City News Service

FAA Threatens Legal Battle Over Santa Monica Airport

The Federal Aviation Administration has threatened legal action against Santa Monica over its effort to reduce flight operations at the city's airport, force out aeronautical tenants and close the facility within two years, it was reported Wednesday.

In a strongly worded letter Monday, the FAA reminded Mayor Tony Vazquez of what it termed as the city's obligations under federal agreements to keep the airport open at least until 2023 and treat aviation tenants and aircraft owners fairly, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"The FAA is prepared to pursue all legal remedies at its disposal if the City Council takes concrete actions to restrict leases or operations without complying with applicable federal law," wrote Kevin C. Willis, the agency's director of airport compliance, according to The Times.

Vazquez said in a statement Tuesday that city officials were not surprised by the FAA's letter.

The agency "has consistently maintained their support for aviation interests despite their mandate to also protect public health and safety," the mayor said. "We will respond respectfully but vigorously to defend our rights to local control of land owned by the citizens of Santa Monica since 1926."

Supporters of closing the airport say they are concerned about noise, air pollution and the risk of a plane crashing into nearby neighborhoods. Willis took issue with the City Council’s decision last week to close the airport by June 30, 2018, if possible. He noted a recent FAA decision that requires the airport to stay open until 2023 to comply with conditions of a $240,000 federal grant the facility received in 2003.

He also mentioned the federal transfer agreement that was reached with the city when the U.S. government returned the airport to Santa Monica after using it during World War II. The document states that the city must keep the airport open in perpetuity.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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