Judge Throws out City's Suit Against FAA over Airport

The lawsuit questioned whether the Santa Monica was required under agreements with the federal government to operate the land as an airport in perpetuity.

A judge dropped the city's lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration over ownership claims. Patch file photo.
A judge dropped the city's lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration over ownership claims. Patch file photo.

Santa Monica's lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration seeking to clarify ownership of its municipal airport was thrown out today by a federal court judge in downtown Los Angeles.

U.S. District Judge John L. Walter dismissed the case largely on technical grounds, ruling that one of the lawsuit's claims was barred by a statute of limitations, other claims must first be presented to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and others were brought prematurely because the city had not yet made a decision on whether it plans to close the airport.

Questions have been swirling about the airport's future, with many residents clamoring for the facility to be closed over safety and noise concerns. Those concerns were amplified on Sept. 29, when four people died in the crash of a private plane into a hangar shortly after landing.

The lawsuit, filed in October, questioned whether the city was required under agreements with the federal government to operate the land as an airport in perpetuity.

According to the city's lawsuit, Santa Monica leased the airport to the federal government during World War II, and local and federal officials made improvements to the facility. After the war, the airport was returned to the city under an “instrument of transfer,” but federal officials contend that document calls on the city to operate the airport “in perpetuity.”

City officials dispute that claim, contending the city has owned the land for nearly 100 years, and the property was merely leased to the government during the war.

FAA officials said the agency's position on the facility has been that the city should keep operating the airport until at least 2023 because of assurances that were made when the city received federal airport-improvement grants. The agency has also contended that the city is bound to continue operating the airport beyond 2023 under the terms of the post-war agreement in 1948.

The city is in the midst of a multi-year study of the airport's future, with city staff expected to report back with recommendations in March for public and City Council review.

Santa Monica officials said they were disappointed with the court's decision.

“The court's ruling is being carefully evaluated by the legal team consisting of our outside litigation counsel ... and in-house legal staff,” City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said. “Of course, we are disappointed. But, there is likely much work to come, and attorneys representing the city are already looking forward and focusing our energies on the city's options.”

