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Santa Monica Council Meets for Special Closed Session on Airport  

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

January 20, 2017 -- City Council members met with the interim city attorney for more than three hours Wednesday behind closed doors to talk about various Santa Monica Airport (SMO) lawsuits and related legal matters.

A council meeting entirely dedicated to legal matters in a closed session is not unique, but this type of meeting is rare. City officials are not allowed to talk about what happened in a closed session by State law except to report whether action was taken.

Interim City Attorney Joseph Lawrence announced in public after the closed session that no action was taken.

The closed session agenda included discussion of two lawsuits with the federal government over airport use and two related lawsuits regarding the City’s attempt to evict tenants Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers from the airport (“Court Bid to Evict Key Aviation Tenants from Santa Monica Airport Delayed Again,” January 11, 2017).

Also on the agenda was the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) investigation of the City’s recent actions that the government agency said could be a “de facto closure” of SMO (“FAA Opens Probe of City Plans to Close Santa Monica Airport,” September 28, 2016) and “anticipated litigation.”

It is not known what the anticipated litigation is, but it could possibly involve JetSuiteX’s plan for low-rate commercial flights in and out of SMO.

The City has refused to process JetSuiteX’s application to rent SMO space for the flight service, claiming it was not complete.

Company CEO Alex Wilcox told The Lookout that the City was “illegally attempting to regulate air commerce” and that the flights would begin February 6 regardless of the application status (“Santa Monica Officials Illegally Attempting Air Commerce Regulation, JetSuiteX CEO Says,” January 13, 2017).

Meanwhile, the anti-SMO activist group Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP) has scheduled a protest against the JetSuiteX's flights for February 4 at the nearby Santa Monica Business Park.

"Scheduled jet flights are coming to Santa Monica Airport unless we stop them!" states a flyer for the protest, adding that the JetSuiteX flights "will turn SMO into an even more unsafe commercial airport."

Airport legal battles have been a major part of Santa Monica politics for decades, but the temperature has been raised in recent months as municipal officials move toward closing SMO, which is located on City-owned property, while the FAA resists.

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