CITY HALL — The City Council gave the green light to a study that represents the first step in a process to determine the future of the Santa Monica Airport in 2015 after its agreement with the federal government expires.

Council members approved the $79,750 contract with HR&A Associates, a Santa Monica-based firm, to examine the first phase of the three-part venture at the council meeting Tuesday.

In that first phase, the company will examine the economic impacts of the airport as it runs today, including the businesses that run on airport property and any ancillary impacts, like extra jobs or economic activity that arise from airport employees spending money locally.

The RAND Corporation and PointC will also work on the project.

It’s a complex model to build, said Airport Director Bob Trimborn, but necessary to have a clear picture of how the airport fits within the community.

“We’re going to rely on them to help us create the process for the vision of the future of the airport,” he said. “It’s an art form, but its also very specific on what you need to do.”

The study is expected to take eight months. Once compiled, the information will be used as a launching point for several months of public meetings in order to build an image of what the citizens of Santa Monica want out of the airport in the future.

According to the staff’s report to the council, the results of phases one and two will be brought back before the council in February 2012 for consideration.

The airport has never undergone such a thorough analysis in its long history, Trimborn said.

“It’s been here since 1917,” he said. “It’s one more chapter in its 100 years.”

The post 2015-era holds great significance for both supporters and detractors of the airport.

City officials believe it could be the year that it will regain a measure of control over the fate of the airport, which is otherwise heavily controlled by agreements with the FAA.

Other citizen groups hope for drastic changes.

Marty Rubin, of the Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, was invited to participate in the process.

His group has expressed concerns about the effects of the pollution generated by the airplanes on people living in homes adjacent to the airport.

The scope of the study leaves room for a variety of opinions to be aired, including the possibility of shutting down the airport altogether, which Rubin believes would benefit Santa Monica both in economic and environmental terms.

“To me, it seems like a no-brainer, but we’ll see what the studies come up with,” Rubin said.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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