Santa Monica Lookout
|City in Holding Pattern as Two Santa Monica Airport Tenants Defy Eviction||
By Niki Cervantes
October 18, 2016 -- The refusal of two aviation-related tenants to exit the Santa Monica airport as ordered left the City in a holding pattern on Monday as officials, already being federally investigated over the evictions, decided what to do next.
Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers Flight School received 30-day eviction notices September 15 in the wake of a City decision to take over the aviation support services they provide at SMO ("Major Santa Monica Airport Tenant Issued Eviction Notice," September 16, 2016).
But with the October 15 deadline lapsed and the tenants still operating, the next step will be determined by the City Council at its October 25 meeting, said Nelson Hernandez, the senior advisor on airport issues for the City Manager’s Office.
Hernandez told the Lookout that “new threats” have been made against the City as it tries to move forward with a plan, approved by the City Council on August 23, to close the airport by July of 2018, if legally possible ("Santa Monica City Council Votes to Close Airport by 2018," July 28, 2016).
Included in the vote was a City takeover of aviation-support services at SMO. Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers appealed to the FAA for an emergency halt to their ousters, which helped prompt an FAA investigation, started in September, into the City’s new plan to close the airport ("FAA Opens Probe of City Plans to Close Santa Monica Airport," September 28, 2016).
The FAA also served the City with two subpoenas, he said.
Hernandez said that since the FAA announced its probe, warnings have been issued of “additional litigation and even more FAA proceedings against the City.”
No additional details were provided, although it was reported that the eviction deadlines have been extended to November 4.
“We need to discuss these threats with the City Council at their next meeting, October 25th, and provide information about the available options so that the Council can make an informed decision about how and when to proceed with next steps for implementing their policies,” he said.
“We are committed to implementing the Council resolution to exercise our right to replace private Field Based Operators with any legally required aviation services using City staff,” he said.
The embattled airport, which is more than a century old, is surrounded by densely populated neighborhoods in West Los Angeles and Santa Monica that deem it an increasing hazard.
City officials and SMO critics have been trying to close the airport for five decades but have encountered stiff resistance from the FAA and the aviation industry. Proponents regard SMO as a safety valve for the congested skies of Southern California and Los Angeles International Airport.
The FAA, which oversees the nation’s airports, has ordered the City to keep SMO operating as is until at least 2023, and says the City is violating its contractual obligations by voting to close the facility and take additional actions that impose new restrictions.
Santa Monica plans to transform the 227-acre airport into a “Great Park,” a Westside version of New York City’s Central Park ("Santa Monica Airport Park Expansion Moving Forward," September 27, 2016).
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