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Flight Schools Could Face Greater Restrictions at Santa Monica Airport

Phil Brock For Council 2014

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Michael Feinstein for Santa Monica City Council 2014Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

August 11, 2014 -- Use of quieter aircraft and accepting limitations on when flying can take place could be requirements for flight schools and clubs to operate at Santa Monica Airport. The City Council will consider these rules Tuesday when it votes on new lease guidelines for businesses operating on the City-owned property.

If these guidelines are approved, they could be voided later this year depending on whether voters approve the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association-backed measure in November. The measure calls for voter approval to make most changes to the airport, including any decisions made by the City Council since the measure was officially proposed earlier this year.

City staff’s proposed guidelines, based on recommendations from the City Council in March, state that all flight schools will be given the opportunity to renew their leases and new ones could come to the airport. But preference will be given to those who agree to specific criteria.

“All flight schools and flying clubs will be requested to use newer [types of] aircraft that are quieter … or use Federal Aviation Administration-approved noise reduction technologies in reducing their noise footprint,” the proposed guidelines state.

They continue, “All flight schools and flying clubs will be requested to avoid performing pattern operations at Santa Monica Airport during weekends, holidays and evening hours.”

Residents living near the airport are concerned about the use of leaded fuel in the airplanes. Airport Director Martin Pastucha wrote in the staff report that the request from some community members to ban fuel sales on the property was not feasible because “such action would most likely lead to litigation.”

Pastucha wrote that the City could require fuel with reduced or no lead be offered for sale, although these options are not widely available at this time.

“Staff is currently in talks with fuel manufacturers to determine the timeline of availability of these fuels,” Pastucha wrote. “Once commercially available, fuel service providers at the airport would be required to offer [fuel with reduced lead or no lead].”

The leases for all restaurants and other businesses on the property will expire by June 30, 2015. They could renew their leases for up to three years (with longer periods being subject to council approval), according to the proposed guidelines. Annual renewals after three years would be possible.

“Rents, fees and charges on the airport shall reflect fair market value for both aviation and non-aviation properties,” the proposed guidelines state. “Fair market rents for individual buildings on non-aviation airport properties and prevailing market rents for aviation properties will be appraised in the as-is condition quantified in the spring 2014 appraisal.”

Other features proposed are that the City could add a charge to the rent based on a percentage of the business’ sales, whole building leases could be subject to a Request for Proposals process “intended to optimize leasehold occupancy and the self-sustainability of the airport” and subleases would be prohibited unless authorized by the City.

Also included in the guidelines are several environmental and other standards tenants must meet.

Pastucha wrote, “The Guidelines identify programs that mitigate, as much as possible, environmental impacts to the community and maintain the viability of the Airport Fund (consisting of revenue collected through tenants]  ... while the legal constraints on the City’s authority to control the airport and airport usage is resolved.”

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