Frequently Asked Questions
Real Estate Development
Q: Will the closure of SMO result in real estate development on the land?
A: No. The City and Residents wisely voted and passed Charter Amendment LC in 2014 which prohibits any kind of development EXCEPT for public park and open spaces or maintenance of EXISTING cultural, arts, and education uses. Any other development would require a public election and approval by voters.
See – www.bit.ly/LC-Charter
Q: Will the closure of SMO result in high-rise building development in Santa Monica and the Westside of Los Angeles?
A: No. Maximum building heights are set by local city zoning and building codes. The authority to regulate building heights is 100% local and 0% federal. The purpose of FAA standards are only to identify potential airspace obstructions, not to approve or reject local building projects. The FAA standards are high in altitude. If FAA standards were used to set maximum building heights, there could be high-rise buildings all over Santa Monica and the Westside of Los Angeles today.
See – www.bit.ly/SMO-BuildingHeights
Parks and Open Spaces
Q: The Aviation Lobbyists say that the airport will never transform to a park because it will cost $1.5 billion dollars. Is this true?
A: No. First, some of the land has already been transformed to park space. Second, Santa Monica already owns all the land and would not have to pay to acquire it to transform the remaining aviation land to park. Land acquisition costs are typically the largest driver in new park costs. Third, the costs to transform the remaining aviation land to park will depend on what is designed. If more open parkland with native vegetation is designed, costs could be as little as $7.2 million. In fact, in 2017 when the runway was shortened and excess concrete was removed, AECOM completed the project and removed concrete runway and hydroseeded native plants and grasses on the land for $3.42 per square feet. The remaining runway is only 3500 feet X 150 feet. Including the Runway Object Free Area (ROFA), the concrete area is about 3500 feet X 600 feet which totals 2.1 million square feet. At a cost of $3.42 per square feet the total estimate to transform the remaining aviation are to open park space could be about $7.2 million, not $1.5 billion.
See - City Council Staff Report
See - Feasibility Report - Removal of Abandoned Pavement at SMO
Q: Must the City operate SMO as an airport forever?
A: No. This matter was litigated in Federal Court and settled with the 2017 Consent Decree. There are many reasons we know the City will close SMO:
(1) 2017 SMO Consent Decree. This January 2017 SMO Consent Decree explicitly states the City can close the SMO Airport.
See -- 2017 SMO Consent Decree
(2) 2017 SM City Council Resolution #11026. This February 2017 City Council Resolution decided Santa Monica Airport will close effective midnight on December 31, 2028.
See -- 2017 SM City Council Resolution #11026
(3) 1984 Agreement. This settlement agreement obligated the City to operate SMO until July 1, 2015.
See -- www.bit.ly/1984_Agreement
(4) FAA Part 16 Docket 16-99-21. This FAA administrative proceeding concluded that the closure of SMO after July 1, 2015 is a "local land use matter". This finding was also later affirmed on appeal.
See -- www.bit.ly/FAA-P169921a
See -- www.bit.ly/FAA-P169921b
(5) 1948 Instrument of Transfer and Surrender Agreement. This agreement only covers 168 acres of the 226 acre airport land. So, 58 acres or 25% of the airport land is not even covered by the 1948 agreement. This represents only about 2900 feet of the runway. Aviation interests falsely claim that this agreement obligates the City to operate SMO "forever" or in "perpetuity" but that language is nowhere to be found in the agreement. The other parts of the airport land aren't disputed at all. Furthermore, in May 2016 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the restrictions for airport use applied only to the land, buildings, structures, improvements, and equipment in which the instrument transferred an interest. There was no "transfer of title" for this land that leased and then surrendered by the Federal Government at the end of Word War 2.
See -- www.bit.ly/AppealsCourt
(6) CFR Part 155 and Industrial Uses. The airport can be used for industrial or light industrial purposes. Restrictions against using structures for industrial purposes in any instrument of disposal issued under section 13(g)(2)(A) of the Surplus Property Act of 1944, as amended (61 Stat. 678) are considered to be extinguished.
See – www.bit.ly/CFR155
1994 Fedral Grant
Q: Does the 1994 Federal Grant obligate the City to operate SMO as an airport until 2023?
A: No. This matter was being litigated in Federal Court and settled with the 2017 Consent Decree. Federal grant obligations cannot exceed 20 years from the date of acceptance of a grant offer for federal funds. A grant offer and acceptance for $1,607,700 happened on June 27, 1994. Payments were received by the City in multiple phases over time to match the project schedule. In 2003, an additional final amount of $240,600 (=14.965% of $1,607,700) was received from the FAA to “reflect increased costs and changed conditions which occurred during construction.” This final settlement amount was an expected adjustment at the end of the project to reflect ACTUAL COSTS as opposed to ESTIMATED COSTS. The final adjustment must be within +/-15% of the original engineering cost estimate for the project. The Airports Council International reinforced this argument stating "this case can be resolved by examining the plain language of the grant agreement and its amendment: the 2003 Amendment clearly modified the maximum financial obligation of the United States while leaving all other terms of the 1994 Grant Agreement intact, including its duration."
