City of Santa Monica

Staff Report

Resolution of the City Council of the City of Santa Monica Implementing the Consent Decree and Authorizing All Actions Necessary to Ensure the Closure of Santa Monica Airport Effective as of Midnight on December 31, 2028, and the Shortening of the Santa Monica Airport Runway Pending Closure


Department:City Manager's Office, AdministrationSponsors:
Category:08. Administrative Item

Recommended Action

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the Council adopt the attached resolution adopting three measures to implement the February 1 Consent Decree with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Government regarding Santa Monica Airport (SMO):

1.     The City Council directs the City Manager, City Attorney and their staffs to take all actions necessary and proper to ensure that SMO will cease to operate as an airport and shall be closed to all aeronautical use forever effective as of midnight on December 31, 2028.


2.     The City Council directs the City Manager not to enter into any agreements with the FAA, or any other party, that may have the effect of requiring the City to continue to operate SMO after December 31, 2028.


3.     The City Council directs the City Manager to ensure that the City provides 30-day prior notice to the FAA of the City’s intent to initiate shortening of SMO’s runway to an operational length of 3500 feet at the earliest feasible opportunity.


Staff Report Body

Executive Summary

The recommended resolution reaffirms Council policy to close the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) as soon as legally permitted.  It gives required notice to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the City will be shortening the runway to 3,500 feet at the earliest feasible opportunity, and will close SMO to aviation uses forever at midnight, December 31, 2028, under the terms of the recently adopted Consent Decree with the FAA and the Federal Government which was effective on February 1, 2017.



The passage of Measure Local Control (Measure LC) in November 2014 and the subsequent expiration of the City’s 30-year agreement with the FAA to continue to operate SMO (as well as the disputed expiration of the 20-year Grant Assurances in 2015) have set the stage for the City of Santa Monica to definitively re-exert local control over 227 acres of land owned by the City for more than a century.


The City has vigorously disputed legal claims by the FAA and the Department of Justice that asserted that the grant assurances ran until 2023 and that the 1947 Instrument of Transfer ending the wartime lease with the Federal government required SMO to continue to be operated as an airport in perpetuity or be surrendered to the Federal government.


On August 23, 2015 the City Council selected “Reclaiming local control of Santa Monica Airport” as one of its five long-term Strategic Goals (Attachment A).  That Goal anticipated exercising the power affirmed by Measure LC to replace the obsolete aviation uses at the physically-constrained site with a great public park encompassing public open spaces and recreational facilities along with compatible cultural, arts and education uses.


Over the subsequent year, the City took a number of legal and administrative actions to assert local control and minimize adverse health and safety impacts on the surrounding community. On August 23, 2016 the City Council adopted a resolution expressing the Council’s intention to close the Santa Monica Airport to aviation use, as soon as that is legally permitted, with a goal of June 30, 2018 and, authorizing the City Manager to initiate all administrative measures necessary to implement the resolution (Attachment B).


In January 2017 the City agreed to enter into a Consent Decree with the United States of America and the Federal Aviation Administration that resolved all outstanding disputes between the parties, and relinquished all claims by the U.S. and the FAA.  The Consent Decree allows the City to close Santa Monica Airport to aviation uses forever after December 31, 2028; mandates that the operational Airport runway length be shortened from just under 5,000 feet to 3500 feet; and includes other terms governing the operations of the airport until its closure.  The Consent Decree was agreed to by the Federal Government on January 27, 2017.  The City Council gave its approval the following day, on January 28.  The Consent Decree was approved on February 1 by Judge John F. Walter of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.



City Council has previously enunciated its policy to close the airport as soon as legally permitted.  The recent Consent Decree with the FAA and the Federal Government authorizes the City to close the airport to aviation uses after December 31, 2028.  The purpose of this resolution is to reaffirm that commitment and under the terms of the Consent Decree to officially notify the FAA of the City’s intention to close Santa Monica Airport to aviation uses forever at midnight on December 31, 2028, subject only to legal compliance with the Consent Decree. The resolution also precludes the City from the future use of Federal grants that would impose operating obligations on the airport.


The resolution affirms the Council’s clear commitment not to take any actions which would create additional obligations or limits to the City’s rights of local control, including accepting any Federal funds that would involve grant assurances. Finally, the resolution gives explicit direction to the City Manager to provide the required 30-day prior notice to the FAA of the City’s determination to shorten the runway at the earliest feasible opportunity.  The City is authorized under the Consent Decree to use Airport Funds to accomplish the shortening of the runway. 


Financial Impacts and Budget Actions

There is no immediate financial impact or budget action necessary as a result of the recommended action.

Meeting History

Feb 28, 2017 5:30 PM  City Council Regular and Special Joint Meeting
draft Draft