--City News Service

Danielle Charney February 14, 2014 at 01:37 PM
Thank God- not only does SMO make us a first class city- we survive in a disaster folks - the road to LAX will be blown methane beds and sunken marsh land- but the hubris of this CA office and their ridiculous outside lawyers not to have known this- the bad bullying and idiotic waste of tax payer and probably Dallas money waiting in the wings to develop that land- ( rumor has it deals have been in the works ) - is so absurd - they should all be fired- no money for so many vital things but plenty for this terrible council, manager and CA to play grandstanding games- I knew the Feds would wipe them - good- they need to fall - how dare they continue to play these games on our money - they should all be removed- there is no way they or anyone will win against the Feds- they know what this magnificent jewel means to survival and first response- and they already have a park- what a BS way to manipulate the citizens when Dallas licks their chops - BASTA
Danielle Charney February 14, 2014 at 01:45 PM
as for noise- suck it up whiners- as for danger- are you kidding- wait until the over 7000 car trips from Hines/Bergamot starts much less all the other sites Dallas money has in store for us- cars are far greater polluters and many more people die in car accidents- LONG LIVE SMO- Adios this manager and his cronies fattening their pockets and dumbing so much that is vital to our city being a first class city- through humiliation and bullying- they are the worst that too much money can buy-
Andy Robinson February 14, 2014 at 02:43 PM
It's fascinating to see people referring to a public airport being for "the privileged few." If you mean the "privileged few" who obtained their private pilot certificates, OK--but if you mean "privileged few" as in "the rich," the assertion is incorrect--like saying state institutions of higher education should be closed and converted to more productive users because of the "privileged few" who obtain their degrees. Flying is expensive, but most of the pilots I know are firmly in the "99 percent." And what a sad nation we have become, when private flying, free of the useless impediment of the TSA and snarled surface traffic, and once the goal of many if not most gen Xers, is no longer at the forefront of our collective national desires. We should be building and expanding airports, not closing them.
pilot_rick February 14, 2014 at 03:07 PM
Hopefully the federal government will take over the airport from Santa Monica. This is one likely outcome. If that were to happen there would be no silly "voluntary noise curfew". The airport has tried to be a good neighbor to Santa Monica but the NIMBY neighbors have refused to compromise despite a decade of compromises on the airports behalf. It's time to end the noise curfew. It's time to end the ban of touch and go's on the weekend. It's time to end the ban on helicopter training. And too all my fellow pilots out there. Please do not pay landing fees. There is no reason whatsoever to pay them. The city has no way of collecting and enforcing them.
pilot_rick February 14, 2014 at 03:22 PM
"the privileged few" is a line that Greg Fry came up with. It's obviously a lie. Most opponents of the airport will stop at nothing to close the airports because their special interest groups are funded by fat cat real estate developers. Let's not forget just last year one of these "Craapy" groups got caught red handed throwing roofing nails on the airport. Then a few months later a business jet pops a tire on landing. It's time to send a clear message to handful of airport opponents that the airport is here to stay and if they don't like living next to an airport they should move to pitcairn island where there is no airport for thousands of miles.
Oscar Goldman February 14, 2014 at 03:29 PM
"while it serves only a handful of privileged residents" Stated by another NIMBY or property speculator trying to steal from the MAJORITY. The "privileged handful" are the lowlives who moved next door to an airport in hopes of whining and teaming up with fatcat developers and corrupt politicians to close it and goose their property values ONCE. So 150 households get a one-time profit; while the entire city, state, region, and country lose an irreplaceable part of our transportation infrastructure. Oh, and your lies about pollution? Disproven already by EPA studies. But if SMO goes, you'll see a new definition of pollution as heavy cargo jets will be able to fly lower and more directly over these very residents. Enjoy eating their soot if SMO closes.
pilot_rick February 14, 2014 at 03:39 PM
The airport serves several hundred thousand people each year. That's a pretty large handful.
Tom Jackson February 14, 2014 at 04:59 PM
Listening to the opponents of the airport is like listening to the chicken little story of " the sky is falling". Bogus studies false misleading statistics all part of the story. Never mind the 250 million a year revenue stream that the local economy gets from the airport. Not to mention the emergency relief aspect of the airport. The developers and greedy homeowners wanting their land value to skyrocket by the development of the property is truly their motive. Look at the old Howard Hughes property where the land was being returned to nature and the guaranteed return of wild life. Clean air and a lovely nature walk. All there is now is a load of condo/apt that only serve to jam our city streets only further not to mention the car air pollution the is without a doubt much more severe then jet planes taking off from SMO. No its a real shame when a few greedy politician and home owners get together. This is evident. I laugh at these same people that are liberals to the core and voted for an administration that promotes big government and 8 turn it's big government that shuts you phonies down. I call that sweet and deserved. Round one over and it's airport in the lead on points. Homeowners / tax payers out another million of their hard earned money on a losing battle.
