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Santa Monica vs. FAA: By their words shall ye know them

This graphic shows the sizes of all existing Santa Monica parks at the same scale as what could be the park to replace the airport.
This graphic shows the sizes of all existing Santa Monica parks at the same scale as what could be the park to replace the airport.

As someone who wants to turn Santa Monica Airport into a big park, I have been following the lawsuit that the City of Santa Monica filed against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to confirm that the City controls the airport land and will have the right to close the airport after July 1, 2015, when the current, 1984 settlement agreement with the FAA expires.

As discussed in my post a couple of weeks ago, in response to the lawsuit, the FAA filed a motion to dismiss it on jurisdictional and procedural grounds. This weekend I read the City’s response to the motion. (The motion will be heard February 10 in federal court in downtown Los Angeles.)

While the federal government moved to dismiss on various grounds, the most fundamental one was that the City’s claim was barred by the 12-year statute of limitations of the federal “Quiet Title Act.” According to the feds, the City’s claim is too late because the City should have known decades ago that the federal government was claiming an interest in the title to the property under the 1948 Instrument of Transfer (IOT) that returned control of the airport to the City after World War II.

As readers will recall, the FAA is relying on a clause in the IOT in which the City agreed to operate the airport in perpetuity. However, there was no consideration for this agreement, nor is there any way for the government to enforce it.

The City’s response to the motion doesn’t add much new information that was not contained in the its original complaint, but reading it brought home how preposterous it is that after all these decades the FAA is arguing that Santa Monica can’t close the airport because of the IOT.

In fact, it was only in 2008 that the FAA, which I suspect had begun to panic when it realized that 2015 was coming up in less than 10 years, dredged up the IOT’s perpetuity clause. Before then FAA administrators and lawyers must have looked at the history and the law and realized that this argument didn’t have a wing or a prayer.

Why do I say that? Because the city’s response highlights several documents from past decades where the FAA declared the obvious, that the City had the authority to close the airport. For instance, in 1971 (only 23 years after the 1948 IOT) the FAA wrote the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association to tell them that once Santa Monica no longer had obligations arising from funding provided by the FAA, the airport would be “vulnerable to being discontinued and used for non-aviation purposes.”

As discussed previously, the 1984 settlement agreement clearly states that the City is only obligated to continue operations at the airport until the 2015, but to remove any doubt that this means precisely what it says, in 1998 the FAA issued a determination that the 1984 agreement “makes clear that the City is obligated to operate the Airport only for the duration of the [agreement]… To the extent that [pilots] seek to prevent the future closure of the Airport . . . that is a local land use matter.”

“A local land use matter.” Wow.

In 2003, at the conclusion of the same proceeding, the FAA ruled that the 1984 agreement only required the City to maintain the airport’s “role in the National Airport System as a general aviation reliever airport until July 1, 2015.”

The City’s point is that only in 2008 when the FAA changed its tune was the City put on notice that the FAA had designs on the land, and that the 12-year statute of limitations only started running then.

Not only does this argument seem obvious to me, but also, regardless how the judge rules on the motion, one has to wonder, when and where this dispute ultimately ends up in court, how will the U.S. Attorneys defending the FAA try to explain away the FAA’s own admissions that on July 1, 2015, the City of Santa Monica can close down Santa Monica Airport.

