Parts of the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) runway will be removed this summer, almost two years after City Council decided to replace the excess pavement with a grassy area.
The airport will be intermittently closed to aircraft this summer as construction workers remove pavement from both sides of the runway between June 16 and Sept. 6. The runway was shortened to 3,500 feet in 2017 after the City of Santa Monica entered into an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to close the airport by 2028, but the parts of the runway pilots no longer use have not yet been removed.
The agreement settled years of litigation between the City and the FAA over whether the airport should be closed and turned into a park. The City and local groups like Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP) argue that the airport is too noisy and pollutes surrounding neighborhoods, while the FAA and the Santa Monica Airport Association (SMAA) maintain that it provides economic benefits and would serve as a conduit for supplies in an emergency.
The removal of excess runway marks the first permanent change to SMO. For those who support closing the airport, it’s a necessary step that’s been a long time coming.
“The City said it would be done right away after the consent decree was signed in 2017,” said CRAAP director Martin Rubin.
While the FAA has approved the project, the airport association and some local pilots are not letting the runway go without a fight. SMAA has continued to speak against the project at Council meetings and circulated a video this spring asking airport supporters to do the same. They call the $3.5 million project a waste of City funds and say the reduced length of the runway endangers pilots.
“(The) expensive … project will destroy valuable transportation infrastructure with zero public benefit,” the association said in the video.
Sully-Miller Construction, the City’s contractor, will perform the work in five phases. SMO will be closed to all aircraft operations during construction hours. Residents should expect noise from the site, but the City will monitor noise levels each day to ensure compliance with the local law on construction noise.
The excess pavement will be replaced with dirt and mulch that has been sprayed with plant seeds and fertilizer. The seeds will grow drought-tolerant plants and grasses native to Southern California that comply with FAA guidelines that require them to be low-growing and to not attract wildlife, according to the City.
Phase 1: 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. from June 16 to July 5, except for the July 4 holiday
Phase 2: 24 hours per day from July 8 to 11
Phase 3: 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. from July 14 to Aug. 2
Phase 4: 24 hours per day from Aug. 5 to 8
Phase 5: 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. from Aug. 11 to Sept. 6