Santa Monica Lookout
|Aviation Group to FAA: Stop City's "Dismantling" of Santa Monica Airport||
By Jonathan Friedman
October 14, 2016 -- Mark Baker, president and CEO of the Maryland-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), sent a letter Thursday to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) urging the agency to stop what it called the City's "dismantling" of Santa Monica Airport.
"The City of Santa Monica must be held accountable as they continue, unabated, to destroy this vibrant and iconic airport, which clearly does not meet the intent of their federal grant assurances," Baker wrote.
He alleged several actions as evidence of the City's intention to dismantle the airport, including new rental policies aviation interests deem negative ("Santa Monica City Council Approves New Airport Leasing Policy," March 23, 2016).
Baker also cites the eviction of two prominent aviation tenants and a restaurant's rent increase leading to its closure ("Residents' Health Protected by Eviction of Airport Tenant, Santa Monica Official Says," October 3, 2016 and "Santa Monica Airport’s Typhoon Restaurant to Close After City Hikes Rent," October 11, 2016).
The City had not publicly responded to this letter as of press time, but it has objected to a related FAA investigation that began last month ("FAA Opens Probe of City Plans to Close Santa Monica Airport," September 28, 2016).
Mayor Tony Vazquez called the FAA's investigation an "overreach" in a statement released shortly after the federal agency notified the City of its plans.
"Our priority is putting the community first and exercising our rights as owner and operator of the airport," Vazquez said at the time. "Despite the FAA's efforts, we will not falter on our commitment to safeguard our community from the negative impacts of the airport until the courts make a final determination."
Baker noted the investigation in his letter. He wrote that he applauded the move and that it is "vital that the FAA hold the City accountable."
Whether the City is trying to starve the airport out of existence as aviation interests and others have alleged is subject to interpretation. But that City officials have a vision for an airport-free Santa Monica is clear.
The City Council went on record this summer that the airport, which is located on municipal property, should close within the next two years if legally possible ("Santa Monica Council Votes for 2018 Airport Closure," August 25, 2016).
City officials have also begun preparing for a post-airport Santa Monica.
Although headquartered on the other side of the country, AOPA has been a leading advocate of Santa Monica Airport. It has supported the pro-airport side in legal battles ("Aviation Advocacy Groups File Briefs in Santa Monica Lawsuit," January 27, 2015).
AOPA was behind a 2014 ballot measure that would have severely limited the City's ability to make any changes to the airport property by requiring most of them to go to a vote of the people.
The organization and the Washington D.C.-based National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) put up nearly two-thirds of the $935,000 spent in attempt to get the measure passed. But the measure was rejected by a wide margin.
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