pilot_rick February 14, 2014 at 05:14 PM
Round one? Try round 101!!! The city has been litigating the FAA for over 50 years with regards to closing SMO. They have never won. It's time to stop spending millions of tax payer dollars on fruitless litigation. The park is not even really the issue. The city has already said it does not want and can't afford a park. Just look at "the great park" in the oc as an example why they don't want this.
Hugh fontenot February 14, 2014 at 05:56 PM
One question for the home owners . Who built on this property first? The airport was there first and no one made you build next to it . So suck it up or move !!!
pilot_rick February 14, 2014 at 06:32 PM
Hugh, the opponents of the airport will call that argument "old and tired". I, of course, call it just common sense. If you move next to an airport and get a discount on the price of the property you should, well, be prepared to live next to an airport. The great news for these airport neighbors is that now is a great time to sell. My advice to anyone who lives next to the airport and does not like it; move!
Martin Rubin February 15, 2014 at 12:21 AM
"The real issue is not who has the legal right to say what happens with Santa Monica Airport's future, but who will take responsibility to curtail the toxic air and noise pollution at an airport that has runways practically up to the front doors of long-time residents in both Santa Monica and Los Angeles. The community has been put in harm's way for more than two decades while the City of Santa Monica and the FAA point fingers at each other, neither doing anything to curtail the toxic soup of pollutants affecting public health. Two decades is two decades too long. If the City of Santa Monica wants to close the airport and use it in a fashion that would be more beneficial economically as well as environmentally, than the FAA should allow them to do just that. I believe this case is far from over. People have rights guaranteed in the United States Constitution and I have felt for many years that being forced to breathe toxic pollutants is unconstitutional. Let any judge who disagrees spend time in the homes downwind of the airport. They might then rethink their decision."
pilot_rick February 15, 2014 at 01:02 AM
Ah Martin Rubin. I am so glad you joined this little conversation. First of all you should explain where you come from. You are the head of a special interest group trying to close the airport. Anti aviation zealots have been caught throwing nails around the airport red handed. After this happened a jet crashed and killed 4 people. http://santamonica.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/plea-entered-in-airport-nail-throwing-case Your special interest group constantly lies and points to made up or seriously flawed scientific studies. The truth is Santa Monica Airport does not pollute. The EPA could not detect airport emissions. You must realize Santa Monica Airport is surrounded by the 10 and 405 freeway. Pretending your in harm's way is another lie you tell to further your cause. You mention "2 decades" yet the airport has been there since 1919. Jet operations started in the 50s. There is nothing in the constitution that addresses toxic pollutants. This is simply another one of your lies. The reason Santa Monica cannot control it's airport is because it is part of our nation's infrastructure. The airport serves the entire country and has hundreds of thousands of operations each year. It is the equivalent of the city deciding to close down the portion of the 10 freeway that crosses the city. Mr. Rubin, the case is over and has been over for the last 50 years despite the millions the city has spent on fruitless litigations. I would ask you to do two things. 1. Please stop throwing nails around the airport. 2. move to pitcairn island where there is no airport for thousands of miles.
Andy Robinson February 15, 2014 at 07:38 AM
pilot_rick: if someone wanted to make a difference in the environment, closing the freeways would be a more logical alternative. Think of all the land that would be returned to a natural condition (or for development!), and the improvement in air quality and noise levels, not to mention saving thousands of lives and countless injuries from traffic accidents every year. That's absurd of course, because we "need" automobiles--something we lived without for as long as we lived without aviation. But because any idiot can get a driver's license, and only a "privileged few" have the wherewithal to get a pilot's license, we must take our lives in our hands every time we drive on a city street, much less the freeway--while those who are flying die or are injured at a rate over 10,000 times less PER MILE TRAVELED than those who are driving.
Andy Robinson February 15, 2014 at 07:46 AM
Mr. Rubin: There is no "toxic soup," but even if there was, the volume of operations at the airport produces fewer pollutants than even a fraction of motor vehicle traffic in and around the SMO area. Pointing out airport emissions is like looking at the whole haystack of pollution, pulling out a needle, and saying "there's your problem." As for noise pollution, I have no sympathy, but admittedly the sound made by aircraft is music to my ears. I don't like sirens, or honking car horns, or any of thousands of other more intrusive and pervasive noises than the sounds of piston or jet engine aircraft. The noise I like the least is the sound of people whining about noise levels--but that is an ad hominem argument, so I won't invoke it here.
Glenn E Grab February 15, 2014 at 11:35 AM
bravo......no dog park where the airport "used to be"......besides, 24 hour per day police and fire-EMT sirens are much louder and more annoying than a few planes passing overhead
pilot_rick February 15, 2014 at 11:46 AM
