Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

The city of Santa Monica has halted plans to relocate its parks maintenance crews to the Santa Monica Airport after neighbors said the heavy equipment will generate noise and pollution near their homes.

The parks maintenance crews currently store their trucks and equipment at Colorado Yards, a site adjacent to Memorial Park. The city planned to move the crews to a hangar at the airport while Memorial Park undergoes a renovation through the mid-2020s and eventually relocate much of the equipment to City Yards after construction there ends around the same time.

But after the Airport Commission sided last week with residents who said the city had decided to relocate the equipment without soliciting public input, officials said the $800,000 project next to Clover Park has been put on hold. 

City spokesperson Constance Farrell said the city will acknowledge in a forthcoming letter to residents that it failed to adequately consult with the Airport Commission and nearby neighbors in shifting the parks maintenance crews to the Santa Monica Airport to facilitate the renovation of Memorial Park. 

Farrell said City Manager Rick Cole and Public Works Director Susan Cline acknowledge the error and will recommend to the city council that staff initiate a collaborative process with residents to address concerns after the first of the year. With council authorization, staff will consult with the Airport Commission to determine the appropriate scope and schedule of the public process, Farrell said. 

In the meantime, work on the project has stopped and workers are restoring utilities and repaving all trenches to secure the site and the public right of way. 

“We look forward to developing a workable plan for relocating (the parks maintenance crews) by the end of 2020 so that we can deliver a new Memorial Park and maintain parks citywide,” Farrell said.

Mayor Gleam Davis wrote in an email to residents that she will support finding another location for the parks maintenance crews if a suitable site is available.

In the resolution the Airport Commission unanimously adopted last week, commissioners said relocating the parks maintenance crews to the hangar would harm residents who live nearby and use the adjacent Clover Park.

“Public comment at two meetings reflected unanimous opposition to this project,” the resolution said. “The commission feels that the residents’ concerns have not been addressed by the city, and the fundamental lack of democratic process is deeply troubling.”

The resolution said the city council alone has the authority to regulate the use of the airport, according to local law, and the council never directed staff to relocate the parks maintenance crews to the airport.

“This project should not proceed without city council direction and approval,” the resolution said. “Therefore, the Airport Commission strongly urges the city council to put this project on hold, and instead follow a transparent, public process to find a more suitable location, with the consideration of long-term planning for the entire airport land and facilities.”

Alan Levenson, a nearby resident, said neighbors noticed construction taking place between Clover Park and Clover Street on airport property and asked city staff what was going on. When staff did not answer residents’ questions, one individual filed a California Public Records Act request that revealed the plans to relocate the parks maintenance crews. Residents said the city never held public hearings for the project and failed to inform them that it was in works.

They also said they doubt that the project is temporary, given that city staff previously said there was no suitable site at City Yards for the parks maintenance crews.

Shortly before the Airport Commission took up the matter last week, city staff said they had started loading equipment in the late afternoon instead of the early morning to avoid waking up neighbors.

But residents maintain that the site should not be located near homes.

“This action is disrespectful of residents and unacceptable,” Levenson said. “Would you be O.K. with a Public Works Department across the street from your home?”

madeleine@smdp.com

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3 Comments

  1. Great news. My family recently moved to Sunset Park and every day we walk across a quiet residential street with our toddler daughter and dog to go to Clover park. This street is where tens of dozens of trucks would be traveling multiple times daily infecting our quiet residential neighbor and route to the playground and soccer with noise, pollution, and safety hazzards.

  2. First the city caved in to the buyers remorse neighbors and closed our gem of an airport. Now they get to pick and choose what goes in it’s place and the city has no say?
    Wow. Why don’t we just let them start their own city?

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