SANTA MONICA, Calif. – At Tuesday's meeting, the Santa Monica City Council voted to approve the process to determine the future of Santa Monica Airport (Airport). The years-long process to reimagine a community preferred alternative for the future of the Airport includes a coordinated series of technical, outreach, and advanced planning activities to better understand the potential for the land to accommodate new uses, programs, and services that are desired by residents.
"This is the very beginning of a community process to reimagine the Airport site, which accounts for an unprecedented 4.3% of the City’s land,” said Mayor Gleam Davis. “We know this is an asset Santa Monicans care about and we want to work together to set goals and priorities to meet diverse community needs for the next several generations.”
The City is in the unique position to begin this process due to a “Consent Decree” reached in 2017 with the Federal Aviation Administration that returns the Airport to local control after December 31, 2028, with Council action. The potential to close the Airport sets the stage to extensively plan for the future of the 227-acre parcel, and to invite community participation in designing what may be the greatest transformative event of this century for the City of Santa Monica, and perhaps the region.
Measure LC, that was passed by Santa Monica voters in 2014, permits the City Council to approve the development of parks, public open spaces, and public recreational facilities, and the maintenance and replacement of existing cultural, arts, and education uses on the land. New development is prohibited on Airport land permanently closed to aviation use unless voters approve limits on the uses and development that may occur on the land.
Substantial technical background work, public outreach, and scenario planning will be necessary to help the Council and the community understand the best way to evolve the use of the land. Thus, City Council approved staff’s recommendation to embark on a multi-year community planning effort to weigh and evaluate the many opportunities and challenges and to create a comprehensive but flexible roadmap for the eventual resident-supported transformation of the site that is socially just, culturally rich, financially self-sustaining, and ecologically restorative.
City Council confirmed values that establish a standard for the Airport conversion process, foundational goals of sustainability and resiliency for the future of the Airport, and goals for an inclusive community space centered around the concept of a Great Park and supporting land uses. With these goal sets established, City Council approved the proposed scope of work, which includes a multi-lingual community outreach plan, to determine a community preferred alternative for the future of the Airport and support the City’s interest in identifying a preferred planning scenario. The goal sets and scope of work are outlined in the staff report.
As part of the process Council approved last night, the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) will be issued in early 2023 that solicits interest from qualified firms or multi-disciplinary teams to assist the City in developing a public-facing process to engage the community on the potential conversion of the Airport. The RFQ will allow staff to evaluate the merits of each firm or team against an established criterion, prior to requesting detailed proposals. A shortlist of qualified firms or teams will be established through this evaluation and shortlisted candidates will later be invited to submit detailed process and cost proposals for the project.
The subsequent Request for Proposal (RFP) will follow the RFQ evaluation and will involve input from the community so that residents and other stakeholders have the opportunity to articulate their interests in how the planning process is shaped from inception. With Council approval, staff will meet with Boards and Commissions, neighborhood groups, business-related interests such as local business improvement districts/merchants’ associations, the Chamber of Commerce, and Santa Monica Travel and Tourism, and other interested parties to preview the project process and help shape the RFP into a detailed expression of community interest, concerns, and other factors that are important to Santa Monicans. The RFP is anticipated for release in late Spring 2023, which provides for several months of outreach following the release of the RFQ. It is anticipated that the selected firm or team will be identified by early fall 2023, pending Council approval, with project initiation to commence in winter 2023/2024.
- Consultant Selection: Summer 2023
- Project Initiation: Winter 2023
- Existing Conditions: Spring 2024
- Scenario Planning (Preferred Scenario Approved): Spring/Summer 2026
- Specific Plan Initiation: Fall/Winter 2026
- Consent Decree Airport Closure Authorization: Winter 2028
- Specific Plan Adoption: Fall 2028-2033 or beyond
Written by: Constance Farrell