In a strongly worded letter, AOPA President Mark Baker urged the FAA administrator to issue a cease and desist order or seek a federal court injunction to stop the city of Santa Monica from continuing to destroy the airport.
He noted that other airports have similar obligations and warned that “what is now occurring at Santa Monica will have far-reaching consequences throughout the United States if the FAA allows this to continue.”
The airport is an important reliever in the congested Los Angeles basin. It also has a rich history as the home of Douglas Aircraft and the first Powder Puff Derby, an all-women air race led by Amelia Earhart.
The battle over the future of the airport has been raging for years, and the city has made numerous attempts to close the field. Among those efforts, the city claimed that its federal grant obligations expired in 2014. But the FAA issued a final decision in August overruling that claim, determining that the airport’s obligations extend into 2023.
In the weeks since that decision, the city has overtly acted to drive businesses and users from the field.
“At the direction of the city council, the city has taken anti-airport actions including refusal to enter into new rental agreements with aviation tenants, refusal to accept rent payments from existing tenants, eviction notices to two Fixed Base Operators (FBOs), and tripling monthly rent for the iconic Typhoon Restaurant, which has led to the restaurant to announce it is closing next month,” Baker wrote. “This strangulation strategy employed by the City of Santa Monica does not comport with the intent of the federal grant obligations. We urge the agency to act on this request as quickly as possible.”
In September, the FAA expressed concerns about the city’s actions and warned that it was “prepared to pursue all legal remedies at its disposal” if the city council acted to undermine the FAA’s determination that the airport must remain open and operating at least until 2023.
Now, AOPA is calling on the FAA to put those legal remedies to work.
“Santa Monica has been a vibrant, active airport that has brought city residents more than $250 million in annual economic impact, hosted 175 businesses, and been responsible for more than 1,500 jobs in the city. It’s a rare open space in an increasingly crowded skyline, and it provides a home base for charitable and disaster relief efforts,” Baker said. “It’s almost inconceivable that the city is actively trying to destroy one of its greatest assets. We need the FAA to step in and compel the city to live up to its obligations for the benefit of its citizens.”