Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Decides to Delay Court Fight Over Airport Tenant’s Eviction||
By Niki Cervantes
December 7, 2016 -- Sparking complaints about its resolve to close Santa Monica Airport, the City has decided to delay until early January a fight it started in October to evict key aviation-related tenants.
A Superior Court judge was to decide December 1 on a preliminary injunction stopping the City from ousting Atlantic Aviation, which along with American Flyers has been ordered from SMO as part of the City’s path toward eventually closing the airport ("Santa Monica City Council Votes to Close Airport by 2018," July 28, 2016).
No order. however, was issued, said Nelson Hernandez, the senior advisor to City Manager Rick Cole on the airport.
He said Atlantic Aviation and the City decided together to continue the issue until January 3rd.
In doing so, the City gains time before confronting the possibility of a ruling that could stop the evictions, Hernandez said ("City in Holding Pattern as Two Santa Monica Airport Tenants Defy Eviction," October 18, 2016).
But the delay prompted concern among critics over whether the City is already wavering regarding its goal to close SMO by June 30 of 2018, if legally possible.
Jonathan Stein, a lawyer representing residents trying to shutter SMO, said the City is negotiating an agreement proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Attorneys representing Atlantic and American Flyers and Deputy City Attorney Lance Gams told Superior Court Judge James Chalfant during the December 1 court appearance that such an agreement is being negotiated with the FAA, according to Alan Levenson and Bob Rigdon, who attended the court hearing in downtown Los Angeles.
The agreement would allow Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers to stay pending future resolution of the power struggle between the City and the FAA, Stein said.
In an email to anti-airport forces and the media, Stein urged the City not to sign such a “lousy” compromise, which protects Atlantic and American Flyers from eviction “while gaining the City nothing."
The City Council was widely applauded when it voted to shut the century old airport, which is now surrounded by Santa Monica and West Los Angeles communities that are home to an estimated 130,000 residents.
Even the council’s harshest critics said the vote appeared to be more than election time big talk (four incumbents faced re-election the following November).
But those clamoring for SMO’s closure are mindful of 1981, the last time a Santa Monica City Council voted to shut SMO.
After three years of negotiations with the FAA, the City agreed to more control over issues such as noise and curfews in return for continuing to operate the airport for aviation until June 30 of 2015 -- and allowing Fixed Base Operators (FBO) like Atlantic to remain on site.
Since the lapse of the so-called “1984 Agreement,” fighting between the FAA and the City has escalated.
In addition to voting to close SMO, the council in August ordered a City takeover of fixed based operations, which provide services such as fueling and gave Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers 30-day eviction notices.
Both operators asked for emergency intervention by the FAA, which has launched an investigation into all matters related to the closure and have gone to court for orders stopping the evictions.
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