Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

We Are At War With the FAA Over SM Airport. Does The City Attorney Want to Win or Lose?

A City FBO will needlessly extend flight operations. Why provide flight services at all?


December 9, 2016

Atlantic Aviation at the Santa Monica airport. A City FBO will needlessly extend flight operations. Why provide flight services at all?

According to public court documents, FAA has proposed a "Standstill Agreement" to the City, which the FAA insists the City Council agree to upon threat to issue a Cease and Desist Order. Like some in City Hall and on the Council, I urge the City not to sign the FAA Standstill Agreement. Let me explain why very briefly.

The City is pursuing a questionable strategy, but one that I support. It is setting up the City's own "fixed base operator" (FBO) to replace Atlantic and American Flyers. In other words, the City will provide certain services to jets and propeller aircraft.

On the one hand, a City FBO successfully follows FAA rules. It has kept the FAA from issuing the Cease and Desist Order. It will force out Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers. And when they leave, they will take most of their customers with them, hugely decreasing flight operations. Hooray for the City Council.

On the other hand, there is no legal requirement for the City to set up an FBO to rid itself of Atlantic and American Flyers. A City FBO will needlessly extend flight operations. After all, theyexplicitly agreed to the "surrender clause" in the lease agreement requiring them to leave in July 2015, some 17 months ago. There is nothing the FAA can do, or they can do, to prevent the City from prevailing on the merits. David Goddard advocates this position. Creating the City FBO is just one more legal hoax, he says, and he is 90% right.

Now, let us note what happened when Trump won. The FAA is led by senior officials, all of whom are leaving before Trump takes office. This is because Trump as stated that he will impose a 5-year ban on all federal officials lobbying after they leave. To avoid this draconian measure, they must leave by January 20.

But before they go, they have a "gift" they want to give their future employers, their friends, their peers, at AOPA and NBAA and NTSA. Thus their latest threat to issue the Cease and Desist Order now!

In light of this situation, I have repeatedly urged the City to prepare for this possibility – get in a massive response full of documents and legal arguments to the FAA, to create the proper administrative record as required by law, before the expected court action. We are at war.

The City Attorney and outside counsel have refused to do so, only last week have they grudgingly begun to review the "massive response" that Ben Wang and I prepared – without pay, enormous amounts of time spent, all because the City Attorney and outside counsel refused to make the administrative record required by law. Do they wish to lose on purpose??

Now, just as I warned would happen, the FAA has upped the ante. They say they will issue the Cease and Desist Order, unless the City accepts a lousy Standstill Agreement protecting Atlantic and American Flyers from eviction while gaining the City nothing. We should reject this expected move; we should make our record with the massive response; and we should call the bluff of these officials who will leave the FAA by January 20.

And we await the City Attorney's last day – another milestone in the march to freeing City Hall of special interests, including aviation interests. That will also happen shortly. How spectacularly inappropriate that the City Attorney insists on setting policy right up to her last day.

The Airport is a political tar baby. The idea that we should "stand still" in requiring Atlantic and American Flyers to leave – as they explicitly agreed to do 17 months ago – would in my opinion betray the resident of Sunset Park and Ocean Park. If Atlantic and American Flyers agreed to leave as part of the Standstill Agreement, that would be worth signing, but this is not the case.

Atlantic Aviation at the Santa Monica airport. A City FBO will needlessly extend flight operations. Why provide flight services at all?

Absent that, the Standstill Agreement gains the City nothing and would only prove that the City Council is not serious about closing the Airport.

Jonathan Stein, Santa Monica


Reader Comments(4)

dexterford writes:

The effort to close Santa Monica Airport is essentially racist. Tens of thousands of (mostly white, rich and self-important) Santa Monica residents fly out of LAX every year, with no thought given to the hundreds of thousands of people, mostly people of color, who live underneath the LAX approach path. Smaller airports nearby, like Compton and Hawthorne, are also in neighborhoods with predominant minority populations. If we rich white folk want to enjoy the freedom to hop on a plane to Aspen or Hawaii whenever we feel like it, we must shoulder our share of the burden of having a functional U.S. aviation system. Is this about safety ? Not if facts count. According to the Friends of Sunset Park SMO accident list, not one SM resident has been killed on the ground due to an SMO-related incident. So let's make a deal. Go ahead and close SMO. Let poorer, browner people pay for your freedom to fly around. But only after every Santa Monica resident agrees to never, ever fly out of LAX again.

Jerry writes:

Mr. Stein is a casino and real estate developer. He is another example of the Big Developers trying to grab the airport land for their own enrichment. If he had his way there would be a Casino and high rise hotel on the airport land. Do not believe a word in any of his articles.

Whocares writes:

Nobody gives a _____. Not really. People who want it close come from two distinct typesets: 1. Property Owners looking for a free property value increase. 2. People who don't really care either way and have been schmutzed into believing this is about Noise, Pollution, Safety or anything other than the value of the property to current and future parties in SMO. The rest of us don't care one way or the other to be honest. What is starting to be noticed is the amount of money being thrown against the immovable object which is the FAA and the Feds. SMO cannot win this fight and the only way they will ever close this airport is if the FAA decides to let them. Plain and simple. Perhaps its time to start spending time and money on other things like schools. I dunno. The author is an idiot who thinks he can win. Good luck with that.

DavidLA writes:

I will not pretend that I completely understand the legal positions or processes that you have described, but I would not be surprised that the City will end up NOT winning this war with the FAA, because that would not be in the best interests of the powers that be. Money talks in this City, justice walks. I sincerely hope that the City will acquire possession of the entire airport to turn into an urban park. And I really do expect them to put up a good fight for political show, but in the end, they will manage to get out-maneuvered by the Feds. Because this is what they do.


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