See – www.bit.ly/SMOgrant
See - www.bit.ly/ACI-Amicus-Brief
See - 1994 Grant Payments
Economic and Jobs Impact
Q: Will the closure of SMO result in the loss of 1500 jobs and $270 million in economic impact?
A: No. Aviation lobbyists continue to cite these dated and deceptive numbers from the City’s 2011 SMO economic study when referring to the economic impact of SMO airport. However, the Aviation lobbyists are deceptively combining both AVIATION and NON-AVIATION economic activity and then applying a multiplier. For example, the study clearly stated that only 178 jobs in 2011 were aviation-related out of a total of 1,487 jobs that were mostly unrelated to aviation. Yet the Aviation lobbyists continue to cite the 1,487 jobs number even in 2020. The City clarified that the economic impact of AVIATION on the land is minimal and similar to a “medium-sized strip mall.” In 2020, aviation employment numbers at SMO are estimated at roughly only 40 to 60 people.
See – www.bit.ly/SMO-Economics
Q: Is Aviation at SMO in financial decline at SMO?
A: Yes. Consistent with the industry trends of aging private pilot demographics, reduced aircraft operations, and overall decline in private aviation across the USA, aviation at SMO has been in severe financial decline. The City's General Fund has had to loan over $13 million to the Airport Fund to support it. The SM Airport Fund continues to be in debt today, with $5.7 million owed to the SM General Fund in 2019. In 2020, annual aviation fuel revenues are now down to about $80,000 from about $300,000 in 2015. In 2020, Annual Landing Fees are down to about $480,000 from about $1.5 million in 2015. Today, about 94.2% of SMO revenues come from leases, and a majority of the lease revenue is from non-aviation tenants such as SnapChat and TaskUs. Again, a common deceptive tactic of private aviation lobbyists is to commingle aviation and non-aviation finances to hide the financial decline of private aviation at SMO.
See -- https://finance.smgov.net/Media/Default/annual-reports/FYE2019/FYE2019-CAFR.pdf
Q: Aren’t SMO’s negative impacts limited to the few neighbors who live around the airport?
A: No. The noise, pollution, and dangers impact over 130,000 residents within a 2-3 mile radius of the Santa Monica Airport. 1,800 personally documented complaints by residents were presented to the FAA by Congressional Representatives in July 2015. A partial sample of the residents’ geographic locations have been shown on a map. Also, the U.S. Department of Transportation Noise Map visually shows the large area of noise impact across Santa Monica and the Westside of Los Angeles. Aviation accidents have occurred all over the area, killing multiple people including a person on the ground who was in his apartment in the Fairfax area.
See – www.bit.ly/SMO-Geospatial
See -- www.cnn.com/2003/US/West/06/06/apartment.fire/index.html
See -- www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-jul-06-me-fairfax6-story.html
LAX and SMO Air Traffic
Q: Will the closure of SMO result in LAX air traffic skimming low over Santa Monica and the Westside of Los Angeles?
A: No. Commercial aircraft flying to LAX from the north pass over Santa Monica at about 7,000 feet on their landing approach. The reason for this high altitude is NOT to avoid SMO airspace, which is classified as Class D and has a top elevation of only 2,500 feet. The reason is because of: (1) the aircraft’s Continuous Descent Approach (CDA), and (2) the landing path which is driven by the east-west orientation of the LAX runways. This can be watched live on LAX WebTrack.
See – www.bit.ly/LAX-Descent
Q: Is SMO a critical General Aviation airport?
A: No. SMO is not a critical General Aviation Reliever Airport. Across the U.S. 97% of aircraft operations use only 1% of the airports. General Aviation has been in severe decline over the last 30 years across the USA, Southern California, and at Santa Monica Airport. General Aviation decline is particularly sharp because there are: (a) Fewer Private Pilots, (b) Fewer GA Aircraft, and (c) Fewer GA Aircraft Hours Flown. The only growing General Aviation segments are TurboJets and TurboProps. Despite fewer Airport Operations, the national air traffic system transports more passengers, because they are traveling in larger commercial jets using hub airports. The U.S. simply has too many general aviation airports that are used less and less while most of the commercial air traffic goes to the larger hub airports. Larger commercial jets is where all the passenger traffic is going.
See - SMO General Aviation Data