Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Airport Tenant Seeks Emergency FAA Order to Stop Eviction
By Niki Cervantes
September 21, 2016 -- Given 30 days to vacate, the tenant responsible for most aviation at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) asked federal authorities Monday for an emergency “cease and desist” order to stop its eviction by the City.
In a letter from its attorneys, Atlantic Aviation asks the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to stop the October 15 eviction pending the outcome of the challenge it filed with the agency just two days after being given notice of leave by the City.
Both the eviction and the planned City takeover of the services Atlantic Aviation provides at SMO are a violation of the airport’s federal obligations, the letter to the FAA from O’Melveny and Myers in Los Angeles said.
Permitting the City to boot Atlantic Aviation while its complaint is still pending “would irreparably harm” the business, which stores and pumps jet fuel and Avgas fuel for small piston-powered aircraft, the letter said.
The FAA has been a powerful foe in the City’s battle to shutter Santa Monica Airport. City leaders want to eventually transform its 227 acres into parkland and other community uses.
“Federal law clearly allows the City, as the Airport’s proprietor, to establish and to operate its own FBO (Fixed Base Operator) service,” Nelson Hernandez, senior advisor on SMO matters to City Manager Rick Cole, said Tuesday after receiving a copy of the letter.
In August, the City Council ordered Cole to take over the job of the airport’s FBOs, two of which were give 30-day notices -- Aviation Atlantic and American Flyers Flight School ("Major Santa Monica Airport Tenant Issued Eviction Notice," September 16, 2016).
The council also voted to close the airport no later than 2018, if legally possible. The FAA subsequently threatened to sue ("Santa Monica Council Votes for 2018 Airport Closure," August 25, 2016).
Removing aviation-related tenants such as Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers is one of many steps the City has taken to clear a path to eventual closure of SMO. Atlantic Aviation's complaint says its eviction is just another example of that.
But Hernandez said the City believes federal law does not give Atlantic Aviation any right to stay at SMO.
“Atlantic Aviation and their Australian parent company, MacQuaire Holdings, are arguing that their foreign corporate rights, fostered to serve the 1% who can afford private jet travel, supersedes the rights of the people of Santa Monica,” he said. “Will FAA side with American public interest?”
City officials also say the FAA is overstepping its legal jurisdiction by ordering SMO remain open to aviation. The federal agency oversees operations at the nation’s airports, but it has no power over land-use decisions, the City argues.
The airport, which is more than a century old, has been under attack for decades by residents in the now densely populated neighborhoods around it. Some homes are only 300 feet from the runway. Complaints about toxic air pollution, noise and the dangers from crashes are frequent.
The aviation community says SMO needs to remain open as a vital relief valve for log-jammed aviation traffic at Los Angeles International Airport.
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