For the first time in the long controversy over Santa Monica Airport, the city of Santa Monica has the go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration to close the busy municipal airport. An agreement between the city and the FAA announced on Saturday allows SMO to stop being an airport after Dec. 31, 2028. The agreement requires the city to operate the airport fully until then. Santa Monica is also allowed to shorten the runway to 3,500 feet from the current 4,973 feet, a move the city says should reduce the number of jet takeoffs and landings.
“This is a historic day for Santa Monica,” said Mayor Ted Winterer. “After decades of work to secure the health and safety of our neighborhoods, we have regained local control of airport land. We now have certainty that the airport will close forever and future generations of Santa Monicans will have a great park.”
The city council in Santa Monica has voted formally to close the airport, despite divisions in the community about the airport, which dates from before 1923. If the shutdown goes through, I can’t imagine a bigger environmental impact on the Westside of Los Angeles. The noise from airplanes on the ground and in the air affects areas for miles around the field, and of course is worst in the section of Los Angeles just east of the runway and the neighborhoods of Santa Monica west of the airport boundary. There are also occasional crashes into homes, or in the case of actor-pilot Harrison Ford in 2015, into the nearby Penmar golf course.
Of course, the future impact will depend on what Santa Monica decides to do with the acreage, which basically abuts residential neighborhoods on three sides. The airport currently supports a community of aviators, flight schools and other flying services, a flying-themed restaurant, offices for lease, at least one stage and art facilities, the Barker Hangar event venue, soccer fields and a dog park.
Santa Monica Airport, originally called Clover Field, was dedicated by the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1923 and became city owned in 1926. Donald Douglas, the Southern California aviation pioneer, moved his factory there from a grass-runway airport that had been located on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard just west of 26th Street. The Douglas Aircraft Company manufactured the iconic DC-3 workhorse before, during and after World War II at SMO, which had two intersecting runways until the war, when the current single basically east-west runway was built.
During that time, the north side of the airport along Ocean Park Boulevard was dominated by the Douglas plant and services that supported thousands of aircraft workers. In 1940, Andel Adams photographed the industrial community along Ocean Park Blvd. on assignment for Fortune magazine and later donated his pictures to the Los Angeles Public Library photo collection. Douglas turned out 10,724 aircraft at Santa Monica before leaving for Long Beach, which occurred over some years and became final in 1975.