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FAA Orders City to Temporarily Halt Santa Monica Airport Evictions
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP


Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

December 14, 2016 -- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Tuesday ordered the City of Santa Monica to temporarily halt evictions of two aviation-related tenants at the municipal airport, creating another battle in the newest campaign to shutter the facility.

In its order, the FAA said the City’s attempt to oust Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers is “inconsistent” with its federal assurance to "make the airport available as an airport for public use on reasonable terms.”

Council Member Tony Vazquez said the City was “disappointed (but not surprised)” by the FAA order and that City officials remain “committed” to the evictions, which are an initial step toward eventually closing SMO ("Major Santa Monica Airport Tenant Issued Eviction Notice," September 16, 2016).

“The City of Santa Monica owns the airport, the fuel tanks, the facilities and the hangers,” Vazquez said. “The FAA has consistently recognized the rights of airport owners to exercise an exclusive right to provide services and we are working in good faith to do just that.”

The setback came at a time when the City’s promises to shut SMO are being questioned.

Although the City has taken Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers to court to force their evictions -- which were supposed to occur in mid-November -- City officials have said talks are underway to allow the two tenants to stay ("Santa Monica Decides to Delay Court Fight Over Airport Tenant’s Eviction," December 7, 2016).

A compromise in 1984 -- which followed a City vow to shut SMO -- resulted in giving the City more power on concerns such as noise issues but allowed airport operation to continue until last year.

The FAA and City have been fighting for control since the deadline passed.

Hostilities culminated in July vote by the City Council to close SMO by June 30 of 2018 and take over, as soon as feasible, all “Fixed Base Operations,” which include providing fuel, an aviation support service offered by the two evicted tenants ("Santa Monica City Council Votes to Close Airport by 2018," July 28, 2016).

The tenants asked for the FAA’s intervention, and the agency is now investigating the decision to close the airport ("FAA Opens Probe of City Plans to Close Santa Monica Airport," September 28, 2016).

SMO has about 269 aircraft base there and has an average of 452 aircraft take offs and landings per day. The City envisions turning it into a Westside version of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park or New York City’s Central Park.

In its Tuesday order to the City, the FAA takes issue with pace of the effort to take over fixed base operations. The evictions are “much too precipitous given the City is still very much in the early planning stages,” it said.

The FAA reiterated its basic argument -- that its arrangement with the City guarantees the City must allow aeronautical service providers to operate at SMO.

But Santa Monica’s “plans to assume such services are much too nascent to justify the City's current eviction actions, and the plans fail to provide for the continued operation of the current service-providers on reasonable terms," the order said.

“While we recognize the need limit transition costs, certain reasonable transition costs are inevitable and the City will have to have its staff hired and trained at some reasonable time in advance of its proposed takeover of aeronautical to ensure a smooth transition with no gap in services,” it said.

“Simply put, this is a cost of implementing a new business.”

The City and the two tenants are due back in Los Angeles Superior Court January 3.


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