Thanks for reading.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Douglas Fay January 28, 2014 at 12:09 PM
I'm in the middle on this issue and I'll explain. My grandfather Roy Martella had one of the first pilot licenses issued in California. He was a farmer who crop dusted, raced, and flew free medical missions and was cherished as an outstanding member of his community. I live under the flight path and work in the automotive industry which has evolved significantly over the past 50 years. Retrofitting the planes for noise and pollution reduction is overdue. Safety is paramount. As an Emergency First Responder and tsunami survivor, having the airport within our community in perpetuity is essential. Santa Monica's elected officials have created our problems. Together we can solve them.
Keith Craig January 28, 2014 at 09:38 PM
I too believe that the airport is too valuable to the area to be closed. The idea of turning it into a park, if it is to be closed) is also a bad idea. Anyway, I firmly think the airport needs to remain open as a public use airport.
Frank Gruber January 29, 2014 at 02:34 PM
Folks -- I just deleted two comments, one by JeanB and one by pilot_rick calling each other internet trolls. It wastes everyone's time having to read that kind of post. Having said that I will comment on pilot_rick's erroneous statements that the SM City Council has said SM has enough parks. That's false. The council has said repeatedly that we need more parks, and has spent considerable money buying land (such as the land for Tongva Park or the Fisher Lumber site) to try to get more parkland in a city where land is, to put it mildly, expensive. Both the city's current Open Space Element of the general plan, and the Rec & Parks Master Plan, call out the need for more parks. SM's current ratio of 1.4 acres of parks for 1,000 residents is way below the recommended ratio of 10 acres per 1,000 for small cities. Finally, back in May, when the council approved landing fees at SMO, the council members said they thought building a park at the airport was a good idea. So -- pilot_rick, whoever you are, no one needs to call you names, but try not to just make things up when you post.
pilot_rick January 29, 2014 at 03:17 PM
Frank, I find it appalling you would delete a post of mine. Obviously you are not interested in having a fair and balanced debate. On these blogs my character is constantly being attacked. And when I defend myself you simply delete my comments. Then you have the gall to tell me "I make up things". Frank, the city council has said that the city has enough parks. The city council has said they do not want to turn SMO into a park and they do not want to operate a park the size of SMO. SMO has two wonderful parks and a nice observation area to watch planes take off and land. And while we are at it the statistics you made up of 1.4 acres of parks per 1000 residents is of course a lie. This does not include the beach. And who made up that ratio? Your stalinist like tactics will not silence the airport's supports. Your further lies are being exposed.
Greg Fry January 30, 2014 at 01:39 PM
Thanks, Frank, for making the matter clear. Those who make outrageous off topic posts--now claiming "Stalinism" for opposing a park project that is long overdue and would benefit all as opposed to current tax-subsidized operations which benefit only a very few and harm many--should be a no-brainer for all.
pilot_rick January 30, 2014 at 03:14 PM
Ahhhh comrad Greg Fry has joined the conversation with his own blend of propaganda. One interesting note is Kelly Hartog (former editor of santa monica patch) was fired yesterday. Kelly Hartog was part of the anti aviation conspiracy. She used this blog as a platform to further her unpopular goals of closing SMO. I know several aviation interests were trying to get her removed from the patch organization. I assume they succeeded. Let this be a warning to all who oppose the great Santa Monica Airport.
JeanB January 30, 2014 at 07:15 PM
All Westside Editors Laid Off At AOL's Patch; Hundreds Dismissed Nationwide. Sorry pilot_rick, aviation had absolutely nothing to do with it as you well know. See http://www.smmirror.com/articles/News/All-Westside-Editors-Laid-Off-At-AOLs-Patch-Hundreds-Dismissed-Nationwide-/39409
pilot_rick January 30, 2014 at 07:28 PM
JeanB, I heard things would have gone differently for Jelly Hartog if she made her patch a fair and unbiased news source.
JeanB January 30, 2014 at 07:30 PM
to repeat my earlier deleted post... WARNING:pilot_rick has been outed as an internet troll. Please do not feed him by responding to his false and inflammatory statements.
pilot_rick January 30, 2014 at 07:36 PM
Jean B, to repeat my earlier post. WARNING: JeanB has been outed as an internet troll. She wants to close Santa Monica Airport at the direction of fat cat real estate developers but cannot come up with any logical reason to do so. Thus, she resorts to lies and personal attacks.
Greg Fry January 30, 2014 at 09:53 PM
So as far as on topic dialog goes, Pilot Rick has nothing to offer, and invites us all to cower before the political power of the privileged few which may or may not have been responsible for the dismissal of a Patch editor who sought impartial and on topic dialog. I note your threat to all others who would fail to subscribe to your arrogant and self-entitled position! Thanks so much for doing so! Could any other posit on behalf of airport supporters present the issue more clearly? Bow before their elitist power and don't ever dare to challenge such no matter how much you have to pay for their elitist operations that harm everyone else? Thanks again, Pilot Rick, your arrogant and self-entitled perspective at everyone else's expense truly deserves to be considered on its own actual merits!
pilot_rick January 30, 2014 at 10:12 PM
Greg Fry, Former editor Katie Hartog was not "impartial on the topic". In fact quite the opposite. She commissioned two blogs from special interest groups aimed at shutting down SMO. This is one of those blogs. Hopefully now the patch organization can become once again unbiased and a place to find local news. I see you have resulted to your typical personal attacks. Why is it the anti airport people must always resort to petulant personal attacks on the hard working men and women who use SMO?
Greg Fry January 30, 2014 at 11:27 PM
Why is it that you have nothing to offer in on topic responses to the matter other than to appeal to elitist power at everyone else's expense?
pilot_rick January 31, 2014 at 12:24 AM
Greg Fry, I have tried to point to various studies which would add to the topic but I am greeted with accusations of lying and character assassinations. Only the greedy arrogant few, such as you, want to close the airport so rich fat cat real estate develops can get richer.
Greg Fry January 31, 2014 at 01:11 AM
