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Board Advises Early Legal Action to Modify, Close Airport

The Santa Monica Airport Commission urges city to use declaratory relief to clarify the legality of current agreements with the FAA. A judge's opinion could be used to either modify or close the campus.

To avoid long and expensive court battles over any efforts to modify flight operations at , or even close it, the Airport Commission  recommends that the city first determine its legal rights via legislative action or a method called declaratory relief.

Simply put, declaratory relief allows the city to get a judge's opinion, before litigation, on whether the city has legal grounds to act.

The commission said the top issue needing clarification is whether the 1948 Instrument of Transfer from the federal government requiring the city to operate the airport "in perpetuity" is legal.

"If a judge rules in declaratory relief that we have the right to close the airport [whether or not the city chooses to do so], it's over—the matter is resolved," said Commissioner David Goddard. "[The legal move] is simple to do and we can do it now.''

The commission, which is an advisory board to the Santa Monica City Council, also recommends the city use declaratory relief to determine whether the 1984 operating agreement and a 1994 Grant Agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration actually expire by mid-2015. The FAA contends the Grant Agreement extends the '84 agreement until 2023.

Another recommendation is for declaratory relief on the status of one of the airport's three parcels of land, the "City Owned Parcel" at the west end. It was quitclaimed to the city in 1949 and includes nearly half of the airport's lone runway. The east-end "General Aviation Parcel" is covered by the 1948 document. The FAA contends that the "in perpetuity" requirement covers both key parcels.

However, the "City Owned Parcel" may fall outside the '48 mandate due to the later quitclaim. If so, the city would have the option of fulfilling the "in perpetuity" mandate with a much smaller airport on the "General Aviation Parcel." The airport's third section, on the southeast, is accurately titled the "Non-Aviation Parcel."

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Other commission recommendations include:

  • Charging landing fees to all aircraft, not just those based at other airports.
  • Raising landing fees to cover aviation costs. (Currently, the airport budget projects a deficit).
  • Requiring toxic tort liability insurance from all aviation operators.
  • Requiring a flight operations permit for each aircraft operation, a security measure also designed to protect the city from liability lawsuits.
  • Using the precedents of two cases from LA and New York to put a cap on—or reduce—the number of flights.

The commission believes these recommendations could be initiated now, and don't fall under the operating agreements. The panel is also working on recommendations for after mid-2015, which would depend on whether the operating agreements expire.

One complaint about pollution from SMO is the leaded fuel used by piston-powered planes. No lead-free fuel has been able to provide the potency and efficiency needed in such engines. However, recent developments could mean unleaded aviation fuel is coming into its own. The is offering a presentation on those efforts June 30. For more details on that event, visit futureofavgas.eventbrite.com.

The city also plans two other workshops on the airport's future during .

Greg Fry June 02, 2012 at 04:01 AM
James: Once again, does your rambling post full of epithets against those that disagree with your selfish agenda express the slightest empathy or consideration of those who are being harmed by your selfish hobby?
Greg Fry June 02, 2012 at 04:16 AM
James, you couldn't be farther form the truth. You have labeled all those who oppose your selfish agenda as "terrorists", yet it is YOU who have gone on record here to advocate illegal actions against those of us who present contravening evidence to your perspective. You want to engage in illegal cyber warfare against us? Thanks for the warning--everyone (including law enforcement) now knows who to focus on in the case of such illegal attacks. You are beyond caring regarding the damage you selfishly cause, your arrogance in claiming rights to pollute and kill others is beyond abominable, and your posts will always be judged on the basis of what you have posted. But yet again: please feel free to share with us all your next level of threats, arrogance, and complete unconcern for the hurt that you are causing others--but thanks for your relative honesty in laying your agenda bare for all of us to consider!
MJ June 02, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Well said Antoni
Antoni Deighton June 02, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Rich, I can't speak to your experiences, only mine. I don't know your training, certification, currency or recency of flight experience. I know there are some pilots who lack skills and judgement and they usually get busted pretty quickly when flying through one of the Class B terminal areas. From what I have read posted by you here, I would strongly suggest you spend some time with a CFI or DPE before you next fly. If you're not current and don't plan to fly again, then I don't think you can claim to be a pilot who is familiar with the current regulations. Rich, I sense you're the one with the ego who is trying to prove your superiority to all other pilots. Well, I'm sorry, but this is not a game. I don't think I'm better than you, only that my experiences aren't in line with yours. Respect IS earned, and if you were respectful, you would recognize that.
Another WorldView June 08, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Firstly Mr. Fry I should point out that the last time I flew out of SMO was probably in the 70's or early 80's. So I'm not doiong anything - aside from pointing out your Rob Reiner-like reliance upon children, to sell your sophistry. If you REALLY care about lead and children - then look to your south, where there actually is a problem (though people there seem to survive somehow, nonetheless). But I think that what you really care about, is your property values, and trying to raise them at the expense of an airport, that was there before you were.

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