AOPA and nine others are asking the FAA to deny an appeal of its determination that Santa Monica Municipal Airport in California is grant obligated and must remain open at least through Aug. 27, 2023.
The city of Santa Monica filed the appeal, which asks the FAA’s associate administrator for airports to overturn the December 2015 “director’s determination” that the airport is bound by federal grant obligations until 2023. The determination was made in a formal Part 14 complaint filed by AOPA and others in 2014 after the city of Santa Monica publicly insisted that its grant obligations expired at the end of June of that year.
In their reply to the city’s appeal, the complainants say that the city’s argument revolves around the idea that it should be uniquely excused from federal grant obligations and that it was unaware of the terms it agreed to when it accepted additional federal funds in 2003. But, the complainants describe what they call “the City’s ongoing record of legal and factual amnesia” and argue there is no reason to excuse the city from the obligations that apply to all other airport sponsors that accept federal Airport Improvement Program funds.
The complainants also point to inaccuracies in the city’s description of the 2003 grant modification at the heart of the dispute and ask the FAA to affirm the director’s determination that the city remains under federal grant obligations at least until 2023.
“Santa Monica voluntarily chose to participate in a statutory program administered by the FAA in accepting several AIP grants,” the reply to the appeal states. “It did so with the undisputed knowledge that the FAA would be fiscally responsible in requiring the City to use those funds in a manner that ensured a proper benefit in return to the public. Santa Monica must thus accept the consequences of the FAA’s reasonable exercise of its statutory authority…”
In addition to AOPA, the complainants include the National Business Aviation Association, actor and pilot Harrison Ford, and numerous businesses and individuals based at Santa Monica Municipal Airport.
The city of Santa Monica has long tried to close and redevelop the 227-acre airport that 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.