City Council Hates on SM Airport


Lisa McGill

An Aleutian Tiger P-40K Warhawk -- an all-metal ghter and ground-attack aircraft rst built in 1938 -- awaits takeoff at the Los Angeles County Airshow

The Airport's land grant is deed restricted to aviation into perpetuity, and the City Council knows it. Yet residents are demanding that the City Council do something to close the 100 year old airfield to aviation. When irresistible force meets immovable object, and the City of Santa Monica is involved, strange legislation results.

On Tuesday the Council adopted a new leasing policy that some 600 tenants and subtenants must protect the health, safety and environment of the neighborhood, and also maintain "harmonious relations" with neighbors who would run them out of town on a rail, given their druthers.

About half the leases, 300, are directly with tenants. Of the property's 227 acres, 40 are used for non aviation purposes.

As if to underline the impracticality of the new rules, a small plane fell out of the sky near Hawthorne Airport, and onto a neighboring street. Presumably, the accident was not what the Council meant by "maintain harmonious relations."

Rents are also to be raised to market levels, which is probably fair since the rest of us have to pay them, but which is ironic given that Santa Monica was the first town in California to adopt Rent Control in 1971 (the year Douglas Aircraft left Santa Monica).

City Manager Rick Cole continues to have the authority to negotiate leases, but only until 2018. Residents had wanted the City to sign no new leases.

Nelson Hernandez, assistant City Manager Nelson Hernandez disagrees that the Federal Government leased the property for aviation into perpetuity.

"The City leased the airport property to the federal government in 1941 in order to support the war against Fascism. When the federal government returned the City's property it did so using a legal document known as an Instrument of Transfer (IOT). According to federal government's interpretation of the IOT, if the City exercises local control over land it owns the federal government could demand that the property "revert" back to the federal government. Of course, ownership of real property can only "revert" to an owner, not a borrower; that is real estate 101. Although there are many legal and technical terms, the airport disagreement boils down to something that is simple to understand," Hernandez says.

"Essentially, this is the heart of the case. The federal government borrowed our property and now insists it can impose conditions on it forever for the benefit of a few, to the detriment of the many, and without paying a penny. Is that "reversion" or is it confiscation without compensation?"


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