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Judge Tosses Santa Monica Lawsuit Against FAA

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 14, 2014 -- A federal judge Thursday dismissed Santa Monica’s lawsuit against the FAA that would have given City Hall control over the future of the bayside city’s airport.

City officials were “disappointed” after Judge John F. Walter ruled that the City’s lawsuit, which would have allowed Santa Monica to close the century old airport as early as 2015, was barred by the statute of limitations.

“Of course, we are disappointed,” said City Attorney Marsha Moutrie. “The court’s ruling is being carefully evaluated by the legal team consisting of our outside litigation counsel, Morrison & Forrester, and in-house legal staff.

"But, there is likely much work to come; and the attorneys representing the City are already looking forward and focusing our energies on the City’s options,” Moutrie said.  

Santa Monica had petitioned the Court last November to declare that the City has full title to the 227-acre parcel of City-owned land on which the airport sits. ("City Hall Sues FAA Over Future of Santa Monica Airport," November 1, 2013)

In the lawsuit, Santa Monica claims that when the City’s 1984 agreement with the FAA expires on July 1, 2015, the City no longer has to operate its land as an airport.

However, in January, FAA lawyers filed a motion for the court to dismiss the case because the City had waited too long to claim the property.

On Thursday, the judge that Santa Monica knew the FAA had staked a claim in the property when it returned control of the airport to the City after World War Two.

The City had only 12 years to challenge the FAA’s claim, according to ruling.

Santa Monica had also argued that by requiring the City to operate its property as an airport, the FAA was violating Santa Monica’s constitutional rights. ("Santa Monica’s Lawsuit Against FAA Resonates with City’s Property Owners," November 4, 2013)

However, Walter called that claim “premature” since the City “had failed to first seek compensation in the Court of Federal Claims,” according to City staff.

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