The present day question: What came first, Santa Monica Airport or the neighboring homes? The flawed argument that Santa Monica Airport was here first is crude and imperfect. Records indicate that in 1919 the first flights were by pilots who, in early WWI biplanes, used the site as an informal grass landing strip. Over the next twenty years, the site was used primarily by the Douglas Aircraft Company along with some general aviation, sport, and movie flying activities. Dates stamped in the concrete sidewalks indicate that homes were being built in the Los Angeles neighborhood of North Westdale back as early as 1928.
In1929, the Douglas Aircraft Company completely moved to the site. Housing was built in both Los Angeles and Santa Monica to accommodate Douglas Aircraft employees, and adjoining roadways were built to accommodate the housing demand.
The Airport grew to its present 227 acres during the time when the Federal Government leased the Airport from the City to provide protection for Douglas Aircraft. Following the end of the war - the City and the Federal Government executed an “Instrument of Transfer dated August 10, 1948” in which the Federal Government relinquished its leasehold interest in the Airport and transferred it back to the City. Prior to its transfer back to the City, the Federal Government completed the relocation and expansion of the runway and taxiway system to its current configuration.
During the 1970's Douglas Aircraft relocated to Long Beach and by September 1977 the entire Santa Monica Plant had been raised to the ground leaving only a large vacant dirt lot, and leaving the airport purely a general aviation airport.
Around 1993 to 1994 more than $10 million was spent to resurface the runway to accommodate the arrival of private jet traffic, bringing to the downwind surrounding communities a new concern – dangerous toxic emissions from thousands of private jets.
There is no arguing the fact that today, Santa Monica Airport (SMO) and the surrounding residential communities are very different than what they were.
Who can be blamed for the present day situation? I’m sure there is plenty of blame to go around.
However, come July 1, 2015, the future of Santa Monica Airport should be determined by the present situation and not be based on its history. Yes there are many legendary stories about the airport’s history. But the stories are just that - history. We need to move into the future by focusing on the present. That’s just sound logic. The city of Santa Monica will need to decide what is in the best interest of everyone, especially the Santa Monica and Los Angeles areas.
Most of the information and all the photos were taken from the Santa Monica Airport's website.