Santa Monica Municipal Airport is under federal grant obligations until Aug. 27, 2023, the FAA has ruled, contradicting the city of Santa Monica’s assertion that its grant obligations ended in 2014. The determination, issued Dec. 4, means the airport must remain open and operational for nearly eight more years at a minimum.
“Santa Monica Airport is a tremendous asset to the community and a vital part of the transportation network in Southern California and beyond,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “This determination is good news for the city’s economy, the region’s transportation network, and the long-term future of the airport.”
AOPA was among the organizations and individuals that filed a formal “Part 16” complaint with the FAA saying that the city of Santa Monica was in violation of its federal grant obligations by repeatedly making claims that those obligations expired on June 29, 2014. The complainants, which also included the National Business Aviation Association, actor and pilot Harrison Ford, and several aviation businesses and tenants located on the field, asked the FAA to make a formal determination as to the expiration date of the grant assurances.
The complaint was initially filed in July 2014, and the following month the city asked the FAA to dismiss the case on the grounds that the complainants failed to make a claim, did not engage in good faith efforts to reach an informal resolution, and lacked standing to file the complaint. The city also had argued that the FAA lacked jurisdiction to make a determination.
But the FAA denied that motion to dismiss and noted that the city’s position regarding the airport was both “longstanding and fixed” and “unlikely to be voluntarily reversed,” and therefore the complainants were not obligated to continue attempting to reach an informal agreement.
In its Dec. 4 determination, the FAA noted that Santa Monica Municipal Airport serves as a “vital and critical general aviation reliever” for nearby Los Angeles International Airport.
The city of Santa Monica has long tried to close and redevelop the 227-acre airport, which supports some 175 businesses and 1,500 jobs, and contributes $250 million to the economy. But many city residents support the airport and some have raised concerns that closing the field would lead to additional high-rise developments, bringing more traffic problems to the already congested region. The protection zone around the airport currently prevents high-rise buildings from being constructed within about five miles of the airport.
“Airport opponents on the Santa Monica City Council have made it clear that they’ll do whatever it takes to shutter the airport,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. “But redeveloping the land would not only deprive residents of the many irreplaceable benefits delivered by the airport, it would also create more traffic and congestion, and that’s the last thing the people of Santa Monica need.”
The city has 30 days to appeal the FAA’s determination.