Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

8,473 Claims Filed Against City for Jets at Santa Monica Airport

Condition precedent to filing a class action against the Airport for "Public Nuisance"

Attorney Jonathan Stein has informed the City Manager Rick Cole, that he is filing 8,473 tort claims against the City of Santa Monica for running a "nuisance" at the airport. A government tort claim is a condition precedent to filing a class action lawsuit against the City.

The jet noise and other pollution at the airport, Stein says, constitutes a nuisance and in one particular case filed by the City Manager himself, the jury found "jet-powered aircraft operations at Santa Monica Municipal Airport" to be a public nuisance that "substantially and unreasonably interferes with Plaintiff's free use and enjoyment of his or her property."

"Yes! This disgusting abuse of citizens around the Santa Monica airport must stop. I want to press my claim," said local resident Mindy Taylor-Ross.

The letter is a stunt, say some legal experts. Stein certainly doesn't have signed retainers from all 8,473 potential plaintiffs, some of whom have no problem with the Santa Monica airport (although he could have a class action certified). The airport is also no different in its operations than 1000 other small urban airfields in the United States. The jury verdict, and the Judge's failure to grant summary judgment in favor of the airport, is on appeal.

Then again, some people have dismissed CRAAP, and Stein, since they began their battle against the century old airport five years ago. The area's Congressman, Ted Lieu, is on board with closing the airport. This despite the deed restriction for aviation use "into perpetuity."

Stein's entire letter is below.

"Dear City Manager,

Attached is the initial claims filing for up to 8,474 homeowners and at least 33 schools. It is repeated below for copied recipients.

Re: Initial Claims Filing for Lawsuits Against Santa Monica Airport

Dear Mr. Cole:

This letter is the initial claims filing under the California Government Claims Act, Cal.Govt.Code §900 et seq, to put the City on Notice of the claims of up to 8,473 homeowners and up to 33 schools, for public nuisance created by jet flight operations at Santa Monica Municipal Airport (the "Airport").

In Cole v. Santa Monica, LASC Case No. SC-055183, a jury verdict found "jet-powered aircraft operations at Santa Monica Municipal Airport" to be a public nuisance that "substantially and unreasonably interferes with Plaintiff's free use and enjoyment of his or her property." This ruling with passage of time is now a final judgment and res judicata that binds the City to the judicial determination of public nuisance.

Since 2002, the same jet operations that are a public nuisance have grown a startling amount. They now exceed the Airport's avigation easement over these 8,473 homes (the "Impacted Homes"). The Impacted Homes are situate in Sunset Park, Ocean Park, Venice, Mar Vista and Westdale, among other places.

The Impacted Homes are not all. Also impacted are over 30 schools, as well as the residents and young student that inhabit both homes and schools.

This is an initial claims filing for inverse condemnation, damages (loss of and/or damage to property and personal injury) from continuing public nuisance that is specially injurious to claimants. Each of the 8,473 claimants who own real estate in the vicinity of the Airport have suffered a taking of property, either through the diminution of value of such property or the constructive total taking thereof. Further, each claimant (without regards to property ownership) has suffered harm, including, without limitation, physical and emotional distress.

An "avigation easement" is an easement obtained by airport authorities, through purchase or condemnation or inverse condemnation, and used to provide clear access for low-flying aircraft on the glide path. In our case, jet-powered aircraft operations have now grown to such an extent that they now exceed the existing avigation easement and so constitute a public nuisance, as well as an inverse condemnation of private property.

Damages exceeding $100,000 to the fair market value of each home, as well as additional amounts for young students and residents exposed to ultrafine particulates (which cause cancer in various parts of the body), are being caused by the City.

Using this average calculation as an estimate, total damages would be over $847 million for homes alone. Should only 10% of the homeowners, or 10% of the impacted schools, press their claims, the potential damages to the City would exceed $100 million.

Unfortunately, City Attorney Marsha Moutrie, who was the City's lead attorney who lost this litigation in 2002, has buried the final judgment and its binding effects from consideration by the City Council and the public. Instead, their attention is focused elsewhere. As usual, the impacts on residents have been ignored, and the financial benefit of Atlantic Aviation and other special interest at the Airport favored. This initial claims filing will hopefully change the status quo.

Very truly yours,


By Jonathan Stein


Reader Comments(6)

platonica writes:

WTF? Are the people that support the airport actually exposed to the noise and visual soot (aka pollution) being spit out of these airplanes 250+ times a day!?! When a Bombardier departing from Santa Monica Airport that seats 22 rumbles over Venice at 500 ft. it may not feel much different than a 3.5 quake but sure does solidify the need for a rational explanation as to why the airport is still in operation.

SMO writes:

Residents of Santa Monica should remember how lucky they are to have one of the crown jewels of aviation in their backyard. The airport provides jobs, promotes tourism, is there for disaster/emergency relief, and is a historical landmark. Not to mention it's beautiful! If its pollution you're worried about then I'm not sure why you chose to live in LA. A replacement for Avgas is in the works and biofuels for jets are already being used. As far as noise goes: aircraft are only getting quieter and pilots do their best to fly neighborly via curfews and special departure procedures. Businesses (aviation and non aviation related) have already suffered due to unfair regulations just to meet the agenda of a vocal and misinformed minority. In my experience, most people support the airport. Keeping the airport open and thriving is the best long term plan. SMO has been there longer than any of us, and contributes more to the city/country than any of the anti airport activists combined.

Mike writes:

You guys are all being silly. You should feel lucky to like next to KSMO. This neighborhood was really great before you foo foo noise police people showed up. Losers.

Sully writes:

The horrible pollution from dramatically increased car traffic congestion is the real problem no one is talking about and I can see it getting much worse when playa vista, the point (in El Segundo) etc replicate themselves at SMO. The rest of us will need a class action suit against those who sued the city to close the airport. And all this air traffic will be heading to LAX, Van Nuys, Torrance and Hawthorne - nice to throw your trash at others - talking about the audacity of rich communities to shove environmental injustice on to other more disadvantaged communities.

QuietSky writes:

Aside from the jets, almost a quarter of propeller planes departing SMO fly at altitudes significantly lower than mandatory FAA rules specifying 1000 ft above residential areas and the noise is extremely disruptive. The majority of these planes use avgas containing tetraethyl lead, a toxic substance known to damage the central nervous system central nervous system, kidneys and red blood cells, as well as decreased function in the cardiovascular and immune systems. Aside from North Korea, leaded gas is mostly banned around the world and it’s baffling that pilots and the airport continue to ignore the health and safety of the public.

Elink writes:

I live in the area impacted by the Santa Monica Airport. It is difficult to go outside and breathe when the jets are taking off or especially when they are idling on the runway! The noise of take-off and landing is intense. The air smells of jet fuel for a long time after the plane has left. Airports exist within communities, and I honestly don't mind the propeller planes, as long as they clean up their fuel, but the private jets are the increasing and overwhelming majority at Santa Monica Airport, and they pollute the environment to the extent that legal action must be taken. I strongly support this suit.