SANTA MONICA—On December 20 it was announced that the Santa Monica City Council took a large step forward in the process of closing the Santa Monica Airport, approving an agreement with Sasaki Inc. to assess the existing site conditions, gather public input and propose options for the future of the airport land centered around a “Great Park” consistent with Measure LC.
Santa Monica is planning to hire a new principal design and planning manager dedicated to the project, pending Personnel Board approval in January 2024. With Sasaki and additional staff resources, the Airport Conversion Planning Project is expected to kick off in early 2024.
“Having been a Recreation and Parks Commissioner for almost 14 years, I believe that our city needs more park space,” said Mayor Phil Brock. “I am impressed by Sasaki and look forward to kicking off the process in bringing a great asset to our community.”
According to a press release, Sasaki will lead research and outreach efforts with the public in five distinct phases, wrapping up with a preferred alternative going to the Santa Monica City Council at the end of 2025.
-Phase 1 Charting the Course: Sasaki and staff will conduct extensive review of background materials to produce a summary and analysis that lays out a clear framework for the process. This includes looking at policy documents, historical and cultural resources and gathering information on the environmental, cultural and planning opportunities and limitations for the site, as well as the community’s initial needs and desires.
-Phase 2 Discovering the Place and Setting the Stage: This phase involves a comprehensive assessment of the current environmental conditions, transportation and infrastructure, natural and cultural resources and regulatory frameworks related to the airport site. Sasaki will also explore options for funding strategies for a proposed project and create a draft of the guiding principles. These principles will be the basis for the planning scenarios of Phase 3 and will go before the City Council for comment before moving to the next phase.
-Phase 3 Defining the Future of Place: Sasaki will work with the community to explore and test various scenarios for the future of the airport land, generating alternatives that are environmentally sound, financially viable, and programmatically feasible and closely align with the established guiding principles for the “Great Park” but explore different emphasis and organization of those principles. This work culminates in the preferred scenario that considers the previous information, community input, and City Council approval to date.
-Phase 4 The Path Ahead: The team will develop a detailed strategy for a phased implementation of the preferred alternative from Phase 3, while also considering innovative ways to initiate on-site activations from day one of city possession of the airport land on Jan. 1, 2029. This proposal would be presented to the City Council for review and approval.
-Phase 5 Preferred Scenario Plan Vision Book: Following City Council approval of the preferred alternative, Sasaki -will compile a comprehensive document comprised of the research data, reports, community outreach sessions, and the scenario planning alternatives as well as the details of the preferred plan and next steps for implementation.
During each phase, Sasaki, in partnership with city staff are set to host more than 60 meetings and listening sessions with the community, city boards and commissions and the city council in various formats.
The 227-acre airport property, which was once a park, represents nearly five percent of the Santa Monica’s total land area. The city has obtained authorization to close the airport for aviation uses after December 31, 2028, and passed a resolution in 2017 codifying that plan.
The property is subject to voter-approved Measure LC, which restricts development on the airport property to only allow parks, public open spaces and public recreational facilities and the maintenance and replacement of existing cultural, arts and educational uses.
For more details, review the staff report or watch the Santa Monica City Council discussion.