuckerbraun, praised the timeline.
“I want to thank each and every one of you for your efforts here on this project, and really, it’s incredible to see the community come together and the speed which this is happening because typically government slows things down but I see you guys are all involved in making this happen as fast as possible,” he said.
Next steps for the park include preparation of environmental documents, a return to council this year with guidelines for interim public use and final approval with construction in 2018.
While the city is embroiled in ongoing disputes over the future of the Santa Monica Airport, the 12-acres recently reclaimed are not subject to the extended controversy and ongoing legal disputes are unlikely to jeopardize the proposed 12-acre expansion.
BY MATTHEW HALL