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City Rebukes National Business Aviation Association Letter to Vazquez

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

March 7, 2016 -- The City's point person on Santa Monica Airport is rebuking a national commercial aviation association's letter linking the Council's recent restrictions at the airfield to federal transportation funding, describing it as a veiled threat to low-income bus users.

Nelson Hernandez, senior advisor to City Manager Rick Cole on all matters concerning the airport, said the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) wrote to Mayor Tony Vazquez this month to express its displeasure with the City's changes to airport operations.

“This time the NBAA is having a bad day because the citizens of Santa Monica and their elected leaders have decided to exert local control over land purchased and owned by the people of Santa Monica for nearly 100 years,” Hernandez wrote.

Hernandez's response to the association was emailed to The Lookout last week by Martin Rubin, director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, the main residents' group opposed to jet flights at Santa Monica Airport.

It comes a month after the NBAA and other aviation groups filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration claiming new local ordinances adopted by the City last years were hitting airport tenants and users with “burdensome operational and leasing restrictions” that will scare away future business and “provide an excuse for a vicious circle of further restrictions and ultimately closure” (City is 'Squeezing' Santa Monica Airport Aviation Tenants, FAA Complaint Charges, February 10, 2016).

“Simply put, the City has created a financial structure which imposes enormous, ongoing, unsustainable – and clearly impermissible – financial burdens and deficits on the airport, which historically has operated on a break-even or near break-even basis, and but for the City’s actions would continue to do so today,” the complainants said.

The NBAA and the other groups also complained the City has imposed “excessive and unreasonable” landing fees.

In the March 1 letter to Vazquez, NBAA Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown said the City's actions “may lead to severe sanctions, such as the termination of all federal transportation funding to the City,” according to Hernandez.

He categorized Brown's wording as a “threat” possibly meant to intimidate officials and residents into stopping “our fight.”

“Rather than acknowledge property rights and the results of democracy, e.g. the crushing defeat of the NBAA-sponsored Measure D and the huge victory of Measure Local Control, the NBAA has a new tactic to subvert the will of Santa Monica citizens; a tactic that could only spring out of a corporate boardroom,” Hernandez wrote.

The elimination of federal Department of Transportation funding to Santa Monica would cripple local mass transit, stranding some 17 million people a year who take the Big Blue Bus, said Hernandez.

“And who are our bus riders? Well, although bus rider surveys do not typically ask if they also commute by jet, I will take the risk and assume that at least 99 percent of those people who rely on the bus don't regularly commute by corporate jet,” said Hernandez.

He described the NBAA as an organization that “represents 10,000 corporations that use jets to fly corporate chiefs about the U.S. in private luxury.”

By contrast, Big Blue Bus riders “are hard-working people, those with disabilities, seniors, students, public transit enthusiasts, environmentalists, bicyclists, and those who may not have the means to own a car, much less a jet.”

Vazquez also issued a response to Brown and the NBAA, saying the City won't back down from its fight over the Santa Monica Airport.

“Of course, this latest threat, nor the others that are likely to follow will deter us from regaining what belongs to the people,” said Vazquez.

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