Santa Monica Lookout
City Files Lawsuits to Force Santa Monica Airport Tenants to Vacate
By Jorge Casuso
November 7, 2016 -- The City on Friday filed unlawful detainer lawsuits against two aviation tenants at Santa Monica Airport that defied their eviction notices last month, officials said.
Fixed-based operators Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers are operating under expired leases after ignoring 30-day notices to vacate, City officials said ("City in Holding Pattern as Two Santa Monica Airport Tenants Defy Eviction," October 18, 2016).
"The next step is to sue for possession of the City-owned property and facilities via the UD action," officials said in a statement released after filing the lawsuits Friday morning.
The City's action came one day after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant denied the tenants' requests for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop the City from issuing the unlawful detainers, City officials said.
The ruling clears the way for Santa Monica to proceed with the unlawful detainer lawsuits, officials said.
“Again, private aviation interests tried to thwart the public interest by seeking to preclude the City from having its day in court," Mayor Tony Vazquez said in a statement.
"Although the leases they signed explicitly acknowledge they had an obligation to vacate City-owned facilities last year, they sought to remain indefinitely to continue to reap profit from selling fuel from City-owned tanks and earn a mark-up from subleasing City-owned buildings," Vazquez said.
Chalfant scheduled an Order to Show Cause (OSC) preliminary injunction hearing on December 1 and "instructed the City not to seek an expedited trial on the eviction proceedings prior to that date," officials said.
"Judge Chalfant’s ruling allows the City to move forward with evictions," Vazquez said. "Finally, the people of Santa Monica will have our day in court.”
A trial date for the eviction lawsuit has not yet been scheduled, officials said.
"The Santa Monica City Council is confident that, in the end, the City’s rights to local control will be upheld in State court and ultimately respected by the Federal courts," the City's statement said.
"In the meantime, the Council has directed staff to proceed in an orderly fashion to assert our right to take over all legally-required Field-Based Operations at Santa Monica Airport and to establish a City-run fixed-base operation (FBO) that operates in the public interest and not for private profit."
The City's UD lawsuit is the latest volley in a decades-old battle to close Santa Monica airport.
In August, the City Council voted to close the century-old airport by July 1 of 2018, if legally possible, and took several other steps aimed at removing aviation uses ("Santa Monica Council Votes for 2018 Airport Closure," August 25, 2016).
The FAA, which oversees the nation’s airports, is investigating the council's action and has ordered the City to keep the airport operating as is until at least 2023 ("FAA Opens Probe of City Plans to Close Santa Monica Airport," September 28, 2016).
The council and other opponents, who contend the airport poses dangers to the health of neighboring residents, want to transform the 227-acre airport into a Westside version of New York City’s Central Park ("Santa Monica Airport Park Expansion Moving Forward," September 27, 2016).
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