Again you have it backwards. I'm the one that posts links to actual studies which you and your supporters ignore. "Fat cat real estate developers" would be extremely disappointed in my--and others'--advocacy for a park in the place of the dangerous tax subsidized airport whose continued unrestrained existence you shamelessly advocate, and the only real greedy and arrogant few "fat cats" are the ones you advocate on behalf of. Stick to the facts please!
pilot_rick January 31, 2014 at 01:16 AM
Greg what about the California Parks Commission report of 2009 that studied a potential "great park" in Santa Monica. They concluded that the park would have 108,345 unique visitors each year. That's half of what the airport gets. What about the noise survey report done last year which showed just 44 people complained about airport noise. The airport is well used and in fact is one of the busiest GA airports in the country. Only the arrogant greedy few want to close this vital piece of our infrastructure so they can get rich building high density condos. The city council has already said it does not want a park. This unicorn sanctuary is simply the bait, that the real estate developers use in their bait and switch scam. Greg if I am wrong then why is CASMAT funded and controlled by rich fat cat real estate developers like David Goddard, airport commissioner and CASMAT founder?
Greg Fry January 31, 2014 at 01:24 AM
Rick you quote no actual sources to back up your outrageous claims nor do you expose your outrageous claims to scrutiny--you only expect us to "take your word" for such. If there is basis for your claims provide such and we can take the discussion form there! On the other hand there is more than ample evidence for the extreme harm, pollution and dangers caused by the tax-subsidized SMO operations--since you like to make false claims regarding "Stalinism", think of it as tax supported welfare for the rich and undeserving.
pilot_rick January 31, 2014 at 01:28 AM
Again, you respond to my scientific study with a personal attack and character assassination. Yet you claim "ample evidence for extreme harm" etc. and provide no proof. Are we just supposed to believe you? Do you have any evidence SMO is tax-subsidized? When will these outrageous claims end? Your comment only proves my point. No fact, nothing useful to contribute except name calling and false accusations. Thanks for making my point for me.
Greg Fry January 31, 2014 at 01:36 AM
You offered no scientific study at all and I exposed that fact. Here's my evidence for starters: http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2013/12/mar_vista_worst_pollution.php http://www.healthimpactproject.org/resources/document/Santa-Monica-Airport.pdf http://www.casmat.org/2013/03/video-summary-of-santa-monica-airport.html And there's plenty more where that came from. You claim that which you have no backup for, not surprisingly. Your position is morally bankrupt.
pilot_rick January 31, 2014 at 01:51 AM
Oh you refer to a study done by casmat (the special interest group trying to shut SMO) and one done by trainee peditricans who admit to never studying any air quality. Read the "methods" section on page 2 of their study. Then you continue to insult me and assassinate my character. Your petulant behavior only proves I have a valid point and that your position is the morally bankrupt one. At least we don't have to hear about your adult son with cancer this time!
Greg Fry January 31, 2014 at 01:58 AM
I'm not the one engaged in character assassination here nor am I the one misrepresenting studies. Of course I included a study from CASMAT because it contained factual info as did all the studies in my links. Rather than engage in irrelevant ad hominem attacks and false claims, address the issues that that such studies actually brought up if you wish to make a point!
pilot_rick January 31, 2014 at 02:26 AM
Greg, calling me a liar, like you just did again is a character assassination. You are the one with false claims. Claiming this so called "CASMAT" study and UCLA study, where there didn't measure anything, as fact just further proves my point. Why don't you link to a real study where people actually measured the air? The false claims and constant attacks on my character need to stop.
Greg Fry January 31, 2014 at 02:43 AM
So even when I offer actual studies, all you have to counter offer are your own unsupported claims on the matter? Who is in fact calling whom names? Fact speak for themselves, whether you happen to like those facts or not.
pilot_rick January 31, 2014 at 03:04 AM
Greg, I have offered studies from the 2001 study by University of Haifa, the 2003 report by The California Geo-Techinical Institute, and the 2011 study by Board of Air Resources Management in California. These are of course just a small selection of the numerous scientific studies I have mentioned. Every time I mention one of these studies you claim I just made them up. These are the facts, and I am sure you will respond to me again with another one of your character assassinations.
Greg Fry January 31, 2014 at 03:23 AM
Show the links, Pilot Rick--don't just claim you are quoting from such! Let's examine evidence for what it actually is!
pilot_rick January 31, 2014 at 03:56 AM
Greg, there is this new internet search engine. It's called google. You can use it to find all of the scientific studies I have done and many more. Just go to www.google.com and type in the names of the study! Good luck!
Greg Fry January 31, 2014 at 01:12 PM
Sorry, pilot Rick, I'm not here to do your leg work. If you have a point or study to make, present it. If not--don't pretend that you do.
pilot_rick January 31, 2014 at 01:58 PM
Greg I do not care if you look at the studies.
pilot_rick February 14, 2014 at 03:31 PM
Frank Gruber, Greg Fry et al. IN YOUR FACE. Case is tossed out! Your arrogance and petulance is astounding. I told you the court case would get thrown out and I was ridiculed and my posts were deleted. It's time to realize that the airport is here to stay. It does not serve a selfish few but hundreds of thousands of hard working americans. Only the selfish few would want to turn such a valuable resource into a unicorn sanctuary.
eric biren March 25, 2014 at 05:48 PM
When the airport was built there were no jet aircraft. The neighborhood developed around the airport prior to the advent of jets. The biz jets are the problem for the community. They are generally less safe, forgiving, than propeller driven aircraft due to slower response (spool up) times and higher speeds. They emit more (mirco-fine) pollution on the community. They seem to be much louder (DcB)and arrive and take off both earlier and later due to their much longer range than reciprocating aircraft generally. The use of biz jets at SAMO is for the convenience of a few westside residents who do not want to travel by car to Van Nuys airport. The airport was not designed of jets and it DOES impact the community negatively in terms of pollution, noise, and safety. Transfer the biz jets to Van Nuys but keep the airport.

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