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Santa Monica Mayor Angered Over FAA Delay

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 25, 2015 -- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has delayed weighing in on a key element of the Santa Monica’s battle to eventually close its municipal airport, sparking talk of litigation from an angry Mayor Kevin McKeown.

Just when the City expected to be free to start the lengthy process of closure, the FAA has notified officials that it is taking another month to consider exactly when the City’s agreement with the FAA regarding the airport’s operation expires.

The City says the operation agreement in question expired in July, which anti-airport factions say is the first step needed to eventually shut down the century-old airport.

Opponents argue the date of the expiration is 2023. Now it is time for the FAA to weigh in. And a delay was not what airport opponents, including McKeown, wanted.

“This unexplained further delay has no apparent excuse, and just underscores the difficulty we have had in getting the FAA to work with us in good faith to determine when Santa Monica can take back legitimate control of land we unarguably own,” McKeown said.

McKeown said City officials will follow the direction given by voters who last November approved a ballot measure that gives the Council control over airport decisions, including full or partial closure.

“We will seek legal advice and, when the Council as a whole can meet on this matter, determine if and how this changes our committed course of action toward control and potential closure,” McKeown said.

“The bald-facedly unexcused FAA inaction is extremely disappointing,” the mayor added.

The brief FAA notice, dated August 21, said a ruling would not be issued until Sept. 21.

“An extension of time is necessary and appropriate for a fair and complete determination” of the case, said the notice, signed by Randall S. Fiertz, head of airport compliance and management analysis.

The letter was mailed not long after a visit to Washington D.C. in July by McKeown and other City leaders to make their case to the FAA.

Congressman Ted Lieu, an ally, also has been critical of the FAA for not stepping up sooner in the bitter fight to close the municipal airport. Members of the Santa Monica delegation reportedly left the meeting feeling more frustrated with the federal government over the issue.

McKeown said the FAA remained in “listening-mode only” during the one-hour hearing in Washington, while other members of the delegation said they doubted federal authorities were really listening at all.

Santa Monica City’s dealings with the FAA have sparked ballot measures, as well as litigation with the agency, which oversees the city’s compliance with federal rules on airport operations.

Measure LC, which retained the City Council’s control of airport land and any future development, received nearly 60 percent of the vote, while a competing measure, backed by the aviation community, failed.

Santa Monica’s municipal airport is the oldest in Los Angeles County. Opponents had hoped that the expiration of a 30-year agreement with the FAA last month would clear the way for converting about 12 acres not used for aviation into park land.

They believe it would be the first step toward closing the entire airport, which opponents say causes pollution and poses a danger to neighboring residents.

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