Glenn, ironically the airport already has 2 dog friendly parks within it's campus. And yes you are right Santa Monica Airport is statistically the safest place to be in Santa Monica. The noise argument is not used much anymore because scientists have pointed out that cars, motorcycles, gardening equipment etc. are all louder than the quiet aircraft that operate out of SMO.
Michael S February 15, 2014 at 01:07 PM
I see the proven liar not a pilot_rick is still lying here about pollution. But even better are the wing nuts who are always talking about "states rights" and local control are hoping that the federal government will take Santa Monica's land.
Michael S February 15, 2014 at 01:52 PM
I also notice that not a pilot_rick is trying out a few sock puppets in this thread. Trolling 101 tells you that you should not create new accounts and use them immediately. You should also attempt to make it less obvious by not using the same lies about the airport making the city money, the truth is the city loses money on the airport, or that studies show there is no pollution.
pilot_rick February 15, 2014 at 03:10 PM
Its typical for opponents of the airport to result to lies and character assasinations . Michael S, for insatance , has nothing to add to the debate so he results to petulant attacks on myself.
Val Streit February 16, 2014 at 10:53 AM
Well, some of us kept saying that the 1948 agreement is a key to the longevity of the airport. Glad that the FFA stood firm with that. As for the pro development people....the truth always comes out in the wash. Lies only make you look like a fool.
Craig McCoy February 17, 2014 at 11:05 AM
Why does the City of Santa Monica keep spending our tax dollars in filing these lawsuits against the FAA? The facts don't change the outcome is always the same and it's the taxpayers that foot the bill.
Michael S February 17, 2014 at 11:21 AM
Read this thread to see just how dishonest not a pilot_rick is. http://santamonica.patch.com/groups/frank-grubers-blog/p/santa-monica-airport-litigation-the-faas-problem-is-no-remedy-no-right
Danielle Charney February 17, 2014 at 01:28 PM
This city is a joke- totally in the pockets of Dallas money-- the worst city council 4 money can buy - a sold out CA office and too fat of staff and salaries- deals were in the works behind closed doors long ago for many things- important departments are being dumbed down by this corrupt mediocre city manager- incompetent 'yes men' being hired in vital departments that lives depend on- a reign of intimidation and abuse to older workers, women and anyone not willing to tow his line- interesting packages being given to sign up these undeserving people over those applying who are A- 1 qualified- this stupid lawsuit- why do they file it? "Looks like they are doing something"- when in fact- they are a joke- so much they could be doing but until this vile and power mad mayor and her cronies Davis and O'Day step down and Gould and his show go packing to another city to rape and pillage- we will have to do our best to interest a serious investigative journalist to take it - it goes all the way back- this council has a lot of nerve- sort of like our Congress- they are liars and thieves - not our good 3 but the bought out 4- Davis needs support for her political career as does the mayor and O'Day- Bloom sold us all out- this is why there is money for this grandstanding incompetent joke of a lawsuit- they are mediocre and have to concentrate on Dallas money-they don't know how to run a city- and anyone taking their advice from the likes of Gruber- has to get another source- that little sold out shill will do anything to attract attention - our gem of a city deserves better than we are getting in all areas- you can thank O"Connor and her toadies- and the CA office- HR office and Bloom for the joke of what we now are- sign the residocracy.org referendum petition - maybe the airport can fly these fools out to Lompoc soon - CAVU
Douglas Quillin February 17, 2014 at 02:43 PM
Danielle, Sweetheart--You need a hug!
Danielle Charney February 17, 2014 at 07:12 PM
never turn down a hug- just fed up with crooks and liars- fed up with Texas money- we deserve better- we need a really good investigation starting when Gould came in - as to every department and hire- every single one- I don't trust HR- the CA or any of them- a bunch of 'yes men'- it's time for the good staff- and there are plenty to start blowing the whistles - enough of this- now I will take that hug- and what bugs me - not one paper- not one is doing an overall piece on "follow the money - to the top of the trouble"- there are pieces on this or that- but we need a really serious one done- and soon- these fools need to "hit the road Jack"
SoCal Spotting February 22, 2014 at 02:55 AM
Thank you! Screw those Neighbors and Greedy Developers. "It will turn in to a park" is the biggest BS I have ever heard. Probably one of the most valuable pieces of property in LA County. Anyways this airport is not going and I hope all the jet traffic increases to bug the neighbors even more. You get what you deserve when you move next an airport.
pilot_rick February 22, 2014 at 08:24 PM
It's time to end the fantasy of this unicorn sanctuary. The city has spent more money on fruitless litigation than on operating SMO. It's time to stop wasting valuable tax payer resources and embrace the airport!
Craig McCoy February 22, 2014 at 10:10 PM
It seems that only those that are opposed to the airport are the ones who bought a house nearby knowing you were going to live near an airport! A bigger issue is how light rail has destroyed our city. Driven down Olympic or Colorado lately? And we are going to trust The City Counsel to take over the airport and put that land to good use? Those fools would rather build a thirty story hotel on that site. Do you really think they would turn it into a park? Time for a reality check people. They are destroying our once quaint city piece by piece. It's a sad reality.
Craig McCoy February 22, 2014 at 10:25 PM
Maybe the city can get Frank Gehry to build on the site. His house on Washington and 22nd did wonders to ruin my neighborhood.


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