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Fight to Close Santa Monica Airport “Far from Over,” Local Activists Say

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 18, 2014 --  Activists against the Santa Monica Airport are undeterred after a federal judge Thursday said he would not hear a lawsuit by the City to wrest control of the century-old airfield from the FAA.

Judge John F. Walter dismissed the lawsuit, which claims that when the City’s 1984 agreement with the FAA expires on July 1, 2015, the City no longer has to operate its land as an airport, in part because Santa Monica had waited too long to challenge the FAA's claim to the land City-owned land.

But local activists who oppose the airport and want to see the 227-acre plot of land converted for other uses saw Thursday's ruling as only a setback in a longer struggle.

“I BELIEVE THIS CASE IS FAR FROM OVER,” Marty Rubin wrote in an official statement following Walter's ruling.

Rubin, who lives along the southern edge of the airport, is the founder of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP).

He is also part of a larger coalition of anti-airport activists, called, who want the land converted into a grand park.

“This isn’t going to stop Santa Monica getting its park,” said Frank Gruber, spokesperson for
“The decision was on narrow procedural grounds, and doesn’t alter the fact that the people of Santa Monica bought this land through a park bond a century ago,” he said.

While the City has owned the airport for nearly 100 years, during World War II, Santa Monica temporarily transferred operations of the airfield to the federal government.

When the federal government returned control of the airport to Santa Monica after the war, it did so with legal obligations imbedded in the property transfers. The FAA has argued that it is those obligations that require the City to operate the land as an airport in perpetuity.

While Walter didn't uphold the FAA's claim, he did rule in favor of the federal agency's argument that the City had waited too long -- more than 12 years -- to challenge those claims.

But activists are pinning their hopes on the fact that Walter's ruling said that some of the City's other claims had come too soon.

The City argued that since the land belongs to Santa Monica, requiring the City operate the parcel as an airport is unconstitutional.

Walter ruled that such a claim was premature because the City had not sought financial restitution from the FAA for the land.

Currently, the City Attorney is consulting with Morrison & Foerster, the firm working with Santa Monica on the case, to decide what's next.

The City has the right to appeal the case, but as of press time, the City Attorney's office had not decided how to proceed.

In the meantime, opponents of the airport remain optimistic that the courts will eventually rule in their favor farther down the road.

“We are confident that when the dust has settled, it will be the wonderful green space residents are hoping for,” Gruber said.

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