July 17, 2015

NBAA has again warned the city of Santa Monica, CA, that it must abide by its federal obligations and extend the leases of various airport tenants at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) for a term of at least three years.

Steve Brown, NBAA’s chief operating officer, contacted Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown and other city officials prior to a July 14 Santa Monica City Council meeting, which partially addressed the lease situation at the airport, where all tenant agreements expired on July 1. Brown reminded the mayor that the city’s obligations pursuant to the grants it has received from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program endure until 2023, and that the conditions of the 1948 instrument of transfer, when ownership of the airport was transferred to Santa Monica, are effective in perpetuity.

“Consequently, the lease term extensions now under consideration must be consistent with the city’s federal obligations,” wrote Brown. “Generally, airport tenants are entitled to long-term leases. For current purposes, this obligation means that – consistent with the city attorney and director of public works’ recommendations – involuntary month-to-month leases would be non-compliant and subject to challenge.”

View Brown’s July 14 letter to McKeown. (PDF)

Brown’s letter marks the most recent effort by NBAA in the decades-long battle against attempts to limit operations at SMO or shut them down altogether. Earlier this year, Brown had written to McKeown, warning him that proposals by the Santa Monica Airport Commission to implement costly new leases for tenants, close a portion of the airport’s runway and enact a new emissions ordinance at SMO were inconsistent with federal law and, if adopted, “could lead to legal action against the city – as well as federal sanctions, including the suspension of all DOT transportation funding for city projects.”

Read Brown’s March 19 letter to McKeown. (PDF)

In July 2014, NBAA and several other parties filed a complaint with the FAA, requesting that the agency clarify that the airport must continue to abide by its FAA grant assurances to ensure that vital aviation services and facilities remain intact through August 2023. That proceeding is still under review. Read about NBAA’s complaint.

Also last year, with urging from NBAA, a California federal judge dismissed a lawsuit in which Santa Monica city officials attempted to modify the terms of its ownership of SMO with the intent of closing it down. The city has filed an appeal, which is still pending.

At the recent Santa Monica City Council meeting, the body ratified leases that had been negotiated with certain non-aeronautical tenants, but deferred consideration of aeronautical leases, requesting that city staff consider whether the city can enter into direct agreements with subtenants and/or impose environmental conditions as part of the leases, as well as other restrictions at SMO. NBAA will continue to monitor developments, and insist that the city comply with federal requirements.

“NBAA will continue to pursue all available options to ensure access to and the future viability of Santa Monica Airport, which is a vital economic asset to the Los Angeles-basin area, and a key part of our national aviation system,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen.