File photo

Today, it’s just an asphalt lot but for supporters of an Airport park, that empty lot is full of promise.

All aircrafts have been removed from a six-acre storage facility at the Santa Monica Airport to make way for the eagerly anticipated expansion of Airport Park. The lot, known as the southeast parcel (adjacent to the Airport Park and Dog Park) is one of two that are earmarked for park expansion and supporters praised the clearing as a tangible sign of progress.

“I am glad to report the aircrafts haven been removed from the parcel,” said Nelson Hernandez, senior advisor to the City Manager for Santa Monica Airport Affairs, in an email. “Some aircrafts have been relocated to other areas at the airport and others self-selected alternative locations. In either case, the six acres are now free of aircrafts.”

Locals involved in the park expansion praised the news.

“It is exciting to see an empty airplane parking lot, which will soon be transformed into much needed future park space, including playing fields and possibly community gardens, for thousands to use,” said, Neil Carrey, president of the Santa Monica Airport2Park Foundation, the nonprofit that’s been formed to advocate for turning the airport into a park.

City Hall is engaged in a protracted fight over the future of the airport. The City is suing the FAA over control of the land and at the same time, multiple complaints have been filed against Santa Monica over its regulation of airport activities. The resolution of those cases will come from various courts but the expansion of Airport Park into the southeast lot is not part of the ongoing dispute.

Santa Monica regained control over the six-acre lot in 2015 with the expiration of a 1984 agreement that had stipulated the land be used for aviation purposes. The expiration of that agreement in July of 2015 allowed City Hall to repurpose the site along with a separate six-acre lot opposite the current Museum of Flying, for use as a park.

The site had space for up to 73 aircraft “tie-downs,” but only 32 were occupied when the city sent eviction notices in February of this year.

With the land now clear, attention will move to park plans, concepts and designs. Council approved $211,200 (plus a 10-percent contingency) at their Jan. 26 meeting to pay for a feasibility study and concept design by Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH). That study will analyze the full 12 acres but Nelson said any work is likely to start at the newly vacated lot.

“That’s probably phase one so they needed to be cleared out first,” he said.

An expanded airport park was one of the priorities City Hall submitted to the County last week as part of the Los Angeles Countywide Comprehensive Parks & Recreation Needs Assessment Report. Council declined to specify a multi-use sports facility at the airport in that report over fears a multi-use facility would delay the already promised park expansion.

Voters passed Measure LC in 2014, which requires airport land be converted into park space, and several speakers at last week’s meeting said expanding the park would show the City’s commitment to eventually shuttering the airport entirely.

“An additional benefit of the removal of airplane ‘tie downs’ is that it will immediately reduce the capacity to maintain aircraft at Santa Monica Airport by about 20 percent,” said an Airport2Park press release. “This move will be welcomed by neighbors in Santa Monica, Mar Vista and Venice who have been plagued with noise and pollution from the adjacent airport.”

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...