By Gary Walker

In a long-anticipated move, the Santa Monica City Council voted Tuesday night in favor of closing Santa Monica Airport as soon as legally permitted, hoping to do so by July 1, 2018.

“Through our unanimous vote, the council demonstrated our commitment to stop the harmful impacts the airport has on our community. Transitioning our land into a ‘great park’ is the single most transformative action this council can take,” Mayor Tony Vazquez said after the vote.

Local advocacy group Airport2 Park has been lobbying the city to transform land currently occupied by airport-related businesses into a city park.

The council also voted to authorize City Manager Rick Cole to put in place a policy that will replace private airport-related businesses with city services.

But closing the airport is not a done deal.

The city’s attempts to take control of the airport have been repeatedly rebuffed. On Aug. 16 the Federal Aviation Administration ruled once again that Santa Monica remains obligated to operate the airport until at least 2023.

Councilman Kevin McKeown, the longest serving member of the council, expressed confidence that the city would fare better in a future court battle.

“The FAA’s ability to stall Santa Monica’s control of our own land ended recently with the final round of internal administrative rulings on their own behalf. We now move to an impartial court of law, where the facts are on Santa Monica’s side, and we expect to prevail,” McKeown said.