A photo showing an empty six-acre plane parking lot at the southeast corner of Santa Monica Airport (photo by Michael Brodsky via Airport2Park)
A photo showing an empty six-acre plane parking lot at the southeast corner of Santa Monica Airport (photo by Michael Brodsky via Airport2Park)

Santa Monica could see an addition of new park space now that a six-acre lot at the southeast corner of the municipal airport has been cleared of plane parking.

“I am glad to report the aircraft have been removed from the parcel,” said Nelson Hernandez, senior adviser to the City Manager for Santa Monica Airport Affairs.

“Some aircraft 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 aircraft,” he said.

The six-acre plot of land is directly adjacent to Airport Park and plans are in the works for the former plane parking lot to be turned into an expansion of the four-acre greenspace, which includes a playground, a sports field, a picnic and grilling area, and an off-leash dog park.

“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, a former Recreation and Parks Commissioner and spokesperson for Airport2Park, a nonprofit organization formed to advocate for the eventual conversation of century-old airport at the southeast edge of Santa Monica into a park.

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In late January, the City Council tapped landscape design firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH) to oversee the process of turning the parking lot into a park, which is estimated to take about three years, according to the staff report.

According to a press release by Airport2Park, the closure of the six-acre parcel to use for plane parking also “will immediately reduce the capacity to maintain aircraft at Santa Monica Airport by about 20 [percent,” which the organization celebrated as a step toward “noise and pollution” from the airport.

While to long-term future of the airport still remains in limbo — for more in-depth analysis, you can read columnist and long-time Santa Monica resident Frank Gruber’s take — voters recently approved an initiative that affirmed the City Council’s control over the 227 acres of city-owned land upon which the airport sits. In 2014, Measure LC soundly defeated the aviation industry-backed Measure D which would have undermined the Council’s authority over the land by requiring a popular vote for even the most minor changes of use to the land.

While Measure LC reaffirmed the Council’s authority, it did so with the caveat that there would still need to be a public vote if there was any attempt to increase the intensity of land use at the site above that of park and recreation activities. [Note: Santa Monica Next took an editorial position in favor of LC and in opposition to D. You can read that here.]

In a recent press release put out by Airport2Park, the organization also noted last week’s Council decision to include an expansion of Airport Park in a list of its priority park projects in its report the Los Angeles Countywide Comprehensive Parks & Recreation Needs Assessment Report.

“This report will be the basis for a potential Los Angeles Countywide Parks Bond Measure that may earmark County funds to support much needed park expansion on former airport aviation land,” the release said.

In August 2015, the City Council convened an extraordinary Sunday meeting to prioritize goals for the city over the next five years. Among those priorities was included closing the Santa Monica Airport, a battle which the city has been fighting for decades.

This week’s announcement of the closing of the six-acre parcel to airport parking has its origins in an agreement the city struck with the FAA in 1984. That agreement required the city maintain 12 acres — half of which was the plane parking parcel — open to aviation uses until July 2015.