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Lieu Urges Prompt FAA Action On Santa Monica Airport

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

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

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

August 5, 2015 -- Santa Monica's representative in Congress wants to know why the Federal Aviation Administration continues to operate a 227-acre property in the City as an airport even though a 20-year-old agreement has run out.

More than a year has passed since the June 29, 1994, grant agreement allowing federal authorities to operate the airport facility for a period “not to exceed 20 years” expired, noted Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Manhattan Beach, in a letter last week to FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta.

“Twenty years from the date the City accepted the grant would mean that the grant obligations expired on June 29, 2014.”

Lieu's renewed push for answers from the FAA comes after the congressman last month invited a 19-member local delegation – most of whom were airport opponents – to a rare meeting with senior FAA officials in Washington, D.C.

Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown told federal officials the airport sits like an “aircraft carrier in a sea of homes,” and other residents urged them to cease jet flights at the airport.

After the meeting Lieu, joined by Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, who represents Venice residents, issued a strong statement urging the FAA to address constituents' “health, environmental and safety concerns.”

 “Whether it is a mother concerned about her child suffering from lead exposure, a husband worried about his wife's asthma, or families simply trying to sleep at night, the problems my constituents face on a daily basis is real and hazardous,” Lieu said after the July 8 meeting.

FAA spokeswoman Marcia Alexander-Adams released a statement afterward saying officials listened to the comments but were prohibited from responding because of ongoing litigation between the agency and the City.

Meanwhile, Lieu and Bass continue seeking an administrative solution to the conflict.

Nothing has happened since the meeting, said Lieu, a former Air Force Reserves JAG prosecutor in his letter to Huerta, adding that the land “should have already reverted back to to the control of the City.”

“The decision now lies in the FAA's hands, and it's months overdue,” Lieu wrote.

Assertions by aviation industry groups that Santa Monica and FAA officials later made changes in the grant agreements extending the City's obligation beyond 20 years don't hold legal weight, he said.

“The claim by the National Business Aircraft Association that this adjustment somehow triggered a new time period has no legal basis because the adjustment was contemplated in the original grant and the wording of the amendment specifically stated the terms of the original grant applied,” he said.

“We cannot imagine a scenario where the FAA would be legally justified to rule against the City in this grant matter, and we hope you will issue a prompt decision.”

Lieu and Bass asked Huerta to provide an update “on the FAA's timeline for this matter and urge you to announce a decision in favor of the City as soon as possible.”

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