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Thu, Sep 01, 2016

FAA To Santa Monica: Airport Must Remain Open Through At Least 2023

Tenants And Aircraft Owners Must Be Treated Fairly By The City, Agency Says

The FAA has reacted to the passage of a resolution by the Santa Monica (CA) City Council calling for the closure of the airport "as early as 2018" with a strongly-worded letter to the city's mayor saying the airport must remain open through at least 2023.

The letter was received by the city Monday, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times. The FAA also said that the city must treat aviation tenants and aircraft owners "fairly."

In the letter, written by Kevin C. Willis, the agency’s director of airport compliance, the agency said: “The FAA is prepared to pursue all legal remedies at its disposal if the City Council takes concrete actions to restrict leases or operations without complying with applicable federal law.”

Santa Monica Mayor mayor Tony Vazquez said he was not surprised by the agency's response. He said the FAA "has consistently maintained their support for aviation interests despite their mandate to also protect public health and safety. We will respond respectfully but vigorously to defend our rights to local control of land owned by the citizens of Santa Monica since 1926."

The FAA bases its case on two circumstances. One is a $240,000 federal grant received by the city in 2003 which requires the city to maintain the airport as an aviation facility for 20 years. Willis also cited the federal transfer agreement with the city when the airport was returned to local ownership following World War II. That transfer agreement states that the city must keep the airport open "in perpetuity."

Both agreements state that the city must treat aviation tenants and aircraft owners "on fair and reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination."

The city has vowed to continue its fight to close the airport, and plans to challenge the decision based on the grant in U.S. District Court. Another suit disputing the FAA's control of the airport is already pending in federal court.

(Images from file)

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.smgov.net

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