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City Halts Landscape Crews' Move to Airport
By Jorge Casuso
November 26, 2019 -- The City will halt work on an $800,000 project to relocate the parks maintenance crews to Santa Monica Airport after neighboring residents vocally opposed the move, the City Manager announced Monday.
In his weekly report to City Councilmembers and staff Monday, City Manager Rick Cole said the City would heed the Airport Commission's recommendation last week and undertake a public process at the start of next year.
"While work is underway to complete the utility upgrade work and close the open trench, we have conveyed that no further work will be done pending an announcement of next steps," Cole wrote in his “Monday Report” to his staff, Councilmembers and department heads.
The process will include a letter to neighbors, a notice to the press and an Information Item to the Council "either right before or right after the Thanksgiving holiday," Cole said.
"We will be apologizing for the lack of a formal process to consult with neighbors," Cole said in his email.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who forwarded the email late Monday to residents who had contacted him about the relocation, said the Council had not been involved in the decision.
"Since resident protests began, the Council has been given some information, but we haven’t been part of the decision-making," McKeown told the Lookout.
Cole's email comes a week after the Airport Commission unanimously backed residents' calls to block the City's Public Landscape Division from moving to the airport ("Residents, Airport Commission Try to Block Relocation of Parks Landscape Crews," November 22, 2019).
Residents who live near the proposed hangar where the heavy equipment will be stored and rolled out early every morning have complained the decision was made without public input.
They also worry the relocation will not be "temporary," as staff has said, and could last until the Airport closes at the end of 2028.
On Tuesday, Zina Josephs, president of Friends of Sunset Park, whose boundaries include the airport, greeted Cole's announcement with cautious optimism.
"It's very gratifying to know that the city will finally be doing the right thing when it comes to public process for this project," Josephs wrote in an email to the Lookout.
"It's never made sense, from the residents' point of view, to sandwich an industrial use in between homes, a preschool, and a park and play field."
"I'm concerned about waiting until after the first of the year to undertake such a process, as I understand Public Works is under a time constraint to get a new Public Landscape Maintenance facility up and running by January 20th."
Alan Levenson, an airport activist and vocal critic of the move, remains skeptical.
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