Commission Hears Legal Scenarios for Airport's Future

Two legal scenarios at the commission's visioning workshop present possibilities for reducing noise and air pollution generated by Santa Monica Airport—but not for closing it.

A strategy of divide and conquer could be the best bet for a quieter, smaller, jet-free after 2015.

That's the essence of one legal scenario presented Monday at the Airport Commission's workshop on SMO's future, the panel's contribution to the city's airport visioning process.

Santa Monica resident and business litigation attorney Jonathan Stein contends the key operating agreements between the city and the Federal Aviation Administration don't apply equally to the three parcels of land that make up the airport.

Stein says the 1948 Instrument of Transfer that returned the airport to the city after World War II applies only to the airport's northeast, the General Aviation Parcel. He believes it's the only parcel affected by the FAA requirement that the city operate an airport "in perpetuity." The parcel includes more than half the runway.

According to Stein, the southeastern Non-Aviation Parcel, and the western City Owned Parcel (including the rest of the runway), will revert to city control on July 1, 2015, .

A 1981 City Council resolution (never rescinded) states its intent to close the airport as soon as possible. That led to the 1984 agreement, with its 30-year life span. Stein said the FAA would not have asked for that temporary agreement if it believed the earlier "in perpetuity" mandate applied to all three land parcels.

As for the FAA's argument that a 1994 "grant amendment" extended the 1984 agreement to 2023, Stein dismissed it as "a bit of nonsense."

Leases at the Santa Monica Airport are all written to expire in 2015. Stein maintains the city could then fulfill its obligation to operate an airport with a shorter runway and fewer aviation services, meaning a cleaner, quieter, safer facility.

"Two-thirds of the airport can go away in 2015," he said, characterizing the 1984 agreement as "a failure of democracy."

In another presentation, land use attorney Phillip Tate said the city may also have options to reduce the airport's impact under proprietary laws in order to lessen its liability for negative impacts on the community. Tate formerly worked with Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, .


Could Santa Monica shut down parts of the airport to defend itself against a lawsuit over pollution and ?

Tate believes that's "a good argument," but, "I believe the FAA would fight it pretty fiercely."

Still, he said, it will be easier for the city to stiffen regulation of aircraft operations after the expiration of the 1984 agreement.

City Manager Rod Gould has criticized the commission's effort to expand the visioning process beyond staffers' designed program. Commissioners feel the city's initial visioning plan would have left some options for the airport's future unexplored.


"Possible litigation regarding closing SMO and alternate future uses for the airport'' are outside the duties of the Airport Commission, according to Ivan Campbell, the City Attorney's representative at commission meetings.

Phase 2 of the visioning process, aimed at gathering public input, ends May 8, when the City Council will receive a summary of themes developed from 32 city-sponsored focus groups. Phase 3 involves finalizing the city's approach to 2015.

The commission adjourned its meeting Monday night in memory of its late chairman, Richard Brown, .

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James Sloat April 30, 2012 at 06:38 PM
We are not talking about subject that as you mentioned were illegal at the time. Please educate yourself if possible. The airport supports legitimate businesses that support legitimate jobs. That is a fact. Don't try to change the topic here. I have dealt with your kind up in Idaho (KSUN) and currently in Salt Lake City Jordan Valley Airport (U42). In short, the people surrounding these airports along with your kind, have one thing in common and that ideology is to live completely and soley by your thinking and to control the people, jobs, transportation within the West LA/Santa Monica area. Maybe the next thing you wil try to control will be perhaps telling your neighbors who to vote for, how many children to have (if any), what model of car to drive, etc. Your house that you or your neighbors live in are possibly not up to code and maybe should be torn down....just a thought.
Nate May 01, 2012 at 05:16 PM
James, The key difference you are missing is that the airport is PUBLIC property. It is not private land for your personal use. If the PUBLIC decides that the land it owns it better served in a different purpose, then it should be so. My neighbor's house is PRIVATE land and their vote is a PRIVATE decision. If anything, the pilots and airport boosters have turned PUBLIC land into PRIVATE land, without paying for it! Also, with regards to jobs - take a closer look at the HR&A analysis. They compare SMO, which is 227 acres, with an office building or Santa Monica Place, which are less than 10 acres, and then say the airport creates more jobs. This is totally misleading as the airport is 20 times larger. You could redevelop 10% of the airport, turn the rest into a giant park, and generate more jobs and economic activity than the current airport. Before you attack people about their "education", you mgiht want a refresher on basic civics and math.
James Sloat May 01, 2012 at 10:01 PM
OK Nate. Do you really want to compare education and degrees? Really? Okay, any time....any place!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let's do this!!!!!!!!!
Myla Reson May 13, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Anne, I just got around to watching the video of public comments from the November 2012 California Senate hearing on SMO - saw your public comment and want to thank you for it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-xAF8JRvbY&feature=plcp I also attended the recent SM Airport Commission meeting on legal options & found it refreshing - and encouraging. I just wish the Santa Monica City Council had the political will to listen to the advise of its Airport Commission and its residents.
Bart September 22, 2012 at 12:37 AM
The airport is already a park, but if you ban its use as an aviation facility, you'll get your office building, as well as a retail complex and choking traffic. Think the fumes are bad now? Think thousands of cars, buses and trucks. The city and its developers won't plant grass.


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