How Trump Could Shake Up the Santa Monica Airport War

Peter Kiefer
Protesters gathered at the Santa Monica Airport on Feb. 4.

With an agreement in place to close the star-friendly facility by 2029, some are looking for intervention from the commander-in-chief: "I'm fairly certain that at some point he has landed one of his aircraft at Santa Monica Airport," says the president of the pro-airport faction.

Though none of the protest banners bore his name, the specter of the new president nonetheless hung over a Feb. 4 rally at the Santa Monica Airport. An agreement between the Federal Aviation Administration and the City of Santa Monica — calling for the closure of the airport by 2029 — was supposed to provide resolution, but it didn't stop hundreds of anti-airport protesters from gathering to effectively say, "This is a bum deal."

The consent decree provides for a reduction in the length of the runway, which would cut back on jet traffic and charter operations and address a primary complaint of the anti-airport faction. It also allows for the city to select its own fixed base operators, which provide services like refueling. But pro- and anti-airport factions are united in disgust with the deal — cut behind closed doors and announced abruptly with few specifics.

"Keeping the airport open for 12 more years is wrong," L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin, whose district surrounds the city of Santa Monica, said to cheers at the gathering. Some activists now are hoping that President Donald Trump, who has made infrastructure a priority, will weigh in on the fate of the 227-acre airport, regularly used by such luminaries as Harrison Ford and Angelina Jolie.

"We are pushing on the federal level to get an answer to what the Trump administration's definitive position is on this," says Christian Fry, president of the pro-airport Santa Monica Airport Association. "Donald Trump is a big user of general aviation, and I am fairly certain that at some point he has landed one of his aircraft at Santa Monica Airport. I would hope he would be a supporter."

Bonin was circumspect about potential involvement by the commander in chief. "I think there is a risk that is inherent in this 12-year timetable," he says. "Who knows who will be president then?"

This story first appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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