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Airport Visioning Phase 2 Finale Reflects Unease

Consultant and city staff's summaries of Phase 2 acknowledge that distrust of the process continues just ahead of final reports to the City Council.

In Phase 2 of the , two notable themes have emerged, beyond opinions about what to do with airport itself.

For one, many area residents don't trust the city to do what the public wants with the site. In part, that's because they perceive the City Council as pro-development, more concerned with raising revenue than , which according to some, includes pollution and noise, and uncaring about residents outside the city limits.

And second, city staffers continue to warn that or severely curtail its flight operations will result in long, expensive, litigation that may end with no changes.

The feeling of distrust, along with myriad suggestions for changing the airport and its operations, emerged from the 32 focus group sessions of about a dozen people each that were organized by the consulting firm MIG.

Some participants thanked the city for creating the visioning process. But MIG's 97-page summary also says significant numbers questioned parts of the process.

One target was the economic report by the HR&A consulting firm in Phase 1 of the project, which concluded that airport-based businesses pump millions of dollars into the economy, more than offsetting the airport's operational deficit. The Airport Commission, an advisory body to the City Council, has also criticized the HR&A report for not differentiating between aviation-related and non-aviation businesses. The airport budget, too, lumps all businesses together in reporting airport-generated revenue.

Some group participants support having a permanent airport ombudsman who would address residents' concerns in a timely manner.

Distrust also has been voiced by those in the aviation community. Some believe the city is misleading anti-airport factions simply by allowing them to think the airport might close in 2015 or that it could be replaced, for example, by a park.

In response, the city staff's Phase 2 summary says its staff has already moved to improve transparency and "looks forward to doing more."

The summary says the staff "has met, repeatedly, with community groups and members... representatives of aviation groups, airport business owners and various groups within the Federal Aviation Administration to hear concerns and seek solutions.''

Additionally, staffers support holding two more public workshops during the third and final phase to report progress and to get further public input.

Staffers say some legal effort might result in reducing the airport's negative aspects. But they warn, as they have before, that efforts to close the facility would be long and costly—factors that would not affect the FAA. The report makes it clear the staff wants the city to find middle ground.

"In such a situation, where uncertainties loom large, it may be possible to reach a compromise in order to obtain... a mutually acceptable (if less than perfect) resolution or at least an extended period of peace," the report concludes.

The city staff summary and the MIG summary of the focus group themes will be presented May 8 to the City Council, formally ending Phase 2 of the visioning process.

Visit smovisioning.org and follow the prompts to read both the city and MIG summaries in full.

Marlene May 05, 2012 at 02:56 PM
This is the same thing that happened with Bergamont Station and the maintenance yard. They put the maintenance yard in a residential district instead of where it should be, in a industrial-commercial area because of the city being threatened by rich lawyers if they didn't bow to them and do as they say. Pathetic Santa Monica board, shame on you.
Greg Fry May 05, 2012 at 03:50 PM
The article states that "any attempt to close the airport or severely curtail its flight operations will result in long, expensive, litigation that may end with no changes." The obverse to that is that if the airport DOES NOT shut down or have its operations severely curtailed, the end result will ALSO be a long, expensive litigation that will drain its resources! Local residents as well as all those concerned with safety of all airport operations with its too-short runway will pursue all legal means to bring an end to this dangerous white elephant!
cpezz May 05, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Pathetic Santa Monica board, shame on you. +1
Chuck Mason May 05, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Hmmm, good point, Greg. Anything that drains the treasure chest of the S.M. kleptocracy is OK w/ me!
an interested observer May 09, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Good try Greg, but citizens suing the city to remove a chartered airport isn't going to result in a lengthy trial. Legally, it is a non-starter. All you have to do is research what other cities have faced trying to do the same thing. ALL these suits were thrown out and again on appeal.

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